How to include employees in experience design

Why Employee Experience?

Employees are continually being asked to adjust quickly to changes in their working environment. These changes are usually well thought out and cared for by senior management and are intended to increase the trajectory of the business. These changes usually come in three forms:

  1. Technology: Investments in tools intended to help the employees perform their job functions better.
  2. Process: The reengineering of business workflow due to larger circumstances such as reorganization of the working environment, merger, acquisition or other major operating environment variable that impacts the way the employees get their work done.
  3. Strategy: A change in focus or approach to the marketplace that warrants a different mindset or the activation of multiple changes designed for the business alter its course and approach. Many times this includes adding products or services to the offerings, mission/vision changes or breaking into new markets.

When leadership of any organization makes the decision to improve the business in any of the areas noted, the energy behind the task is usually very high. What is often forgotten is the impact on those who have to work and eventually behave differently with the new ideas. There is an expectation that the employees will just be able to adjust on their own to the implementations. With out the care and sensitivity of working collaboratively with your employees to design the future of the organization, the potential for failure is very high.

Engaging the Employees to Design their own Experience, Enabling the Change

It is necessary to think carefully about who is a targeted employee and how to involve them in the EX design process. Obviously they are the people who will use the final technology, process or strategy to accomplish a task or goal that has been set. But there are others as well, the people who manage the targeted set of employees. They have needs and expectations too. What about those persons who are affected in some way by the use or application of the product, outcome of strategy? Shouldn’t their needs and expectations be taken into consideration in the design process?

Researchers have identified that there are three types of users: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary are those persons who actually use the technology, process or strategy; secondary are those who will occasionally use it or those who use it through an intermediary; and tertiary are persons who will be affected by the use of it or make any decisions regarding the final technology, process or strategy. The successful design must take into account the wide range of stakeholders. Not everyone who is a stakeholder needs to be represented on the team, but the effect of it on him or her must be considered.

Once the stakeholders have been identified and a thorough investigation of their needs has been conducted by performing tasks and needs analyses, organizations can develop alternative solutions to be evaluated by the employees. These solutions can be simple paper and pencil drawings in the beginning phase of the process. Listening to employees discuss the alternatives can amplify the understanding of the intended purpose(s) of the end result and may provide information that does not come out of initial interviews, observations, and needs analysis.

As the design cycle progresses, prototypes (limited versions) can be produced and employee tested. At this point, designers should pay close attention to the evaluations by the employees, as they will help identify measurable assimilation criteria. Measurable assimilation criteria address issues related to the effectiveness, efficiency, safety, utility, learnability and memorability (how long it takes to remember to perform the most common tasks) of the final activation and employees’ subjective satisfaction with it. You can see how difficult it would be for leaders to know or imagine all the assimilation criteria that are important to the employees. It is only through feedback collected in an interactive iterative process involving employees that implementations can be refined.

The following suggests ways to involve employees in the design and development of a final technology, process or strategy:

  • Background Interviews and questionnaires (Technology, Process, Strategy)
    • Collecting data related to the needs and expectations of employees; evaluation of design alternatives, prototypes and the final outcomes
    • At the beginning of the design project
  • Sequence of work interviews and questionnaires (Technology, Process, Strategy)
    • Collecting data related to the sequence of work to be performed or behaviors to be displayed
    • Early in the design cycle
  • Employee panels and passion groups (Technology, Process, Strategy)
    • Include a wide range of stakeholders to discuss issues and requirements related to the targeted future
    • Early in the design cycle
  • Ethnography and observation (Technology, Process)
    • Collecting information concerning the environment in which the new technology, process will be used
    • Early in the design cycle
  • Role Playing, walkthroughs, and simulations (Technology, Process)
    • Evaluation of alternative designs and gaining additional information about user needs and expectations; prototype (technology) or workflow (process)
    • Early and mid-point in the design cycle evaluation
  • Usability testing (Technology)
    • Collecting quantities and qualities data related to measurable usability criteria
    • Final stage of the design cycle
  • Interviews and questionnaires (Technology, Process, Strategy)
    • Collecting qualitative data related to user satisfaction
    • Final stage of the design cycle

The goal of the deliverables is to make it easy to determine what actions are possible at any moment:

  • Make things visible, including conceptual models (current, future), the alternative actions, and the results of actions.
  • Make it easy to evaluate the current state.
  • Follow natural mappings between intentions and the required actions; between actions and the resulting effect; and between the information that is visible and the interpretation of the present and future.
  • Uncover and illuminate what is actually happening.

These recommendations place the employee at the center of the design process and help foster a transition to the future state. The role of the project leader is to facilitate the task for the employee and to make sure that the employee is able to make use of the new technology, process or strategy as intended and with a minimum effort to learn how to do it.

Telling leaders who design the future and implementers that results should be intuitive is not enough; some design principles are needed to guide the process. Researchers suggest that the following principles of design are essential for facilitating the process:

  1. Use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head. By building conceptual models, write descriptions that are easily understood and that are written before the change is implemented.
  2. Simplify the structure of tasks and processes. Make sure not to overload the short-term memory, or the long-term memory of the employee. On average the people are able to remember five things at a time. Make sure the task is consistent and provide mental aids for easy retrieval of information from long-term memory. Make sure the employee has control over the processes.
  3. Make things visible: bridge the gaps between execution and evaluation. The employee should be able to figure out the use of anything by seeing the right way to execute and operate.
  4. Get the mappings right. One way to make things understandable is to use graphics.
  5. Exploit the power of constraints, both natural and artificial, in order to give the employee the feel that there is only one thing to do.
  6. Design for error. Plan for any possible error that can be made, gaps will be created, and time to adjust is needed. This way the employee will be allowed the option of recovery from any possible error made.
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