Design an employee experience fit for the new shape of work

As the employer–employee relationship shifts, designing an employee experience that’s curated, sustainable and attuned to the new shape of work is paramount. Mercer’s design-thinking approach to shaping the employee experience — into one that’s empathetic, enriching, embracing and efficient — balances data insights with human-centricity.

Reframing the employee experience

The challenge of creating a compelling employee experience isn’t new, but it’s certainly complex. A multifaceted subject with many intertwining entry points, it connects data, tools and a deep understanding of employees, culture, and both physical and nonphysical work environments.

Recent events have complicated matters. Employees are reconsidering their priorities and expectations, and people are increasingly looking to make work fit with life, rather than the other way around. This is welcoming in the next leap in the employee value proposition, characterized by a move from the “thrive contract” — employees and employers focused on well-being needs, including purpose, equity and impact — to the “lifestyle contract,” in which employers and employees are focused on getting a fair deal. People want to feel fulfilled through choice, connection and contribution.

The emerging lifestyle contract calls on companies to adapt their employee experience strategies — the intersection of their employees’ expectations, environments (culture, coworkers, leaders, processes, technology, workspaces) and events (both work and life). Are companies succeeding? According to our 2022 Global Talent Trends study, despite 88% of employees feeling satisfied in their current roles, two in five still plan to leave this year, with Gen Z being both the most satisfied (92%) and the most likely to depart (55%). Additionally, one in three HR leaders is seeing higher-than-normal turnover in talent with valued digital skills.

In the face of labor shortages, stepping up strategies to understand unmet needs, as well as finding novel ways to communicate the value proposition, will be critical to success. 
One in three companies made headway in creating a positive employee experience in 2021, and these companies continue to experiment, but 38% are struggling with scale and sustainability, and 17% are struggling to gain momentum and buy-in, according to the 2022 Global Talent Trends study.

Flexible and hybrid working has ushered in new challenges, and organizations are trying to get ahead by solving these questions:

  • How can we understand how the needs and circumstances of different populations have changed? 
  • How can we segment and empathize with our people in more nuanced ways?
  • How can we co-create a targeted and focused solution that meets the needs of our most critical employee segments and challenges?
  • How can we design employee experience programs and processes that are agile and can adapt to changing employee needs? 
  • HR is being pulled in many directions — where are our gaps, what challenge areas should we prioritize so we can have the biggest impact and how do these fit in with our existing initiatives?
  • How can we use technology and data analytics to implement, optimize or create systems from which to draw insights continuously regarding the employee experience?
  • How can we best implement the proposed changes and develop a communication strategy in a hybrid world?
  • How can we ensure managers are equipped to make a difference in the employee experience in an increasingly diverse workforce?
  • How can we measure success and contextualize the results for planning in the broader HR sphere?
  • How can we design an employee experience strategy that’s linked to workforce strategy?

A deep understanding of the employee will not be enough. This year, the percentage of energized employees is at an all-time low. Creating an employee experience that energizes people will be critical, and as many organizations undergo transformation, marrying the transformation agenda with improving the employee experience can hold the keys to sustainable growth. For example, by designing meaningful work to engage and retain people and creating “space” to focus on the employee experience.

Take this moment of profound change to make strides in improving the employee experience using design thinking and bringing your employees in focus.

Create experiences that people crave. Eighty-five percent of HR teams are co-creating the employee experience together with employees — a critical component to fully embracing human-centric organizations.

Design a stand-out employee experience

Designing an employee experience focused on the individual is key to creating an enduring relationship, and no one is better placed to shape the employee experience than employees themselves. Mercer’s employee-led approach enables organizations to create a holistic roadmap and ensure employees have a curated, consumer-grade experience throughout their journeys by:

  1. Understanding employees’ diverse wants, needs and pain points 
  2. Understanding the end-to-end journey through the employee lens
  3. Designing for targeted interaction with impactful experiences during moments that matter

Our approach is research driven and collaborative and uses Mercer consultants around the world and across a breadth of people-topics — whether talent, rewards, communication, engagement programs or HR processes. We work with you to tell your story to provide an employee experience across the full spectrum of your organization, prioritize your goals and develop a pragmatic roadmap. 

Mercer's human-led approach comprises three key phases for designing a stand-out employee experience

  1. Define the problem
    • Analyze
    • Empathize
    • Define

    This dialogue and research phase is designed to analyze and empathize with key people challenges influencing the employee experience and desired outcomes. We use workshops, analytics and data-driven insights from multiple sources, such as interviews, focus groups, engagement surveys and pulse surveys.

  2. Design the right solution    
    • Ideate
    • Prioritize
    • Validate

    This phase uses personas, journey-mapping and design-thinking techniques to co-create, prioritize and validate tailored solutions. It considers new and existing initiatives to help ensure that you’re focusing your energy where it makes the most sense.

  3. Activate for maximum impact
    • Plan
    • Deploy
    • Measure

    This phase includes developing a change and communications strategy and determining branding and digital needs. Built-in feedback mechanisms, such as employee surveys and analytics, can help measure progress and add agility so you can adapt more effectively to employee needs and your business agenda.

Related products for purchase
Related solutions
Related insights