Enhancing Employee Experience: Human-Centered Design

Posted in Employee Experience

Human-centered design (HCD) is a methodology and mindset used to understand and reimagine experiences. Made famous by customer and marketing teams, these powerful tools are increasingly being applied to the experiences employees have at work. Which makes sense. People are people whether they’re working or not, and expectations are higher than ever when it comes to workplace experiences.

We’re all feeling the uncertainty of an economic downturn, while at the same time the talent shortage remains. These dual challenges are adding fuel to our innate desire for connection and belonging at work. According to McKinsey, 1 in 2 employees resign due to lack of belonging. So it’s never been more important to ensure your crew is engaged and rowing in the same direction.

Below I share the three areas that will give you the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to reimagining your employee experience. We developed these at Rowboat, the Melbourne-based, human-centered design agency that I captain, following thousands of employee conversations.

1) Onboarding


When it comes to experience, there’s no “make or break” moment like onboarding. We’ve spoken to people who have been at their organization for 10+ years, but still remember those first few days.

Onboarding is much more than having your laptop arrive at the right time and right place, or a branded swag bag. This moment is your chance to help someone quickly feel they belong and that they’ve made the right choice.

Of course, a true feeling of belonging is rarely achieved with process-based checklists, and the best onboarding examples we’ve seen don’t reach a point of completion. We must give the onboarding experience the reverence it deserves, as a powerful statement of “we need and want each other,” much like a wedding!

To kick off your onboarding Discovery Voyage, here are three juicy questions you could ask recent joiners:

  1. What does the word onboarding mean to you?
  2. Do you feel like you belong? Why/why not?
  3. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

2) Hybrid working arrangements


People are being summoned to ditch the active wear and head back to their physical offices in order to recreate the “watercooler moments” that some senior leaders think are missing.

We’re hearing people feel less productive, more overwhelmed, and struggle to find the kitchen utensils to create the lunchtime masterpieces they’ve become accustomed to. We’ve found a real mis-match between the motivations and desires of senior leaders and their teams, which is a perfect reason to explore this topic and design a bespoke arrangement that works for everyone in your team. From what we see, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, and what works this month may not suit the team in a year’s time.

To kick off your hybrid work Discovery Voyage, here are three juicy questions you could ask:

  1. How would you describe the majority of your work?
  2. What does an ideal workspace look like for this work? (Whether it exists or not!)
  3. If you were CEO for a week, what would you change about the hybrid work culture?

3) Learning and growth


Tenure is on the decline. People are no longer sticking with their employers for a long time, instead hoping for a good time full of experiences that help them become better people, not just better employees.

We’re seeing a shift away from a reliance on the “learning team over there” to provide curriculums towards on-the-job learning facilitated by managers and leaders. Ultimately people want access to learning that is personalized, immediate, meaningful, and matches the quality of learning experiences they have outside of work.

To kick off your learning and growth Discovery Voyage, here are three juicy questions you could ask:

  1. Can you tell me about something you recently learned outside of work? Talk me through the process you went through.
  2. What are your most favorite and least favorite ways to learn? Why?
  3. What’s your biggest enabler and biggest blocker to learning at work?

So, without any expectations other than learning something new, I’d encourage you to take off your “expert” hat and reach out to someone in your organization and ask them a question or two. You might just bust a myth that shifts your course as we sail into 2023!

Bec Lloyd captains Rowboat, a Melbourne-based crew of Human-Centred Designers and researchers who focus on using the powerful tools of Human-Centred Design to understand and improve the experience people have at work. They have ‘do it yourself’ tools available on their website and the code ENBOARDER will get you 25% off any products. Their next facilitated Discovery Voyage sets off in February, reach out if you’d like to know more at hello@wearerowboat.com.

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