Work life

Designing for a good employee experience? Look no further than…your employees

Employee experience pros say the best way to cultivate a positive workplace culture is to design experiences with as much input from employees as possible.
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Hannah Minn

· 5 min read

The Covid-19 pandemic inspired many employees to reevaluate their relationship to work—and the Great Resignation forced many employers and HR teams to reevaluate their recruitment and retention strategies.

Employee experience (EX) pros say that constant feedback solicitation from employees, listening sessions, and collaborative design are the keys to creating a workplace that will attract and keep employees.

EX design—crafting the policy, programs, communications, and expectations that shape workplace culture—isn’t new, but experts say its value is growing because employees are factoring culture and experience into career longevity.

“Covid happened and that accelerated everything, but what I found in my research is that the median job tenure in terms of years across all age groups has been in sharp decline for the last 50 to 60 years,” said Jenny Busing, co-founder and co-CEO at Excellent, an EX design education platform that helps employers and HR professionals create better employee experiences. “Now you’ll see that millennials and Gen Z are just not going to work at places that have a suboptimal employee experience,” she added.

Employee experience. Busing said that it’s the everyday experience at work that “keeps people in their seats.”

Those everyday employee experiences fall into four main categories, Benjamin Granger, chief workplace psychologist at experience management software company Qualtrics, told HR Brew:

  1. Organizational: an employee’s relationship to a company and how they see their job function contributing to its success
  2. Individual: deeply personal experience to the employee at work, like parental leave or an employee’s psychological safety at work
  3. Workplace: experiences related to the workplace or aspects of the workplace, such as the technology or water cooler
  4. Transitional: “universal moments that matter,” like the hiring, onboarding, training, layoff, and offboarding processes

“If we want to design an experience that’s going to be ideal, employees need to be part of that discussion,” Granger said. “In a large organization where you have hundreds of thousands of people, that’s going to be done via surveys or some sort of structured listening.”

In practice. At hotel giant Hilton, employee feedback has long been a part of HR, according to Christine Maginnis, SVP of HR strategy and talent, who noted how it has shaped the company’s employee travel program, Go Hilton.

“We’re a travel company, and you work here and you…would assume you have incredible discounts,” she said. “Now, probably eight years ago, that was not the case. We offered discounts, but it was not a well-oiled machine, it was not easily accessible, it wasn’t technologically powered. And employee feedback was astounding around this area.”

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Prior to launching Go Hilton in November 2015, Maginnis said the HR team went all in on listening sessions and feedback solicitation. And the feedback cycle continued, she said. Go Hilton now is open for employees’ spouses and partners. That’s a direct result of feedback from employees, who highlighted issues their partners faced checking-in for reservations booked using the system.

The Covid-19 pandemic compelled Hilton to move with more agility when it came to feedback solicitation and pivot from an annual employee survey to pulse surveying: more frequent but targeted surveys assessing specific areas. Granger said more companies are moving towards pulse surveying, and away from simply an annual, calling the latter “a bad experience.”

“We can’t wait a year to understand the needs of our team members, because the needs are so rapidly changing,” Maginnis said. “We want to make sure that we’re meeting those needs, because there isn’t time to waste to make sure people are feeling taken care of, feeling supported, feeling healthy, feeling like they belong at this company, feeling like they have opportunities for growth.”

Design beyond feedback. Because of Hilton’s massive global workforce, Maginnis said surveying and data collection and analysis has been key to EX design.

Busing and her co-founder and co-CEO, Samantha Gadd, said more and more companies are now going a step further, and working with employees when designing solutions and experiences.

“Organizations do pretty well on the problem definition space,” said Gadd. “But then that’s where employee involvement stops. What we’re suggesting is that you continue to work with employees, doing codesign, actually figuring out with employees what they think the solutions are.”

Gadd said solutions—especially for millennial and Gen Z workers, who “want to be heard”—need to be designed with their voices at the table as much as possible.

“It’s such a win—win, because not only do leaders not have to solve for these really hard problems on their own…employees are really involved, and they will get a solution that works for them,” Gadd said.—AD

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