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Leighton Abbot | 10 July 2019

Understanding Employee Experience: Part 2

Introducing Employee Centred Design

In my first article in this series, I introduced a new model of Employee Experience with the acronym PREP, that lays the foundation for organisations to deliver more employee focused outcomes. I encourage you to read the series from the beginning!

Employee Centred Design

I’ve noticed that the profession of People & Culture / HR is somewhat preoccupied with the notion of ‘best practice.’ Best practice by definition is an approach that is seen as superior to alternatives due to greater likelihood of better outcomes. That sounds great!

The fly in the ointment for P&C however is that we’re dealing with people, each with different perceptions. We regularly find that what worked great in one organisation might not in another, for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately we’ve become used to citing that “people don’t like change” when initiatives don’t work out as expected, and have reassured ourselves that we followed best practice.

I think it’s more accurate instead to say that “people don’t like change being imposed on them.” How many times have you yourself been subjected to change by a company you’ve bought goods or services from, and found yourself saying, “well if they had only asked me, I’d have said…”? Involvement in decision-making is a common driver of employee engagement, yet often we fail to really engage with people to design solutions.

Finding inspiration

Our focus on understanding and enhancing Employee Experience has encouraged the team at Humankind to reflect on these realities and look for a different approach. Seeing fantastic results in other fields, we have drawn from Human Centered Design, Service Design and User Experience Design to develop an approach for Employee Experience: Employee Centered Design (ECD).

Humankind’s Employee Centered Design mindset is founded on two key beliefs:

Both of these beliefs are part of the existing P&C narrative and value proposition. So really it’s how we follow through on these beliefs that determines whether we work with employees to develop solutions that will serve them, or fall back to ‘best practice.’ To stay on track, we have developed 5 ECD Principles that we use internally, and they have been so successful that we encourage you to consider these as guiding lights for your own P&C team:

Find the why

Listen to people, and look to understand why they think, feel, and act they way they do. Focus on the moments that matter, big and small.

Design with

Not for! Collaborate with a diverse range of people, doing things with them, not to them. We need to tap into collective wisdom and generate options. We don’t know everything.

Build and test

Don’t work towards a single big output – share progress, prototype and test ideas as you go. Course correct early.

Make it BASIC

Great solutions are Beautiful, Accessible, Simple, Intuitive, Consistent.


The 4 types of EX help you understand both what’s happening now, and design for the future: experiences across the dimensions of Purpose, Relationships, Enablement, and Performance.

In other professions, most of these principles are already second nature. The first three are fundamentals of Human Centered Design, often referred to as empathy, co-creation, and prototyping. BASIC is a wonderful acronym drawn from User Experience Design – it’s why the apps on your phone deliver great experiences. PREP for EX (introduced in my first article in this series) is our own contribution, unique to Employee Experience.

It’s in practice where you start to see how ECD will deliver different results. In the third article in this series I’ll discuss what ECD looks like in practice, and what changes are needed to ‘status quo HR’ to start delivering the sorts of Employee Experience results we are looking for.

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