Gallup has found that a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. And that impacts everything – bottom line, culture, customer satisfaction, etc. Do companies not know how to engage their employees? They do. However, human potential experts suggest adopting a new lens.

By sheer virtue of being human, all employees don’t desire the same development opportunities, rewards, and schedules. They differ in their level of interest in communicating about their needs, and participation. Hence, blanket employee engagement efforts backfire. And it is a worthy initiative – to rethink employee engagement. That is the difference between a company that outperforms its competitors and one that fails to grow.

The recommendation: designing employee experience just as one would design customer experience. In other words, use principles of design thinking – a process that defines the problem and then implements the solutions, always with the needs of the user demographic at the core. The solution then, is tailored to better fit the user group.

A powerful example of this was demonstrated by an Australian government agency, as they re-designed their HR policy. The organization found that 27,000 of its 45,000 employees were remote field workers, who did not use company-sponsored technology. They faced significant challenges around communication, collaboration, and knowledge management. For example, the biggest frustration for these remote employees was the inability to access their work schedules, submit absence requests, or order uniforms using their personal technology. To address this challenge, the agency used the following design thinking processes:

  • Focused questions and discussions. ‘Discovery interviews’ with employees to ask questions that helped understand their challenges, and choose the right one to address. This involved exploration of needs of different employee segments, and helped remove any bias or assumption about them.
  • Field research. The agency not only studied the employees, but their customers as well. They looked for satisfying experiences and actions that increased customer happiness, and applied that knowledge to their organization’s culture. Why? Treating employees with the same consideration as customers, enhances the company’s value. Happy employees = happier customers.
  • This is all about comparing insights from the discussions and research to identify areas that could be dramatically improved to ‘delight’ employees. Here is where new information emerged, and it was simpler for the agency to create multiple engagement solutions.
  • Prototyping. Developing low-risk tools and solutions that were tested and refined multiple times to allow for ‘fast failure’ and the integration of lessons learned. This trial and error approach offers a smart path to success, without getting attached to a fixed solution.
  • Visualization. Devise implementation of new ideas in an engaging way. The way an initiative is rolled out, drives employee participation. More energy, empathy and creativity = more engagement!

The impact: A rise in productivity, surge in employee happiness, involvement in the organization’s culture, and more commitment to the vision. Their bottom line improved, and the company was able to reinvent itself faster.

According to design strategist Jon Kolko, “People need their interactions with technology and environments to be simple, intuitive, and pleasurable. And design thinking makes it possible, because it is empathetic. It implicitly drives a more thoughtful, human approach to business.”

Wondering where you can start? Look around to see the different employee groups you have, and what challenges they are facing. And then approach them with empathy, to address the issues.

Leave a Reply