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Designing an Employee-Centric Experience

I remember starting a new job when I was fresh out of college. I worked for an insurance firm. The application process was long and interviews even longer. However, by the end of the process, I felt as I had achieved something simply by being hired. Training lasted six months. Then I was released to my desk. But wait. Where is my desk?

The walk from the training area, which was a direct route into a bright open room, became a maze of hallways and crowded sections of tall cubicles. Openness was transformed into a dark, closed space. The design of each area stood in stark contrast, and left two different feelings on the employees who would spend eight hours a day in an already high stress work environment.

Companies talk about the importance of human centric design when it comes to products, but are they asking the same questions about human centric design for employees?

I look back and think about that job. Overall, the company was good. It had excellent benefits and bonus structures. I had two direct supervisors that I enjoyed, one of which transformed my thinking of leaders and the employees that work under their charge. However, the impact of the poor design of workspace and processes negatively affected my thinking. I believe this does not have to be the case, and using the design process in how personnel are hired and the creating spaces can greatly improve the mental effects felt by employees.

Here are 4 areas intentional, human-centric design can help companies and their employees:

Hiring

Hiring processes range from simplistic one form and interview hires to multi-page, levels of interviews, offers before a candidate is accepted. Throw in a probation period or lengthy onboarding process, and the steps become quite confusing.

Research shows that employees begin to make their first impressions about a company during the interview process. These impressions can last even after a job is accepted as an employee evaluates products and services of the companies or internal procedures.

While companies form products, services, and procedures around the general operation of the organization, more thought should go to the employees that are to champion these. This begins with the application and interview process to hire. Designing a well communicated, streamlined process demonstrates transparency, buy in, and a better user experience for the new candidate. It impacts the long term view of the organization.

Space

One of the biggest drawbacks in the personal story above was the space design. I spent six months in a space that created high interaction and activity with enough boundaries to keep people focused. The reality of the long term workspace was much different. It decreased collaboration and communication among teams especially between supervisor and team member. The high cubicle walls darkened the space and created a maze effect.

In companies that require high employee to employee engagement, workspaces must be designed to fit the needs of the employee as well as the company. Design of the workspace creates a positive mental and emotional feel that motivates the employee to be present going beyond the general goal of efficiency. One way to utilize design of the workspace, is involving the employees in the layout, decoration, and creation of the space itself.

Education

Employee education and growth are two major ways to keep employees engaged and retained with the company. However, many times employee development plans fail even when couched as “personal” plans. Why?

Writing for Forbes’, Joe Folkman suggests that these development plans are not driven by the employee, but another program created broadly. The problem: “the one size fits all” ends up helping few and fails at the intended purpose. Design thinking forces us to look back at the employee, and create something geared to the needs of the “user” rather than the company.

Organizational Structure

The structure of a business can play a large part in the employee’s experience. A major shift is taking place even among established companies from a hierarchical approach to a flatter organizational structure. A major reason for this is creating a more agile structure to address constantly changing patterns in tech and how is business is conducted.

Realigning an organization to improve communication and address changes at a faster rate will improve the company’s ability to be proactive and react when necessary to morphing trends. A flat organization also improves employee experience by removing layers of a process and empowering the employee to form creative solutions that receive more direct and clear feedback. The experience is enhanced, and employees feel more able to achieve creating a more motivating work environment.

To be fair, design thinking will not address all issues that human resources or a company will face. Not every employee will be satisfied in their new roles. However, adapting a more employee centric approach to running a business helps to identify a more proper fit for new hires.