Exceptional employee experiences: a clear path to powerful ROI.

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Before we begin, full disclosure:  I work at a remarkably amazing place that cares deeply about employee experience, about caring for the humans who work here, and about creating a leaderful organization that can thrive now and in the future. I know that this is special, and that “it isn’t always that easy,” especially in large corporate environments.

I have, however, worked with myriad clients in organizations that are very much not like The Moment in virtually every way. And, with our team closely joined-up with people in those corporate environments, we have been able to create some pretty spectacular employee experiences of which we are very proud.

Onboarding, centres of excellence, decision-making and empowerment—you name it, we’ve designed it. And the impacts of that work are yielding big returns in employee retention and engagement, decision-making, and even customer acquisition and retention.

And here’s the big news: comparatively, it didn’t take much, it didn’t take long, and the return on investment would blow your mind. In this piece, I’ll share with you some of the key principles of getting to exceptional employee experiences.


Think of employee experience as a service.

Our biggest successes in designing desired future-state employee experiences have happened when our clients have framed employee experience as a service. Many HR teams come up against the classic “that’s not how we do things around here” but we’ve figured out a way to move past that. We (and our clients) frame the employee experience as a service.

Many HR teams come up against the classic “that’s not how we do things around here” but we’ve figured out a way to move past that.

Our employees require better services to improve what they do. By using this positioning, we create a strong cognitive and action-based connection between employee experience and customer experience. That’s what we design for.

When we don’t look at employee experience as a service, and design to the needs of the consumers of that service (your people), the problems start.  This might show up as work-arounds, quick fixes, or using influence to get things done when processes break down. This costs organizations a tonne of money in productivity, dissatisfaction, and leaving the human potential of your organization under-accessed.


Co-create employee experiences.

Human-centered design (HCD), on which we base our Innovation Design practice, is not a fad or a quick fix for today’s organizational challenges. It is a time-tested methodology, toolset, and mindset that works incredibly well in complex environments. Specifically, HCD is focused not only on the end user (in this case the employee you are trying to satisfy) but also on the people around that employee who facilitate process, resources, and the experience as a whole.

HCD is tuned to take all stakeholders into account and to design for all. As Innovation Designers, our goal is to create something that works really well in practice (not just in theory,) so we use a systems approach to solving critical problems. We thrive on constraints and are limitlessly creative—even when you are struggling to be. Tools that enable this include our Service Design Scorecard and the Culture Scan.

A key feature of Innovation Design is co-creation. This is not simply the consultation or research with employees to understand their experience. Instead, it’s about building new solutions together. It’s true collaboration and inclusiveness that pushes solutions to be right-fitted for where you and your employees are at, and where you want to be.

Co-creation is a transformative experience for participants; building trust, excitement, and ownership over change and building momentum for newly designed experiences to take root and become successful.

More traditional approaches to solving employee challenges may have relied on focus groups or change management efforts in the past. But these antiquated practices are missing one critical element: the ability to design WITH your customers, and bring them THROUGH the process—creating better solutions for both the employee and the business and ultimately, better buy-in across the board.

Focus groups will not get you this. Project Management will not get you this. Change Management will not get you this. Innovation Design gets you this.


Experiment and test for better results.

All of our most successful employee experience projects have incorporated a mindset and practice of experimentation and testing. As we build the solutions of the future, we test early and often, building the fidelity of our solutions as we gain confidence in their viability. We measure solutions using design and business metrics. We engage stakeholders to stress-test the new.

By testing early and often, we avoid building things that are elegant but not practical. We avoid having our brilliant co-created new employee experience collect dust on the “tried that” shelf.

After 6 months, our Global CPG client is still using behavioural prototypes, they blew their Q2 sales numbers out of the water, and they haven’t lost the ownership or momentum for change on this topic

At a Consumer Packaged Goods company, we helped a senior leadership team and full representation of all departments in designing a new way for decisions to happen. It was their assumption, based on a lot of strong data, that decision-making was slowing them down and affecting their overall success as a company. They needed decisions that were bolder; they needed their people to act as leaders, own their roles, and have a bias to action with a balance of clarity and confidence.

For this thorny issue, fraught with necessary behaviour and mindset changes, we co-created a set of behavioural experiments and a roadmap for change. The proof of their success is in their sales numbers and how decision-making is no longer bogging down their people in meetings and confusion.

After 6 months, their people are still using the behavioural prototypes, they blew their Q2 sales numbers out of the water, and they haven’t lost the ownership or momentum for change on this topic. For anyone who has ever tried to change behaviour in a large organization, those are remarkable results.


Get beyond your tools.

As a former HR professional, I know that HR tools are a big part of how we shape the work that we do. And I’m not saying that’s wrong. I love a good HR tool, especially if it helps employees do things effectively and efficiently. Where we go wrong with tools is where we let them call the shots on what the employee experience should be. Designing from the tool out invites people to be frustrated, to feel unseen, and for your pulse surveys to come back with some serious problems in the communication, appreciation, and retention areas.

Don’t let your HR tools call the shots on what the employee experience should be

We worked with a large insurance company who was trying to design their employee onboarding experience to better support employees joining the enterprise. Current state was pretty terrible, with most people reporting that their experience was sub-par and frustrating, greatly affecting employee retention and talent acquisition. Word had got around.

Our team of Innovation Designers worked closely with their employee experience team to surface pain points and opportunities, and dynamically co-created a desired future-state within significant financial and organizational constraints. One of our biggest blockers was that a new HR tool was being rolled out at the same time. Many conversations contained the phrases “Oh, well employees may want that, but that’s not the way we do things. Why? Because that isn’t how the tool works.”

To address this elephant in the room, our Innovation Designers, along with the internal core team members at the insurance company, engaged people across silos and levels of authority. The goal was to get to better conversations, and better solutioning WITH their powerful and expensive HR tool. A “no, but” conversation became a “yes, and” conversation. The future-state vision and blueprint was inspiring and practical, so leadership could get behind it.


The real ROI on employee experience.

Never underestimate the return on investment possibilities on creating best-in-class employee experiences. Sample results from our clients include:

  • 48% reduction in costly adverse hospital events in one unit and 20% reduction across 5 hospitals
  • 200% increase in projected charitable donations
  • 15% improvement on employee satisfaction
  • 18% increase in audience acquisition
  • 5% increase in customer retention

It is worth your time and the right level of investment. It’s worth fighting to do it right, and do it soon. What number do you want to move?


Book a chat today to find out more about how you can create and implement better Employee Experiences, and figure out what good likes for you. We will help you move the needle.

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