Bringing Design Closer with Gerry Scullion

"Crafting Human-Centric Employee Experiences: Insights from Elliott Nelson"

John Carter
February 15, 2024
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"Crafting Human-Centric Employee Experiences: Insights from Elliott Nelson"

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Today on the podcast, I'm delighted to welcome Elliott Nelson, Chief HX Officer, which is Human Experience Officer at HXWize in the US. Now we connected through my good friend and our good friend, Marc Stickdorn in 2023, and had great conversations about the complicated processes within the world of HR and employee experience. So this episode is really for anyone who has been wondering about using service design methods. For employee experience.

Elliott is truly awesome. He was a fantastic guest. I know you're going to find it really interesting to listen to him. I know you're going to love this episode. So let's jump straight in.

Episode Transcript

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Hey folks and welcome to another episode of This is HCD. My name is Gerry Scullion and I am your host and I'm based in the beautiful city of Dublin in Ireland. And I offer training to organisations in Dublin. internationally in service design, user experience design and design research and also work one on one with changemakers from all over the world with my 12 week coaching program that I offer directly through this podcast on thisishcd.com.  Well, sales pitch over. So if you're working in an organization that is looking to upskill in all areas of service design and design research, please do get in touch.  Now, today in the podcast, I'm delighted to welcome Elliott Nelson, Chief HX Officer, which is Human Experience Officer at HXWize in the US.

Now we connected through my good friend and our good friend, Marc Stickdorn in 2023, and had great conversations about the complicated processes within the world of HR and employee experience. So this episode is really for anyone who has been wondering about using service design methods. For employee experience.

Elliott is truly awesome. He was a fantastic guest. I know you're going to find it really interesting to listen to him. I know you're going to love this episode. So let's jump straight in. 

[00:00:00] Gerry: Elliott, I'm delighted to have you in the show. Um, we've been chatting for a number of months, uh, getting to know each other a little bit more, but for our listeners who don't know who you are, maybe we'll start off, um, and tell us a little bit about yourself, where you're from and what you do.

[00:00:18] Elliott Nelson: Sure. Great. Thank you. Nice to be on with you, Gerry. And happy to do this. So, um, yeah, where I'm from is a complicated question. I grew up in the, in the Western U. S. California, Arizona, Utah. Um, and after university, I did a university degree and in finance and a master's in international marketing in Arizona, a place called Thunderbird graduate school at the time they were 1 of the, the

[00:00:44] A few schools that was offering an international MBA, so it was started by some people who, who got in, who recognized the importance of international trade after World War Two. So it was at the time I went already 70 years old.

[00:00:58] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:00:59] Elliott Nelson: I wanted a career internationally. So, um, and, uh. I loved what I was doing and, uh, start my, after my master's degree, I worked initially for Hilton Resorts and set up a new resorts business for them.

[00:01:15] The marketing strategy, business plans, it was a lot of fun and, uh, doing first, uh, first hand market research. But my first international role and how I got into HR was I went back to that school and I helped run their exec ed programs. We got to work with dozens of. Multinational companies, and this was the 90s.

[00:01:35] So it was the era of of global growth. The EU is coming into being all these trade agreements were being set up. My 1st international role was, uh, in the media region. So I was headquartered in Munich for compact computers. So compact was later bought by HP. And the business that we were working on building and integrating at the time became HP Enterprise.

[00:02:02] So that was kind of my first taste at, at this. And, uh, I was also running their, um, their talent strategy, setting up their talent strategy. So how do you get recruit for recruiting to leaving the business, but also focusing of course, on, on leadership development, et cetera. And I had four roles like this.

[00:02:23] So why are we at a, a talent responsibility for the talent strategy and building that up in a first time role and then an OD, what we call org development component or transformation component where you're trying to integrate and build up a new business. So when 2 or 3 companies merge, they're no longer a B or C, there's something else and helping to define that and working with the leadership teams.

[00:02:50] So I did that at. Fujitsu Siemens across town in Munich. So putting German and Japanese cultures together in a, in a high tech environment, that was a lot of fun in a German environment. Um, and then I was over at Novartis, uh, helping set up a new research business, which became Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.

[00:03:11] And we moved that to Boston, um, and then I spent some time in New Jersey. I call that my fourth foreign country. We lived in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and, and, uh, East Coast U. S. Um, and then I was at, uh, AXA Nobel, which is a Dutch chemical coatings company. They bought ICI. Um, it was a big conglomerate.

[00:03:35] And anyway, so kind of cut my teeth in those businesses, trying to figure out how do you solve some of the business strategy requirements and how do you build the talent strategy behind that?

[00:03:50] Gerry: So, if you imagine we're, we're, we're out for drinks, we're at a post conference event, and I go, this is my mate Elliott, and I go off to the bathroom, and then he goes, so what do you do? How would you describe that like, you know, in a, in a, sort of a nugget? What is the, uh, what is the industry that you align, I guess, closest to?

[00:04:11] Elliott Nelson: You know, the simplest way to describe what I do is I help organizations listen to their people and then design around those things that they discover when they're listening better.

[00:04:20] Gerry: love that.

[00:04:21] Elliott Nelson: So it goes along

[00:04:22] Gerry: do you think organisation, do you think

[00:04:25] Elliott Nelson: what it's like for people where they work. How I like to say that employee experience is how it feels to work here.

[00:04:30] Yeah.

[00:04:33] Gerry: And what's the current situation like at the moment? Like we've, we've spoken that you've been in the industry without probably even knowing it since the 90s in terms of you were watching these organizations struggle. Um, but what does it look like at the moment? Who tends to own this, this problem within organizations?

