Truly great experiences don’t happen by chance. Every detail is considered and meticulously crafted with the end user in mind—whoever that user may be. That’s why, when it’s time to design a new employee workflow experience, more user experience (UX) experts are partnering with HR.
“There are many parallels between how UX and HR look at employee sentiment and experience,” says Amy Lokey, ServiceNow’s vice president and global head of design. “Both teams are driven by empathy almost to the point of being professional empathizers.”
The term “user experience” has traditionally referred to the customer journey. Today’s leaders understand that employee sentiment is at least as important to their organization’s success. In fact, the latter directly impacts the former.
“When you put all of your focus on creating a beautiful experience for your customers, and you neglect your staff, the result is employees who don’t have the emotional bandwidth to actually care for those end customers,” says Tracey Fritcher, ServiceNow’s global director of HR transformation.
Whereas when you put in the time and effort to create great experiences on both sides, Fritcher says, morale, capacity to care and productivity go up. “This impacts the success of an organization over time.”
To learn more about creating a production alliance between human resources and user experience, we spoke with Lokey and Fritcher about their experiences collaborating on the design of employee workflows at ServiceNow.
Bring More Voices To The Design Table
Though the term “design thinking” may be over-used (Lokey: “I kind of roll my eyes when I hear it”), there’s still tremendous value in bringing together a wide variety of perspectives during the design process.
“It’s an approach that helps you take a step back from your assumptions, your biases and your preconceived solution,” Lokey explains. “You focus first and foremost on asking the right questions. Who are we solving this for? What is their journey, and what do we need to understand?”
For Fritcher, the benefits of inclusive design are obvious. Without it, she says, “there’s a ton of wasted time and cycles because someone built out functionality without gathering input from the people who’ll be using it. It is a disappointing miss and frustrates employees.” She also believes that designing with the most perspectives and requirements in mind is no longer a luxury. The real-world impact of leaving people out is too great.
“Exclusion has some pretty awful effects,” Fritcher says. “It can lead to a regrettable attrition, and it can certainly lead to diminished productivity, which affects the bottom line.”
Create Equally Great Omnichannel Experiences
If you build it, will they come? Not necessarily. Even with the best intentions, workflow designers sometimes build products that fail to meet user needs.
“You cannot assume that providing only one way to interact with your product will work for everyone,” Lokey says. “People are diverse. They have different needs, and physically they’re very different. If you create just one way of interacting, you will exclude a huge number of people.”
It’s not uncommon for designers to make false assumptions about user preferences. Take, for example, video controls. Without understanding the end user’s environment, a well-meaning designer might believe autoplay to be a convenience. “But what if you’re an employee in a service center and loud videos are disruptive?” Fritcher asks.
Before making major workflow decisions, “designers must put on their empathy hat, go out and see how people actually do their jobs,” Fritcher says.
Employee expectations are also greater than they were just a decade ago. “They expect a consumer-grade experience in the workplace,” Fritcher says. “In terms of how employees need to interface with support systems, it must be so much more sophisticated than it ever was.”
How do we solve for this?
“Diverse teams build better products,” Lokey says. “That’s why we have a very diverse, cross-functional teams. We have researchers, we have engineers, we have accessibility experts and we have people from a broad number of regions, cultures and experiences. We must have diversity in our team to build products that meet the needs of all of our users.”
Learn How Your Employees Actually Talk
Perhaps because they’re on the frontlines of employee engagement, HR professionals have insights into the worker’s brain that might otherwise go unnoticed by designers.
For starters, Fritcher says, employees don’t tend to ask questions in the language that many HR policies are written in. They’re not thinking about the company’s Fire Safety Policy when they want to know, Can I vape at my desk?
“If you have a search-first methodology, and if you have a great user experience that’s underpinned by great design, they should get a direct answer: No, you cannot vape at your desk,” Fritcher says. “If they’re actually curious about the policy, it’s attached.”
How your employees communicate tonally is equally important. For this, Lokey and her team employ “conversational design” strategies that help to humanize interfaces and engagement experiences.
“If you’re an employee and you’re interacting with a chat interface,” she explains, “we can design the conversation: how it responds to you, what language is used and so on.” The goal, she says, is to create a tone that’s conversational and friendly, trustworthy and not too formal.
How To Make the Most Of Your Partnership
As leaders in their respective fields, Lokey and Fritcher know a lot about UX and HR. Thanks to many successful partnerships, they also understand the benefits of working together. Here, they offer three key takeaways.
- Balance bespoke and out-of-the-box
Every workplace is unique, but building unique workflows to meet every staffer’s needs isn’t pragmatic. Fortunately, there are powerful, out-of-the-box solutions ready to be configured.
“We ask, how can we build something that meets the needs of most, but still offers extensibility?” Lokey explains. “We customize for specific user needs or that industry’s requirements as well as any other contextual dynamics that come into play.”
Fritcher adds: “Out-of-the-box gets most companies 80% of the way there. They spend their time making the other 20% perfect for their organization.”
- Reduce stress with better UX
As 2020 grinds to a close, it’s a good time to consider the implications of this year’s many challenges. Already, Lokey sees one significant change in the way we’ll work for years to come.
“More businesses will focus on making their employees feel comfortable and cared for,” she says. “Everyone’s juggling a lot more, and this brings additional stress. Wherever we [as designers] can remove that stress, it’s a good thing.”
- Hire real designers
Everyone’s a critic, the saying goes. Increasingly, more people believe they’re designers, too.
Don’t fall into this trap, Fritcher urges. “The design community has incredible skills that you can’t pick up from an online course. A skilled designer knows what to do with user feedback [and] how to make changes that continue to contribute to awesome user experiences.”
Partner Up Now
At a time when breaking down silos is de rigueur for most executives, the pairing of HR and UX offers upsides that are too great to ignore.
“The bottom line is you have to know your user incredibly well,” says Lokey. “The success of individuals equates to the success of the business.”