When starting a business, one of the first questions prospective CEOs ask themselves is, “Who is my target audience?” This is typically followed by many subsequent questions assessing brand goals, aesthetics, and voice. Business owners labor months, even years, assembling a business plan, hoping to eventually be a proud CEO of a meaningful, profitable company. Fast-forward three years, and you’re now a CEO with a profitable business, but you’ve noticed that other companies within your niche seem to have a competitive edge. That is when you realize that your business plan failed to address a fundamental question, “Who is my target audience?” You’re probably thinking that this is a typographical error because that question is clearly located in the first sentence of this paragraph, but it’s NOT. After years of juggling everything from compliance to company culture, it is now evident that you may have focused less on company culture and more on company appearance. You’ve now realized there are two target audiences: the customer and the employee.
Why would your employees be considered a “target audience” that needs to be defined in your business plan? Why is it essential that you know who your employees are? Knowing your “target employee” allows you to put the necessary procedures in place to foster a positive employee experience that contributes to the productivity and growth of your company. Studies show that employee experience may be just as valuable as the customer experience, linking positive employee engagement to increased revenue and business longevity. Fow Media reports that businesses scoring in the 25 percentile on employee engagement and connection, showed more robust customer metrics. Subsequent research affirms that more than 60 percent of employees at companies with above-average customer experience, reported high engagement with their jobs. In the simplest terms, Happy employees produce happy returning customers; and, it's more important now than ever for businesses to invest in the employee experience.
Each day we encounter several experiences. Experiences with people. Experiences with products. Experiences with applications and websites. Experiences with nature. The employee experience is no different. What is the employee experience? According to QualtricsXM, “The employee experience is the sum of all the interactions your employees have with your company. It involves the culture, benefits, physical work environment, and tools you provide for employee success.” Employee experience is how companies create and develop an employee culture that is based on the employee. Designing an efficient and effective employee experience can be difficult. Your employee experience design must answer two fundamental questions: 1) What sets your employees up for success, and 2) How are you giving your employees control of their careers and helping them to learn, grow, and thrive in the workplace? BUT, how do you design the employee experience? Most believe the answer lies within some fancy HR technique, but the real answer is its TRIAL and ERROR. When creating the employee experience, it's crucial that you are designing a plan for your employees BASED on your employees - meaning every part of the experience should be employee-focused. That’s where the UX comes in!
What is UX? UX is an acronym for User Experience and encompasses all aspects of the user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. At the most fundamental level, UX is the creation of user-focused experiences. UX design focuses on arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose based on the user and the user’s goal, from beginning to end. Applying the principles of User Experience design to the employee experience helps to create a workplace environment that is effective, reliable, desirable, and EMPLOYEE focused.
Here are Five necessary Steps of the UX process that every business owner should apply to their workplace design:
1. Understand User Needs
The first requirement for excellent user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, and this time your customer is your employee. This is the first (and most pivotal) step in your design process. You will need to research your target audience and consider several questions that will be the blueprint for your design.
It is important to remember that your employees are likely to be ‘in the market’. Just like your customers shop, your employees are shopping for the workplace culture and experience that is the best fit for them. You will need to search beyond what you think your employees will say they want and design an experience that considers what your employees will NEED.
2. Generate Possible Solutions
Generating possible solutions will allow you to create several different employee experience designs. An essential rule of design is to AVOID PREMATURE COMMITMENT. This means not getting attached to a particular plan because designing experiences that are user (employee) focused means designs will change based on employee needs.
3. Analyze Solutions
When analyzing your solutions, you must be sure to go back to step one. Remember, the employee experience is employee-centric, and you need to make sure your solutions are from that perspective. You must make sure that your solutions satisfy your employees’ needs, the fundamental design questions, and all other criteria created and discovered during your target audience research.
4. Embody those solutions
The Tale of the Two Gulfs: Execution and Evaluation. One of the central principles of UX design is that design never stops. You are going to be in a constant cycle of research, design, assess - REPEAT. Embodying your solutions wades in the Gulf of Execution. The GoE requires you to form your intention, select the action, and execute the action. In this case, designing an effective, reliable, and desirable experience is your intention. Creating the appropriate design that addresses your criteria is the action selected; and, putting the design plan in motion is executing the action.
This may be the most essential step in the design process. You have now swum to the Gulf of Evaluation. In the depths of the gulf of evaluation is the foundation of what makes a great employee experience. During assessment, you can see if your employee experience design works (in real-time) and accurately addresses the employee needs you have identified. How do you, as a business owner, know that your design plan works? FEEDBACK! Feedback allows you to assess what is working, what could work, and what needs a complete redesign. Allowing your employees to evaluate their experience promotes feelings of autonomy in the workplace and can strengthen employee engagement and commitment to the company.
Customer feedback is also a critical part of assessing your design plan. Happy employees = happy customers. Positive customer experiences are likely the residual effects of effective design and can provide valuable information concerning the state of your employees. The opposite is true as well. Happy customers = happy employees. Allowing your employees access to positive customer reviews can also strengthen employee engagement and commitment to the company. In addition to positive reviews, constructive customer reviews offer additional feedback that allows you as the business owner to assess the functionality of your experience design and provide the necessary guidance to employees, if needed.
Putting a concentrated effort toward designing the employee experience will give your business a competitive edge. An effective employee experience design will increase employee satisfaction and retention and help attract top talent. Consequently, employee satisfaction and retention will translate to the customer experience and will be evidenced by increases in business revenue, producer-consumer rapport that creates recurring customers, and business longevity. Employees that are happy and believe that they receive opportunities to learn and mature in their jobs do not leave them. These feelings of happiness and security transfer to your customers’ experiences and keep them coming back. Because like the 80s sitcom Cheers, says, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.”