Engaging Employees: ‘Employee’ Centered Design

Employee_EngagementEncouraging engagement among employees is an age old problem that is not getting any easier. More and more companies are implementing employee engagement programs, but the majority difficulty with low participation rates. So what makes the difference between an engaging, exciting program and the lackluster ones that we see all too often? In this blog, we are taking a human centered design (HCD) approach to engaging employees and making the most out of your programs.

Human centered design or ‘employee’ centered design as we’re calling it in this blog, is an innovative approach to problem solving that starts with the people you are looking to help and tailors a solution.

What is Human-centered Design? from IDEO.org on Vimeo.


1. Recognize Differences: Critical to the success of any employee engagement initiative is recognizing the diversity amongst employees. Not all employees will be willing, or able to take a day off to volunteer with the team, so make sure that you offer exciting activities for these needs as well. Target activities to meet certain demographics and psychographics within your employee base. Also, in our research, we have found that one of the sticking points for employee engagement programs is often mid-level managers. If you don’t communicate the value of these programs to them, they aren’t going to encourage or allow their team members to participate.

2. Make it Personal: People are much more likely to participate in a campaign if they see their peers engaging and having fun. Encourage employee champions for the program and celebrate successes (big and small!) with the entire team. Communication of results is essential in fostering a successful program over the long-term.

3. Think transformation, not transaction: In order to get employees excited, you need to inspire them, and you‘re not going to do this through a transactional, one-off approach to engagement. Aim to transform your workplace culture into one that inspires and empowers employees to participate as they choose.

4. Stories & Data: Communication is key when it comes to employee engagement. All too often, companies communicate the data about how much money they gave or how many hours employees volunteered, but they fail to tell the stories about employees that really made the program successful. Telling these stories gives your program a human element that is missing when you focus solely on data. However, don’t make the mistake of communicating stories alone either, a combination of both stories and data allows for a believable, authentic story of the impact your company is really making.

Employee engagement programs are all about the employees themselves, but all too often, businesses forget entirely to consider their needs or desires while designing the program. Putting the employee and their needs at the center of these programs can boost participation and satisfaction rates and lead to a more impactful program.

If you are interested in learning more about human centered design, read our other blog on HCD and check out IDEO’s HCD Toolkit.