Employee Experience; a Flavour of Experience Design

It's time to design for employee experience in the way we design for customer experience
Leading businesses with exceptional consumer experiences have understood for a long time that “managing employee experience is a cornerstone of customer experience initiatives”. After all, these are the people who design, build, deliver, and are occasionally also consumers of a company's product and service offerings. Despite this, the focus remained firmly on customer-centricity - until recently. The pandemic has brought to light the importance of the employee experience. However, intentionally designing for the employee experience has been overlooked as being part of the remit of Experience Design. To gain a strategic advantage, it’s time for businesses to view employee experience as a flavour of Experience Design.

Experience Design is the discipline of applying Design Thinking to stage experiences that leave lasting impressions

Since the end of the 20th Century, to have a competitive advantage, companies needed to begin offering more than just products and services; consumers began desiring experiences. 

An ‘experience’ occurs when a person’s interactions with services and products over time engage them in a way that leaves a lasting impression.

In the absence of Experience Design, where little intention has gone into staging these interactions, the resulting experience and lasting impression is poor. Desirable experiences, on the other hand, are designed for with intention using Design Thinking.

Experience Design, then, is the process of exploring the intended audience’s needs and expectations of an experience, generating and experimenting with ways to address them, before delivering, promoting and iterating on a solution to staging their intended experience.

UX, Service Design, CX and EX are all flavours of Experience Design

There are various levels of experience a person has with a company, where Experience Design can and should be applied to increase the likelihood of them having a positive experience. These include the design for the experience of:

  • A digital product (User Experience Design and/or Product Design)
  • A service and the interactions between the people, processes and technology required to produce it (Service Design)
  • The consumer’s experience across multiple products and services (Customer Experience Design)

When done well, User Experience (UX) Design, Service Design, and Customer Experience (CX) Design all play a role in serving the needs of the intended audience and thus delivering business value:

  • UX Design ensures a user is able to achieve what they are aiming to with minimal pain and maximal gains
  • Service Design guarantees the delivery of a service quality that meets (and exceeds) the customer expectations
  • CX Design links up the various products and services  so the experience across them is seamless and cohesive

While the UX Design, Service Design and CX Design lenses of Experience Design are helpful for distinguishing between what type of experience we are designing for, they are all aimed at staging meaningful experiences by leveraging the same tools, techniques and processes to design them. It should therefore be no different with Employee Experience (EX) Design.

Employee Experience Design is the most strategic flavour of Experience Design to invest in

Where the employee experience differs though is in the psychological contract with the organisation. This is because the value exchange for an employee experience is far greater than that of the value exchange for a consumer experience: their time, energy and dedication (which unlike money, is non-refundable). It should therefore be acknowledged that employee expectations are far higher and more nuanced than that of a customer.

As with consumer experiences, when not intentionally designed, the employee experience is unlikely to meet expectations and end up being suboptimal, leading to a lack of engagement, motivation, enthusiasm, and performance. 

The EX Design then, arguably, has a larger impact on the organisation’s success through its ability to impact the quality of the other Experience Design realms (UX, Service Design and CX). As such, there should be a dedicated team whose responsibility it is to ensure an optimal employee experience by considering EX a flavour of Experience Design.

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