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This 6-Step Design Thinking Method Could Improve Employee Experience

Updated: Sep 11, 2019


While many organizations have become adept at designing great customer experiences that lead to strong brand affinity, there are far fewer as skillful at creating this level of resonance with their employees, even though companies with a focus on employee experience tend to outperform their competitors according to Gallup.


Great customer experiences can be achieved by empathizing with customer needs, supportive facilitation of insightful new ideas tailored to those needs, prototyping and testing those ideas with customers, and then a commitment to continual improvement. In short, there’s science and discipline behind the art.


In recent years this type of design thinking has moved beyond its traditional roots in the development of products, buildings, interiors, graphics, or websites, and has been turned toward the innovation of processes, services, businesses, and holistic experiences. The focus though has generally remained on customer experience, and while that should be at the core of organizational objectives, there's still vast opportunity to innovate more fulfilling and rewarding employee experiences.


After all, as I pointed out in my previous article, organizations that are committed to employee experience create more healthy, productive, and sustainable workplaces, ultimately raising the customer experience of their brands.


So what might it look like if organizations were to turn design thinking inward to improve employee experience? Here’s a 6-step process to consider:


Discover insights into employee needs and problems:

  • Interview, survey, and empathize with employees in order to uncover pain points in their work life

  • Uncover the jobs they need to get done that are most painful

  • Choose some of the most painful jobs and journey-map them to surface the most painful points

Ideate possible solutions to reduce pain-points in the employee experience

  • Facilitate a workshop with employees to brainstorm ideas

  • Use methods that create a safe space for even the wildest ideas

  • Use affinity mapping to sort and prioritize ideas with the group

Refine the ideas down to those which are the strongest:

  • Synthesize workshop outcomes based on themes that emerge

  • Present the findings back to the group

  • Decide on a direction for the solution based on feedback

Build better employee experiences:

  • Update processes by incorporating the new ideas in order to reduce pains and increase gains

Test with employees and gather their feedback:

  • Launch a prototype of the redesigned process to test it in the wild

  • Survey and interview employees to gather feedback on the new process

Iterate based on employee feedback:

  • Use regularly scheduled feedback to continuously improve processes

Innovation methodologies like this are often used to develop human-centered products and services. Here are some interesting examples across sectors:

So, why not turn design thinking inward toward creating happier and more fulfilling environments in the workplace, where us humans spend so much of our lives?


Are you using design thinking to improve employee experience in your business? Please share your stories

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