Good Work Experiences Start With Good Design

Organizations that want to evolve and be agile need to purposefully design, or consider how to improve, work experiences.

Applying design thinking to the work experience can help employees become aware of their ability to effect change. With organizational support, people take control and stop letting work just happen; they get involved to find ways to improve it.

Like anything else that is designed, work experiences need to start with a deconstruction of purpose. For instance, think about the number of items that can be discussed at a meeting and what the organizer actually places on the agenda. A good work experience finds balance for all participants by asking them to co-create the meeting, and well-designed experiences fit into a context.

A methodology to design work experiences defines how the experience, be it a meeting, a process or a class, fits into the organizational strategy. Without that strategic context, it can lead to reduced engagement.

The secondary context facilitates horizontal communications and connections. It is called perceptibility because it ensures that a team, process or department is perceived accurately among peers, colleagues and other teams.

A two-pronged approach to communication ensures the work experience has clear connections to strategy and other work, helping those involved understand their role and the usefulness and effectiveness of their outcomes and outputs.

At the center of the methodology lies policy and process, technology and space. These three elements represent the primary areas managers and workers can manipulate to modify a work experience. The methodology avoids culture change because culture discussions often lead to abstract conversations that don’t result in practical action.

By focusing on policy and practice, technology and space, people can more easily see what is being changed, get involved and feel comfortable with the change process. For example, people often experience an epiphany when it is suggested that a meeting can or should be designed. Meetings are so frequent and accepted that people spend more time coping with them than trying to change them. Adopting a methodology can help eliminate political barriers to change and develop a common language and approach.

As organizations seek to better engage employees, integrate contractors and outsourcers, and improve productivity, they can take control of their present and better prepare for changes in the future by actively designing work experiences.

Daniel Rasmus is a learning strategist and analyst and author of “Management by Design.” He can be reached at