The everyday EX and where to begin

Emma Bridger

27 Mar 2023
Employee Experience
Employee Engagement
We need to consider the everyday EX in our EX design given these micro-experiences will significantly contribute to the overall experience employees have. Research from OC Tanner indicates that 92% of employees describe their employee experience as their “everyday” experience. As well as, in the same research just 42% of employees rate their employee experience as positive or extremely positive. Yet, just where do you begin to design the everyday EX?

The Power of Moments

In their book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath share insights on why certain experiences stay with us, and we can use this insight to help us create an everyday EX that makes a positive difference to how our people feel.

The 'peak-end' rule

The ‘peak-end’ rule is a cognitive bias which is useful to consider in EX design. This bias relates to the way in which we remember and evaluate an experience after the event. What sticks in our mind are the intense moments, both positive and negatives (the peaks), as well as the last moments of an experience (the end). This helps to explain why sometimes experiences involving pain can be looked back upon fondly. Within the workplace the 'peak-end' rule could apply to our overall experience of working at an organisation, as well as other specific experiences along the way. And this is why the experience employees have when leaving an organisation, or a team, is so critical. Our leaving experience is heavily weighted to stay with us, and inform our lasting impression and is often overlooked.
So we need to understand how we can create peak moments, or more peak moments at work, rather than trying to ensure every moment of everyday is peak. In their book Chip and Dan explain that we need to ‘fill the pits and build the peaks’. Which means to sort out those experiences that aren’t good, and focus on building more peaks to design a compelling everyday EX.
In their book Chip and Dan recommend the following five steps to design peak experiences:

  1. Look for small peaks
  2. Celebrate and honour relationships
  3. Find and acknowledge strengths
  4. Identify new possibilities
  5. Look for spiritual insight

Shaping everyday EX using Appreciative Inquiry

And the ideal approach to help you to do just this is Appreciative Inquiry (AI). AI was originally developed by Dr David Cooperrider, Dr Suresh Srivasta and Dr Frank Barrett, at Case Western Reserve University. In summary AI is a simple, strength-based tool, which enables you to learn from, and use insights about what works. For our purposes it helps uncover and learn from peak moments. The approach provides a simple framework to follow which enables groups, teams and the organisation to have different conversations about their experiences at work. The methodology is based around what is known as the 5-D cycle.
The 5-D cycle offers a simple process to follow when planning any AI intervention. The inquiry takes place by following the cycle through its entirety in the following way:

1. Definition

This stage sets up the topic for the AI intervention, essentially framing the inquiry. There are a number of ways in which this can be done. You could use AI to address ‘the pits’, that is those experiences you know aren’t working. The trick is to ensure you reframe this definition in a positive light. For example rather than saying we want to address the problematic on-boarding EX, you’d reframe this to say we want to create a brilliant on-boarding EX. We can also use AI to help design and deliver more peak moments and experiences as part of the everyday EX. For example you may define the topic as creating a great place to work.

Once the topic for AI is defined we then move onto the process itself. Essentially, participants are taken around the cycle, and given the opportunity to talk in depth about the topic using a different lens. Questions are often drafted before the session to prompt stories and discussion at each stage, but flexibility is helpful. What is great about this process is that it can be run in small groups, with teams, or in large-scale summits with 100s or even 1000s of employees.

2. Discovery

Once the topic for the inquiry has been established the process begins with the discovery phase. This part of the process is all about reflecting on “best of” or positive experiences, by collecting stories from participants. This where you use the Best EX activity or similar, to uncover examples of peak experiences from our people.

3. Dream

Once you have spent time thinking about current or previous experiences within the theme of the AI intervention, you then move onto the dream phase. These conversations focus on what could be, and ask employees to envision a future which is different from today. This phase is all about the art of possibility, really emphasising participants to focus on what COULD be. Here participants are  challenged to stretch their thinking and allow themselves to get excited about a different future and possibilities. Questions or activities are designed to inspire participants to create a clear and tangible view of where they want to be, asking them to describe this future in detail.

The dream phase builds on the learning and discussion from the discovery phase, encouraging participants to create something new. So for example, if the theme for the AI intervention is to create a great place to work, the dream phase would encourage participants to imagine anything is possible and create a future vision of a great place to work for their organisation: asking questions such as “what will it look like, what will it feel, like, how will it be”?

Using creativity and expressive forms in the dream phase works really well and takes people out of their usual patterns of thinking.

4. Design

Next comes the design phase which moves thinking on from what COULD be, to what SHOULD be. This stage of the process enables the participants to build on their learning and conversations from the previous stages to begin planning and prioritizing what would work well. Questions are asked about what needs to change in order to bring to life their thoughts, ideas and vision from the previous stages. Changes are identified and the seeds of plans and projects are put into place. 

By the time you reach this stage participants are far more open about what is possible, and what is within their own gift to change, than they might be if the more usual deficit approach is followed. 

5. Dream

The final stage of the AI cycle is destiny. This stage really focuses on what needs to happen in order to deliver or act upon the design discussed in the previous stages. This stage looks at how employees can be accountable for their own EX, and what they are going to personally take forwards, be responsible for, or even experiment with. This stage really emphasises the potential and value of small changes employees can make today in order to move the organisation closer to where they want to be.

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