Celebrating the new edition of Employee Experience by Design

Lee Smith

19 Apr 2024
Employee Experience
Employee Engagement
EX Design
I was delighted to be invited to the launch celebration for the brand new edition of Emma Bridger and Belinda Gannaway’s brilliant book, Employee Experience by Design, which took place in London last night. 

Surrounded by many of the movers and shakers from the worlds of EX, employee engagement, internal comms and HR, and hosted by the awesome team at Reward Gateway, at their funky HQ on Tottenham Court Road, it was a fitting launchpad for the latest edition of one of the must-read books on the fast emerging field of employee experience
Completely refreshed for 2024, the second edition of EX by Design builds on the original with new insights, case studies and additional design tools, as well as showcasing some of our recent ground-breaking EX Space research.   

Guests at the event were asked to write down their single best experience at work when they arrived and, during their introduction, Emma and Belinda underlined the power of this single soul-searching question.   

Indeed, the answers to this one question, gleaned over more than 15 years of research, have directly informed the content of the book, most notably the EX Lens model, which captures the universal themes of great EX - like connection, autonomy and trust - and emphasises the important of understanding individual differences too. 
The germ of the idea for a book which would demystify and democratise EX design came five or six years ago, with the first edition being published in 2021. While Emma says at first it felt a little premature to refresh it after just three years, she acknowledged that the world of work had changed significantly during that period: “We have seen some profound changes in the workplace since the Pandemic and we have also started to see EX emerge as a distinct professional discipline.”   

Emma also highlighted the need to continue to educate both practitioners and senior leaders on the true nature of EX: “People often say employee engagement or experience has failed because survey scores aren’t improving, but that’s like blaming the scales for the failure of a diet!”
Building on this, Belinda talked about the need to develop and nurture a ‘EX mindset’ which is characterised by curiosity, empathy and experimentation.  She pointed out that the world is moving too fast to be able to sit down and design or plan things end to end and instead we need to be agile, nimble and experiment.   

We also heard from Nebel Crowhurst, Chief People Officer at Reward Gateway, who discussed the importance of creating the right environment  in the workplace and moving beyond employee lifecycle thinking to a more holistic, genuinely human-focused approach.   

Nebel shared some of the recent Reward Gateway research around appreciation, highlighting some of the key differences between this broader concept and ‘recognition’ and highlighting the massive impact it can have on productivity. She finished with a call to action and an observation that thinking about and knowing employees as individuals is going to become more and more important in the years ahead. 

Finally, we heard from Julie Clarke, VP of Employee Experience and Engagement at Sutherland - a global 70,000 person digital transformation company - who shared her story of moving from a generalist HR role into a brand new EX-focused role and some of the great work the business is doing in this space, with support from People Lab and The EX Space.

Julie highlighted a few of the many challenges that accompanied this transition and stressed that the role of the EX leader is not necessarily to make change happen, but to influence those who can (finance, facilities, IT, etc) by sharing the right data. She also discussed some of the far-reaching work her team is doing to equip the business to understand and apply design thinking internally in order to drive great EX. Inspiring stuff!

All in all, it was a lovely celebration of employee experience and a sure sign that, collectively, we are making great progress in our journey towards the ‘EX Era’. Congratulations to Emma and Belinda on what I believe will go on to become one of the all-time EX ‘classics’.
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