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The Rise of Colleague Experience

Luke McKinney and Ruth Watson, two of our Senior Service Designers presented at a BIMA Breakfast Briefing in Edinburgh on the rising new discipline within service design, ‘Colleague Experience’. We’ve shared the presentation slides from the session.

The Rise of Colleague Experience
BIMA breakfast briefing — the rise of the colleague experience

The colleague experience is an evolution of customer experience and a key service Nile is practicing for our clients.

'Hello' from Ruth Watson and Luke McKinney
Nile Service Design stars
At Nile, we help our clients discover, develop and realise inspired, impactful and commercially viable ideas.
Nile mission
What we do - Insight, Product Proposition & Innovation, Journey Design, Behavioural Change, Capability Building
Nile services
Customer vs Colleague
Spot the difference?

Requests to deliver colleague centric design continues to grow in Nile’s client base. It’s to think customer experience and colleague experience is just plug and play but we’ve found differences in the two disciplines.

Forces for Change - Affecting Employees - 1) Shifting employee expectations, 2) The fight for talent, 3) The gig economy.
Employees expect more

Companies putting colleagues at the heart of their values is Virgin Media & Air BnB, as example.

Colleague Experience - 7 Tips To Get You Started
Colleague experience

Here’s seven tips, tricks or things to be aware of that we’d like to share with you on colleague experience.

1) Colleagues as customers - Designing the experiences of colleagues in the same purposeful and considered way we do for customers.
Colleagues as customers

Apply the same approach when designing for colleagues as customers. This means using insight and co-design to get traction with new workplace initiatives and concepts. It’s easy to assume the same approaches but this is not always the case…

The Challenge - Colleague Experience is not about pleasing everyone
Colleague experience is not about pleasing everyone

Unlike designing for customers, it’s not about pleasing everyone like Marmite or mullets. As a company, you want to be discerning about the people you hire, looking for the best fit for the company culture the right attitudes and values.

The experiences you design for colleagues are as much about turning the wrong people away, as attracting the right people.

2) H.R. as brand champions - HR Teams are less about admin and more about end-to-end working experience.
HR as brand champs

Part of this is the shift from HR team as administrative to functionaries. Internal brand and external brand are not always the same thing. It’s important for there to be consistency between the brand and every day experiences at work. Not transactions, colleagues are embedded.

Good Customer Experience is driven from the Bottom-Up, Good Colleague Experience needs to be both Top-Down & Bottom-up
Both Top-down and bottom-up

Bottom-up means figuring out customers needs in order to design the strategy. Colleague experience can’t be completely bottom-up and therefore driven by pleasing everyone in an organisation. The best use of bottom-up colleague experience is identifying people who represent the brand values and using them to drive the strategy. One point to note is designing only for your current employees risks stagnations and stops a business evolving.

Top-down strategic direction means using where the company is going and the values to take us there. Thus to create a successful colleague experience it must be a combination of bottom-up and top-down.

An unengaged candidate is not aligned to brand or values making them the wrong talent (not matter how talented) for the company. Your brand has to appeal to the candidate as much as they appeal to the company.

3) Tackling assumptions - HR teams are exposed to the complexity of organisations - this doesn’t mean solutions have to be as complex
Keep it simple

Tackling assumptions means being naturally collaborative and diversity focused. Different departments have vastly different needs but they all work in the office and are subject to the same environment and face the same issues.

For example, “we have 24 departments in this company, across 12 communities, we must design for a different solution for each of them.” ..?

The Challenge - This leads to decision paralysis & HR teams can struggle to know where to start
Don’t try to boil the ocean

This attitude leads to information overload; by trying to design for everyone’s tiny needs would be like trying to boil the ocean. Personas and archetypes help get around this as it helps focus teams in designing for the most important differences in people, in the most efficient and viable way.

4) H.R. teams ‘get’ people - HR revolves around people, and teams are often fantastic empathisers - a valuable skill for experience designers.
HR teams are empathetic = excellent experience designers

HR teams tend to be really good with people and have the ability to understand the details of employee behaviours and pain points. When mixed with empathy and storytelling the HR department is well placed to convince others of the needs of people.

The Challenge - Empathy without process makes it hard to see the genius behind ‘bad’ ideas
Empathy needs process too

A lack of a design process in empathy will tend to give people what they want, however, it can be driven by process and perception of what is possible.

5) The need for designers - While great with employee insight, HR teams can struggle to use this insight as they are not set-up to design and deliver solutions.
In come the designers

HR is rarely structured to deliver a colleague design solution on top of current duties. Often the HR department or even the company will have no internal design support. It is still early days in most sectors for trying to prove the value of investing in design internally.

The challenge - HR often depend on other business areas to implement new solutions
HR rely on other departments to help with solutions

The HR department won’t have remit to control other parts of the business they rely on for delivery and HR can’t design standalone services without input from other parts of the business. Often internal IT and transformation teams don’t see HR in a fluid way, there’s a business perception of HR as an admin function. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

6) Stakeholder mobilisation - HR are great at engaging stakeholders and leadership in order to implement new solutions.
Stakeholder engagement

On the upside, HR has reach across all business areas, is well connected and extremely good at engaging key people to drive excitement, traction with new ideas.

Top Tip - Leverage the fact Colleague Experience touches everyone to quickly build consensus
Colleague experience affects everyone

Empathy comes into play again whilst relating the colleague experience to everyone’s own experience. Generate consensus through personalisation and change behaviours with stakeholder influence. ‘The Crying Seats’.

7) Power of storytelling - Engaging stakeholders early and throughout a project with consistent messaging is key.
Early stakeholder engagement and consistency is key

It’s great to engage with so many stakeholders throughout a project, however, things move rapidly. The challenges are:

  • Keeping people engaged in the ever-changing project story – there needs to be some consistency in the story being communicated e.g. no crossed-wires or miscommunications.
  • Ensuring that the discussions with wider teams are taken on board – teams need feel part of the outputs which will, in turn, create advocates to make the implementation process and changes much smoother.
Top Tip - Constructing a project ‘Mind Palace’ as a central shared visualisation of knowledge
Constructing a project ‘mind palace’

If anyone is a Sherlock fan you’ll be familiar with the concept of a mind palace. However, in this context, it’s about having a visual, physical space to create a shared understanding. As the project moves rapidly the mind palace becomes the shared brain to document, keep consistency, people engaged and includes wider teams in the project story and their placement in outputs.

3 Thing to Remember – Colleague Experience is on the rise: Employers, regardless of size, will need to promote their internal values and experience to attract and retain the right talent, Lack of capacity in HR Departments: HR teams need to be dramatically restructured to be able to design, implement, and maintain colleague experiences, The need for Colleague Experience Designers: Most HR teams are still reliant on agencies to support the design and implement Colleague Experience… for now.
Things to remember in colleague experience

Employees want something more meaningful from work than pay packages.

Thanks from Ruth Watson and Luke Mckinney
Email us to find out more about colleague experience design
Sarah Ronald

Sarah Ronald


Award-winning design entrepreneur, bar owner, investor. Passion for insight, human behaviour and our intersection with technology. Have a question about something I’ve written? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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