This is the third installation in our Experience Over Everything series.

We should always put people first—especially when it comes to designing amazing experiences for customers and employees.

Most of our business initiatives focus on improving customer experiences with the end goal of increasing satisfaction and driving revenue. However, many of us don’t consistently evaluate our own internal processes and the tools that shape our ability to serve those customers. These internal tools and processes, along with culture, are the foundations upon which great employee experiences are built.

This is a guide to strengthening those foundations to improve employee experiences and reach your business goals.

Develop a Shared Understanding of Business Goals

In theory:
The very first thing we have to do is develop a shared understanding of business goals. At a high level, what do we need to accomplish strategically as a company? At a low level, what are some KPIs that we need to improve to get there?

We need answers to these questions.

The best way to identify these goals is to speak with the stakeholders involved individually. The best way to align on and prioritize these goals is to socialize the findings among the stakeholders collectively and talk through them.

In practice:
This sounds great in theory, but what does this look like in practice?

We are working on a project with a marketing company client headquartered in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metro area. Skookum was brought in to build a platform to house one of the client’s team’s operations. The project was originally to replicate an existing platform being used by a company they recently acquired. The department we worked with is responsible for 70% of the company’s revenue.

Rather than jumping into development and cranking out code, we started by developing an understanding of their business goals. We interviewed the decision-making stakeholders/departmental leaders to understand their high level business goals, and interviewed the other stakeholders (users and middle management) to understand the lower level business goals.

They wanted to double or triple the productivity of their revenue-driving employees, and ensure that everyone is following the same processes and using the same systems so they could scale the team 10x. They wanted to automate manual processes and eliminate redundancies to streamline.

With this holistic view of their business goals, we worked to develop a holistic view of their current experiences and the processes and systems that shaped them.

Uncover Employee Challenges and Encourage Employee-Driven Solutions

In theory: It is important to understand the challenges in meeting your business goals so that you can identify solutions. It is also important to understand your team’s ideal ways to solve those challenges. They are the best people to identify solutions since they are actively facing and overcoming the challenges every day.

There are some great UX research tools out there, such as observation and interviews, that can help you build an understanding of the challenges and solutions.

In practice:
For the client project, we combined the employee challenge interviews with the business goals interviews, then documented their current processes and tools and how they factor into reaching business goals. We also documented their challenges along the way and critical areas for improvement.

We asked how they would solve those challenges in a perfect world, with no time or cost constraints. This helped us develop an understanding of the ideal, future state and enabled Skookum to deliver the findings in a way that was not prescriptive, ie.: “This is what you said that you want/need,” instead of the prescriptive, “This is what we think you need.”

Find Alignment on Current and Future State with Your Employees

In theory: Once you have an understanding of the company goals, employee challenges in meeting those goals, and employee ideas of how to solve those challenges, the next step is to get stakeholder alignment on the current experience and the ideal, future experience.

The best way to do this is to convert the notes from the interviews into a journey map to help drive the discussion. From there, schedule a workshop to walk through the current and future experiences. Make sure that everyone participates and provides feedback. It is also important to make sure everyone is aligned for each stage/step of the journey. If possible, make changes and edits in real time or at least document them.

In practice:
The client company had two different teams that needed one shared experience. We had interviewed each one of the stakeholders individually before, but rather than combine the notes into a single current state view, we mapped out two, very different current state views of their experiences. This led to three different workshops: one with each team individually to align on the current experiences, and one with both teams together to align on an ideal future experience.

Once we were able to align on the future state, we were in a good place to develop a plan for getting there.

Share Your Collaborative Action Plan

In theory:
Once aligned on the ideal, future experience, it’s critical that you socialize that experience. Share (and encourage others to share) the journey map and have discussions. This will become the banner that people rally behind. Let others who will be impacted by the changes know about the process used to define the future experience, so they know this wasn’t done in a silo.

From there, create a plan to get to the future experience and work with decision-making stakeholders to get the resources you need to execute that plan.

In practice:
Skookum shared images of the journey map with client stakeholders and converted the journey map into a feature list. We met with the decision-making stakeholders to prioritize these features. From there, we were able to start engineering/architecture, design, and user story work.

Improving Employee Experiences is an Ongoing Process

This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months end-to-end, depending on the scale of the experience you’re trying to create. There are a lot of variables that factor into the success of this playbook: stakeholder availability and willingness to participate, company commitment in time and resources to identifying and solving challenges, and the experience level of the team conducting the work among them.

Our team at Skookum is highly skilled and experienced in navigating these factors. If you would like to discuss your challenges in improving employee experiences and reaching business goals, send me an email. I would love to speak with you and even invite you into the office to meet the team. We can develop and execute a playbook to help you and your company get to where you want to be.