Re-imagine Employee Experience Using Human-Centered Service Design

Originally Published by DTGroup USA

We are in a time of extraordinary change in all areas of human society—and one of the areas of greatest disruption is the future of work. Respond effectively by using the proven tools of service design.

The pandemic greatly shifted how we work and interact with our workplaces and coworkers. As a result, now is an optimal time to craft workplace experiences that support people’s needs. By using service design—the practice of using human centered design tools and methods to create a set of services that weave together an experience tailored to a specific set of needs—we can re-imagine what the employee experience could be.

Intrigued? Wondering what service design entails? Let me explain.

Employee Research

The starting point for any design project should always be research. By conducting employee research, you put yourself in the shoes of the group of people you are designing for and whose experience you seek to understand.

Employee research can be conducted in an infinite number of ways, but at DesignThinkers Group, we find using interactive activities during interviews to be a highly effective method to both observe and learn from your employees’ behavior and gather responses through the completion of the activity.

Figures 1 and 2 below are examples of how activities can be designed on a digital whiteboard tool like Mural to guide the interview. Similar activities can be done in person using printed templates.

As an example of how you might use this technique, let’s say you want to understand the journey of your user through a particular moment. You could map out that journey on a digital whiteboard and, during an interview, ask the employee to provide feedback and fill in any gaps that they think are missing. You could then ask them to rate the level of difficulty and their emotional state at different points along the journey. In this interactive way, you are able to not only gather a more complete view of your user’s journey but you can also observe their behavior in completing the activity which may provide further insight.


Co-creation is a critical ingredient in imagining and designing an employee experience that truly benefits the stakeholders and ultimately the organization. Co-creation is the process of designing with—not for—the employee. It can and should be embedded in many parts of the design process. 

Three common opportunities for using co-creation in the design process are:

  1. Level-Setting Workshops
  2. Ideation Workshops
  3. Prototyping & Testing

Level-Setting Workshops
The purpose of this kind of workshop is to download all of your organization’s knowledge and create a starting point. A level-setting workshop can be used at the start of a service design project to create buy-in and gather information from a variety of stakeholders who have diverse perspectives on the employee’s experience. This kind of workshop can also be used after employee research to ask follow-up questions to participants. 

A level-setting workshop may also serve as an opportunity to confirm the general trends and insights that were collected from the research phase of a project as well as refine any problem statements that were synthesized. This allows you to confirm that what you heard and interpreted in the interviews was right and to share those high-level problem areas with employees.

Ideation Workshops
Co-creating during ideation with the stakeholders is an excellent way to get employees to contribute ideas of their own while ensuring that the solutions being generated are personalized to them and actually do resolve their pain points. Selecting and prioritizing with stakeholders which ideas are to be used for prototyping within company resources and other pre-determined project constraints also ensures the ideas moving forward for prototyping are the most impactful.

Prototyping & Testing
Once ideas have been selected and prioritized, the design process moves to the stage of prototyping, where the most promising ideas are refined and developed by creating some form of ‘quick and cheap’ visual model depicting the different ‘scenes’ of the employee’s experience. This could be physical models (a cardboard mock-up, for example) or a storyboard. These prototypes are then used to present the concept to employees to get their feedback.

Needless to say, involving your stakeholders in the prototyping and testing phase is another critical opportunity to co-create and gather feedback on the effectiveness or outcomes of proposed solutions. Their feedback on whether a prototype is effective will serve as data to iterate upon and develop a good solution.

Designing for the Future of Work


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