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  • Writer's pictureVinay Kalliat

How to design programmes employees will LOVE

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

We believe the next leap in HR would be co-creating employee experiences in partnership with employees by using their feedback.

This process is similar to the way companies iterate on their products by taking user feedback, prioritising them and then including relevant features in the next version. We call this The Stakeholder Feedback Framework.

HR creates new, shiny and unique offerings after a lot of hard work and internal discussions. Seeking and gaining approval from different levels of the hierarchy is another big challenge. Finally, the offering is launched with much fanfare and publicity.

And then nothing happens: the reception by employees is lukewarm at best, and there is muted enthusiasm. A lot of head-scratching ensues. Review meetings where the progress of this new project will be discussed looms large. Curiosity gives way to confusion, which then leads to (almost) panic - depending on how close the review meeting is and who the attendees are.

More often than not, designers and communications teams are provided mandates to ‘make this graphic pop’, ‘create graphics that cause a buzz’, ‘we need to create a splash’…and many more requests using catchy terms at resuscitating employee interest. Graphics are (re)sent, emails written, and many other collaterals appear online and offline to boost flagging employee interest.

As a Consulting company that has helped many of our clients navigate these choppy waters, we have seen that there is one powerful weapon in the HR arsenal that very often never gets weaponised in all this activity.

Stakeholder Feedback is the One Thing that will transform your programme and policy rollouts

About The Stakeholder Feedback Framework

The concept of stakeholders is usually associated with finance and reporting. The word ‘stakeholders’ conjures up images of Investors, Boards of Directors and even customers and vendors.

What gets missed out in the outward facing narrative of investors, Boards of Directors and other external parties are the internal employees of the company across different levels and stages of the employee journey.

Companies take life-changing decisions with inputs from external stakeholders. However, there is a big gap in how effectively they recruit and leverage internal stakeholders for matters related to internal processes and policies.

This must change.

Who are these internal stakeholders?

A process will directly or indirectly impact any person or team who is or, system or policy (or any HR initiative) would qualify as an internal stakeholder. A natural extension of this logic would entail that the folks designing a programme must look at specific cohorts within broader employee groups.

For instance: A classic example that HR will identify with very closely is the launching of various employee policies. Managers administer these policies. HR teams would be really successful if they empowered the Managers with education sessions, FAQ documents and dedicated helpline for the launch and rollout of the new initiative.

When we speak of employees, what specific sub-group are we looking at?

  • Are we looking at employees at a particular stage of the employee journey (New employees to tenured to even those serving notice period)

  • Are we looking at employees at a particular level of performance (high, medium, low performers)?

  • Are we looking at specific employee groups such as returning mothers, career-oriented women, people with disabilities (again, what kind of disability are we talking about), employees who are on promotion or salary increment lists…and so on.

When we speak of Managers -

Are we referring to new managers? Tenured Managers? Managers of Managers? People Managers?

Identifying the right cohort and then even super-targeting them by Business Unit or Team would help drive involvement from Managers.

When Managers feel that the programme being launched will help make their lives easier and more successful, they will take to the intervention far more positively and actively than if they were not involved.

Thinking about the programme using this refined lens of different ‘shades’ of employee cohorts provides HR with a clearer sense of who they are designing this offering for. This is an invaluable first step towards designing a relevant and useful programme for the target audience.

How to design for internal stakeholders

Step 1: Start with Why

Ask why you’re launching the programme and who is it designed to benefit. What are these benefits? Who are the people who would be involved in the administration? What do your employee surveys say? Do employees really need this intervention?

A great way to do this is for HR to stop thinking like HR and think like an employee. You don’t need fancy tools. Just an Excel Sheet that will enable you to list all the stakeholders who would be impacted (HRBPs included) by this planned intervention.

Step 2: User Research:

Interview a few stakeholders on the list you made. The more people you survey, the better. Ask questions that relate to their specific experience related to this problem you’re exploring solutions for. How would they believe this should pan out? How would they define the success of this programme?

Use “A Day in The Life Of ________” scenarios and map different actions and their effects on the stakeholders. Add any stakeholders you may have missed at the beginning to the list of people you need to involve.

Interviewing employees and Managers is one way. Another way is to engage with the HR Business Partners to understand what people in their Business Units are saying. Go back to the Excel Sheet and plug in the different sentiments and ideas from the other stakeholders. Found any new stakeholders you hadn’t factored in? No problem. Add them now.

Step 3: Define ‘Success’ for each stakeholder:

How would each of these stakeholders view a successful outcome? Revisit the spreadsheet and look for gaps. In case you find any, brainstorm with the team and look at building out possible solutions. These solutions are tentative and can always be refined based on experiences after rollout.

Step 4: Identify Gatekeepers and Champions:

Gatekeepers are people who would play a decisive role in ensuring the successful rollout of the programme. They typically have people management responsibilities. Champions are people who are vocal and highly optimistic about the programme. They could be individual contributors who may have voiced the initial idea being taken forward. Champions can be relied upon to evangelise the programme and act as a bridge between HR and other stakeholders during launch and rollout.

Step 5: Empower the Gatekeepers and Champions:

Create a community of Gatekeepers and Champions involved in the rollout. Invite them to a programme premiere while it is about 60% complete and seek their input. Use the inputs to inform course corrections and fine-tune the overall programme.

Step 6: Deming’s Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act:

While planning and launching are prerequisites; checking in with the stakeholders, taking their feedback on the progress so far and then acting on areas that have been highlighted are very important if people are to feel involved in the process. Since these stakeholders have been involved since the beginning, they have context and can provide powerful insights on improving the programme further.

Think about this activity as a product update based on user feedback. Feedback is received, evaluated, prioritised, and baked into the upcoming releases.


Advantages of using this methodology

  1. This system guarantees better programme off-take and better design and provides a way for employers to walk the talk on nurturing a People First Culture.

  2. Better awareness will boost recall: providing a great start to initiatives such as the Great Place To Work (GPTW) Certifications that evaluate employee awareness and usage of policies and processes.

  3. Improved employee engagement: These plans are drawn up by employees for employees. It is seen as a programme that has been co-created by the company as a whole

  4. Improved employee experience: When employees design for their colleagues, there is a palpable difference in the ideas, thoughts and actions that go into it. The employee experience is boosted tremendously since the company works as one unit to solve employee challenges.

If you’d like to discuss this in more detail, please reach out to us. We’d be happy to engage in a conversation.

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