Designing meaningful employee experiences step 1: Capture today’s real experience

Updated: Jul 12, 2018

Research shows 86% of workers are disengaged from their work*, while UK productivity continues to drag the overall economy. Nigel Borowski from ME+ explains why HR leaders and professionals need to get real and start asking employees the right questions.

Meet John. He loves his job and his small team, but feels down about what’s happening in the wider business. Too much time is spent on HR processes, which is getting in the way of the work he enjoys.

John knows he’s learning lots, but is asked to complete a personal development plan. He’s doing a great job, but that means he was asked to apply for a corporate talent programme he’s not really interested in. When the company does ask him for his views, it’s through a standard survey they send to everyone.

John’s employer isn’t connecting with his needs and what he really wants to do. And he’s not alone.

To deliver meaningful employee experiences (EX) for the John’s of this world, a new approach is needed, and the first step is to get better at capturing real experiences. (Our previous post in this blog series outlined all five steps to designing meaningful employee experiences.)

Get real

When looking at today’s reality for employees, HR leaders and professionals need to seek out and capture what’s really happening. Going beyond the standard forms and surveys to see how employees describe their work experiences – then explore what makes those experiences positive or negative. Most traditional surveys ask well-tested but very generic questions, and often steal 20-plus minutes of people’s valuable time. Most employees see these surveys as a chore to be completed on autopilot – even when given time and space to do it.

Start a different conversation

Often what we discuss with employees is the stuff that’s on the minds of bosses. It's top-down and wrapped in business BS. To gain new insights we need to take a fresh look at the questions we’re asking.

We need to talk about the things people want to talk about, and in a way that makes them want to share their views – chatty and simple, rather than organisational gobbledygook. These new conversations need to be planned carefully…. Think, who’s most likely to share their views? Who are the mavericks? What’s the best way to engage them? How might they encourage others to share their views? What motivates these people? What are their career anchors? Workshops, drop-in sessions, walk-and-talks, even Digital Jams can all get people talking and sharing. These new conversations exploring real experiences are also an opportunity to encourage employees to take control of their own experiences. How can they repeat positive experiences and reduce the pain of negative ones? Starting these new conversations is a great first step, but if they’re followed by the traditional top-down performance discussion, the cynics will have a field day. Behaviour will revert to type and people will duck their heads again.

Building a new conversation requires people to feel psychologically safe and trust that what they share will help them and others. All conversations should encourage people to take control – a truly people-centred approach. These conversations and observations of how people really behave give us an insight into the real experiences in the organisation today. Now we understand reality we can develop our vision of a 'desired experience' to aim for.

Once you’ve captured insights into real experiences in your organisation today, you can move on to Step 2: Define the desired experience vision.

* Gallup Report: State of the Global Workplace, 2013

This blog post was written by the career experts behind ME+ – the career management app from Telos Partners. Find out more about what ME+ can do for you at

This is the second in our blog series on Designing Meaningful Employee Experiences.

Previous: 5 steps to designing meaningful employee experiences

Next: Step 2: Define the desired experience vision