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Using an EX mindset to solve business challenges

Community Series Volume Nine with Leanne Hopkins People Advisory & Design Consultant at Sprout.

Samantha Gadd and Jenny Busing

In the current economic climate, it’s easy to see employee experience (EX) and investing in creating a positive work culture as a ‘nice to have’ that just isn’t a top priority. I understand the challenges businesses face with having to weigh up how to spend their limited resources.

I get that EX doesn’t always feel like it has an immediate financial payoff. But I would argue that EX is more critical now than ever - and not just for the usual reasons around talent engagement and retention.

I’ve always been a fan of investing in employees, knowing that when employees have a great experience at work they’ll be 1) more likely to stay (saving cost of replacement), 2) more ‘engaged’ in their work (performing at their best and delivering better results), and 3) more likely to recommend the company as a great place to work (creating a strong employer brand, making it easier to attract new talent, etc). But more recently, I’ve been learning about the process of Employee Centred Design in solving for almost any business challenge, to create solutions that are more fit for purpose, leading to better operational efficiency and an improved customer experience.

Business leaders don’t need to have all the answers - employees often have great ideas about how to improve systems, processes, tools, ways of working, sales, and productivity.

Whatever it is, it’s those closest to the problem that so often have the solution. By spending the time asking employees for input and co-designing solutions with them, not only will employees feel more valued (honestly this is the number one thing employees say when I ask them what makes them feel most valued - it’s being involved in decisions and asked for their input) - but it will also likely lead to a better solution, with a far easier change management process.

How good is it to roll something out when employees are already on board with the solution because they were involved in co-designing it. I understand this isn’t always possible in a large business to involve everyone in every decision, but there are ways to get input through representative groups and surveys to consider larger group viewpoints too. Not every idea can be acted on but as long as that expectation is set and different perspectives are genuinely considered, people are generally pretty understanding.

One great question to ask employees is:
‘What would make your job easier?’. So often they’ll have great ideas to streamline processes that aren’t necessarily major investments, or if they are, they’ll have significant payoffs for the business.

One core belief behind a human-centred approach is believing 'the solutions we seek lie in the population we serve'.  I loved learning through the Excellent EX Design School accreditation I recently completed, how the design thinking process can be used across so many situations. This also really resonated with the work we do at Sprout with our clients in ‘discovery’ (through tools like surveys and in-depth 1 on 1 conversations with employees and business leaders) and ‘iteration’ (making sure our solutions aren’t ‘one size fits all’ but we evolve them to make them work for the business).

When we involve employees in designing great experiences at work, we can get to the heart of the problems we’re solving and create higher-performing workplaces where people can be their best and deliver their best work.

Key Takeaways:
  • Thinking about Employee Experience is not a ‘nice to have’ add-on - it’s essential for business performance - an approach we can use to solve any organisational problem.
  • Methodology for opening up solutions from employees - problem-focused approach.
  • Operational efficiencies, how we enable people to do great work - enabling people to perform and stay well (enriching vs extractive).
  • Asking people ‘What would make your job easier’ is a question that answers would benefit the individual and the business - mutual value - issues with tools, not having clarity on key priority areas, how they work best with other people. Seamlessly being able to do their work enabling efficiency and better work outcomes.
  • Who better knows business challenge solutions than the people in the business doing the work?
  • How to go about this: 1:1 ‘discovery’ conversations/interviews with employees (external party or internal PX role), tools like surveys, regular 1:1 conversations with leaders with a culture of giving feedback.
  • Designing solutions with the people who are closest to the problems.

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