Superior Employee Experiences: why reinvent the wheel?

Serge Van Dam
Serge Van Dam | August 28, 2018
Employee Experience
Superior Employee Experiences: why reinvent the wheel?

Judging by the literature being published on the information-super-highway, the new titles being bandied about on LinkedIn and the real competition for talent, it seems that Employee Experience is a thing. Maybe even ‘the thing’ if you’re of an HR bent.

As the great Steve Jobs used to say, and with good reason: Good artists copy, great artists steal.  So as someone who is passionate about using frameworks to help leaders communicate and bring about change more efficiently, I think HR practitioners should ‘steal’ the great work of the User Experience (UX) community and design thinkers around the world to help us think more clearly about Superior Employee Experiences.  Why re-invent the wheel when we can just steal it from another industry?

A BASIC framework for employee experience design

There are many of these frameworks out there, but one of the simplest and most digestible models for thinking about UX is Dan Smiths BASIC framework. If a user experience is beautiful, accessible, simple, intuitive and consistent, it’s more likely to succeed. The same applies to employee experience. Let’s break it down.

Basic framework for superior employee experiences

(c) Basic UX

Beautiful EX

If an experience is aesthetically pleasing, people feel good about it, and they will overlook minor issues. In UX this is the aesthetic-usability effect, and it works similarly for EX. If you put people in a nice office, and they’ve got the right tools to do their job, and they feel comfortable and content, they’re going to have a positive mindset. When the meeting rooms are unavailable, or the milk runs out, they’re probably going to take it in their stride. If, on the other hand, they’re already feeling miserable because the office is cold, grey, cramped and loud, they will probably react quite differently to what are essentially minor annoyances. Don’t make it more difficult than it has to be!

Accessible EX

In UX accessibility means making sure the design meets standards, works well on all systems, and makes allowances for users that might have difficulty with language, vision or motor skills. In EX it means making sure that all employees have access to the same opportunities and experiences. Rewards and recognition are applied equitably, promotions are based on merit, and the free monthly lunches cater for all dietary restrictions. One group of employees shouldn’t have access to a work experience that others do not (accepting, of course, that everyone will have their own perception of and opinion about everything you do).

Simple EX

A simple employee experience will include only those things that are absolutely necessary, and exclude anything that’s going to make life harder or create an excess of work. Mandatory morning meetings and compulsory TPS Report covers? Probably a good indication that your EX isn’t as simple as it could be. Simple EX also means you don’t need to go overboard with perks or extra-curricular activities that may be more distracting than rewarding. Concentrate on the things that matter – meaningful work and fairness and don’t get bogged down in the frippery.

Intuitive EX

An intuitive experience is one that people just ‘get’. You dont have to teach it or learn it; people understand what they need to do and they get on with it. UX designers will use well-understood colors and layouts so users don’t need to learn a new interface with every new product. In EX you can also build on the familiar. Make sure onboarding is comprehensive and people know what to expect. Make sure people know how to do their job, who to ask for help, and where the pencils are kept. Demonstrate the level of risk taking that’s acceptable, how much decision-making autonomy is allowed, and what it takes to advance. There should be no deciphering of arcane HR processes and procedures involved.

Consistent EX

A consistent experience won’t surprise anyone. If you say you have regular performance conversations but only document the annual review, then you’re being inconsistent. Or if you talk up your relaxed working environment, but there’s no BYOD, flextime or remote work allowed. Or if you claim an open-door policy but don’t encourage employees to talk to skip-managers, let alone the senior executive. Consistency is important; internal consistency in that every part of the experience gels, and external consistency, where the experience meets expectations.

The rise of ‘snackable’ HR

I spent 10 years improving the experiences in retail banking, and was involved in the first wave of mobile banking deployments around the world. We quickly figured out consumers wanted banking to be all of these B.A.S.I.C. things the mobile device was merely the medium for doing so.  One of the consequences of the UX revolution in digital banking, and mobile in particular, is that banking became snackable it was so intuitive, simple and efficient that people could bank several times a day. I think HR management processes will go the same way.

Start delivering Superior Employee Experiences

What can you do to start delivering Superior Employee Experiences?  If you are in the people side of your organization, go and sit with your design or UX team. Ask them how they would do people, talent and culture.

What design thinking would they bring to the table when it comes to your most valuable asset?  You’ll likely learn a thing or two, and you’ll probably make a couple of new friends in the process.

Steal the wheel, dont reinvent it!

Steal the wheel