Ruth Penfold-Brown


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  • How to Run an Employee Journey Mapping Project to Improve the Employee Experience

Remember in the olden days when companies would simply build products on a hunch without getting any feedback from the end-user… ?

It led to AI that couldn’t recognize the user or their voice.

Okay I know some still do. But, for the vast majority of companies, the idea of not designing for the user would be a terrifying prospect.

So, with that in mind, why is it something we still do when building our organizations for our employees?

We often build People and Culture programs in a vacuum without consulting the end-user. Then become disheartened when they fall flat.

Recruitment is the one area that has been considering the experience of the user for a while now.

The job market is currently a buyer’s market, so hiring teams have put a lot of effort into crafting great hiring experiences and getting feedback from the user (the potential new hire) along the way.

The part we need to look at is what happens after they join. How can we, as employers,  continue to build an experience that delights our users?

I’ve been involved in the People world for around 20 years, most recently within tech businesses.

I’ve spent years learning how to enable HR professionals and People and Talent teams to be successful in their roles, often by taking inspiration from the way other teams were using innovation tools to build tech products.

Employee journey mapping is one such tool I’ve adapted to help organizations create a better employee experience.

What is employee journey mapping?

When I started to consider how to start really designing for the employee as a user, I decided to take inspiration from what our design and product teams were using. That’s where I discovered customer journey mapping.

Journey mapping is a tool that smart people have used for a long time to consider how the user interacts with their product or service at different touchpoints along their journey with a brand. It’s central to helping UX and CX teams identify pain points and design exemplary customer experiences.

Seeing the effectiveness of journey mapping for product and CX teams, I decided to repurpose the tool for People experience across the employee journey.

But hold up, what’s that?

Think of the employee journey as the ongoing relationship between an employee and your organization.

It starts before they’ve spoken to a hiring manager and continues even after they’ve left.

What are the stages of the employee journey?

The employee journey, also called the employee life cycle, is the beginning, middle, and end of someone being employed by you.

There are a number of stages you might want to carve out if you want to do this for yourselves, but these represent the headline areas.

  • Attraction—any interaction before a potential employee connects with you. This could be a media feature, Linkedin post, or conversation over dinner.
  • Recruitment—your hiring process. Think candidate experience.
  • Onboarding—giving new employees the best possible start and setting them up for success at your company.
  • Post onboarding—we still care.
  • Development—we want you to grow here. Covers performance management, training, and learning and development opportunities.
  • Retention—ensuring opportunities for career progression and looking after health and wellbeing.
  • Offboarding—say goodbye but remain friends.

Thinking about the employee experience in this way is useful because it helps you identify areas of improvement.

How to run an employee journey mapping project

Recently, I worked on an employee journey mapping project with a client.

They wanted to make sure they were hiring and retaining the right talent for a specific role within their organization.

If you were to use this for multiple roles or demographics, then you would create different employee personas for each role and plug them into your mapping process.

As in the UX and CX world, these personas are based on what you already know about people combined with employee feedback.

In this case, before we got to the mapping part, I began the process with ‘user’ interviews with 10 employees.

We used those interviews to map out what the value proposition was for those particular employees.

Essentially, that means mapping out things like their needs and expectations and what pleases/displeases them. I asked questions such as:

  1. How did they hear about the company?
  2. What attracted them to work there?
  3. How is the experience of working there different than expected?

…and so on.

I then mapped these learnings onto an empathy map (you can read about a similar process with empathy mapping in my recent post here).

From those interviews, we gained a basic understanding of the wants and needs of the group, and what their current issues might be.

We then took a smaller group of interested people from within the company to map it all out on an employee journey.

You can see a rough version of what we created below.

Employee journey map example graphic
Employee journey map example.

If you want to consider something similar, first consider the different stages that are appropriate to you.

Then take one stage at a time and consider:

  1. What does the employee do?
  2. Which parts of the team/organization do they interact with?
  3. What is the employee thinking?
  4. How is the employee feeling?
  5. What are our opportunities?

The opportunities section then becomes a bucket list of all the things you could do to craft a better employee experience. What are the opportunities available to support people to let them know you value them?

It could be as simple as a welcome gift, or by creating rigor around the way that people can progress within your organization.

Pro tip: Rather than try to do it all and fail, I recommend a simple effort vs impact matrix like the one below. Plot all the ideas for there and you will be able to prioritize effectively which initiative you start with.

effort vs impact matrix graphic
Effort vs impact matrix.

This is a fairly recent project so, while many of the actions are still in flight, the team has already implemented a new recruitment system and improved the onboarding process for both sides using automation.

In general, they are now more focused on things that create ‘delight in the user’—employee satisfaction in this case.

What I mean here are things such as :

  • The way leaders work with each person on their growth
  • Performance management
  • The way milestones are celebrated
  • The internal communications strategy
  • Flexible and remote working
  • Those special touches that make people feel valued and important.

We will then measure our success via data and metrics gathered from employees through HR tools, pulse surveys, 1:1s, focus groups, exit interviews, and larger employee surveys.

When it comes to projects that impact employees, I love to make sure that there is an employee advisory board on hand for sense checking, testing, and feedback.

Because humans and organizations are always changing, it makes sense to refresh this kind of exercise at regular intervals.

Go forth and craft amazing employee experiences

So that’s it. Taking the time to really get to know and consider the users you’re designing for will help you craft a better employee experience. This will result in higher levels of employee engagement, retention, and wellbeing.

Remember, collecting and actioning on employee feedback is key, and use the effort vs impact matrix to help identify the best-value opportunities.

What have your experiences been with considering the lifecycle or journey of your employees? We’d love to hear your ideas and will share any that stand out in a future post.


Originally written for my friends at People Managing People and published here first:

About the Author

I help Founders and People leaders to build and scale purposeful businesses, whilst scaling themselves at the same time.

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