[00:04:58] Elliott Nelson: So the field I'm in now, most people would recognize it as employee experience. I don't love the term employee having been in HR for almost 30 years. Um, I like the term human experience of work and. There's some things that have changed and some things that haven't, Gerry. So, um, we still see a lot of, uh, companies that are struggling still with some of the same things in terms of, for example, um, you know, how, how do you find highly engaged people and, and get them into the right, right role.

[00:05:36] So finding talent and, and knowing how and where to use them. And the best way is still a challenge for most organizations. And it's gotten more acute in the last four years with, with COVID. Um, I think some of the things that organizations are doing better is there's awareness that we need to listen. We need to pay attention to what people need, especially in the last few years, again, because there was a worker shortage and we couldn't make people do the things the same way as we were used to.

[00:06:07] So some of those challenges.

[00:06:10] Gerry: so a lot of the listeners of this podcast tend to come from service design or human centered design, design research. There's lots of designers, I guess, involved in the listenership. A lot of those Probably be tasked to be brought on to, to do work to help design for the customer, um, and they'd be involved with the creation of services or products that live within those services and they struggle with getting things done due to the complexity of the organization and how it's set up and the, the dynamics and the politics that goes within it.

[00:06:53] And a lot of that kind of, the, the, the sort of The, the tough middle ground, as I like to call it, is where the experiences are formed, you know, and we carry those forward in our life. Um, am I right in saying that you're talking about helping an organization listen to that middle ground? Is that, is that where you see a lot of the, the issues arise?

[00:07:21] Elliott Nelson: It is, um, and one of the challenges to listening you touched on a moment ago is, is politics. And I think part of it is also because, um, uh, I was talking with, uh, with Mark Stickdorn who we both know, um, you get pet projects that a leader says, well, you know, my brother in law and I were having beers last weekend and we were talking about this and we really

[00:07:48] Gerry: Wouldn't it be cool if we

[00:07:49] Elliott Nelson: Yeah. Wouldn't be cool if we did this. So there's, they're pet projects that get, get an inordinate amount of attention, right? The other thing is that we know what we know. So if, if we want to understand something, we think that doing a big global employee survey is the best way to do that. And those things are complex.

[00:08:13] They're expensive. They take months. And the best thing that they really can tell us is it's like a check the oil light that comes on in your car. It says it flashes if there's something going on, but you don't know why or where it's coming from. So, um, human centered design research and this new way of listening is a more effective, holistic, qualitative way of finding out, you know.

[00:08:39] What, what's the context what's going on for people at the moment they're, what are the problems are trying to solve and what's going on for the moment. Those problems need to be solved, et cetera.

[00:08:50] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:08:50] Elliott Nelson: A simple example I use is. A few weeks ago, we had bought a new light fixture in our front entry and the light bulb wasn't right.

[00:09:02] So it. I went up, I got a ladder, and I'm up on this tall ladder and I'm trying to change this light bulb. And usually you take a light apart and it comes apart and you can hold it in one hand, right? So I'm starting to take this light fixture apart, and as soon as I take the second screw out right away, I've got four pieces that start coming apart.

[00:09:23] So I'm on top of this tall ladder with four pieces in one hand and a light bulb in the other. And I'm thinking, did the person who designed this. Ever have to change a light bulb in their own fixture. I wish they could be here right now and see how angry I am at them for designing it this way. And I've been in HR for almost 30 years in my past roles.

[00:09:47] We designed. The recruiting systems and processes we design the onboarding. We design all the learning programs. We design performance management. If you want to talk about something really contentious and complex performance management is probably the button. Right? And I remember going out to. A research group in Novartis one time and their, their biotech group, highly, highly specialized and they fought to get this team together of scientists from all over the world.

[00:10:22] And I'm in there, this little HR guy trying to tell them, well, we're working with forced rankings and distribution, which we borrowed from GE. It was the bright idea of the late 90s. Right? And I'm here to tell you that out of your team of 12, you have to give 2 of them a lower rating because it doesn't fit our, our rating distribution curve. That's self imposed from the top, right? We, we cooked up in a boardroom somewhere. So, of course, this guy is.

[00:10:55] Gerry: annoyed.

[00:10:56] Elliott Nelson: angry and annoyed, right? So that's the light bulb moment for these guys that I should have had. I was the one who designed that, that screwed up like fixture for this biotech group in, in Basel.

[00:11:12] So that's, that's a big, that's kind of at the core of this is that we design these things in companies. We design all the user interfaces, all the processes, all the policies, but we don't spend a minute with the people who are going to use them.

[00:11:27] Gerry: You touched on something there a few minutes ago, um, of the leadership at the barbecue saying, Hey, wouldn't it be cool? You know, it's kind of like the boys club kind of scenario like, Hey, you know, I've got a business. What do you do? We do these things that we could, you know, you should do it. I think that's a really great idea.

[00:11:47] Elliott Nelson: Yeah.

[00:11:49] Gerry: There's really nothing wrong. With that interest and stimulation of kind of potential ideas and stuff, but how do you nip it in the bud when it. The Monday morning when he brings that back into, I'm saying he, he brings it back into the organization and kind of goes, Hey, I want you to do that. How, because that's a political situation.

[00:12:11] You've got somebody who owns the scenario, and I think it's very common for teams just to see things arriving in the backlog may not have been properly groomed and properly, you know, evidence based. How do you handle that? Because I think that sort of attraction to conflict is one of the things from a human perspective we all struggle with.

[00:12:36] And when it gets to executive, um, kind of power and dynamics, and they're saying, let's we want you to do this, it's not a case of us saying no.

[00:12:45] Elliott Nelson: we're just going to

[00:12:46] Gerry: You're also,

[00:12:46] Elliott Nelson: boss, right?

[00:12:47] Gerry: yeah, you're saying no to the boss, but you're also putting your livelihood at risk, your career reputation. How do you, how do we improve that situation?

[00:12:58] How do we help them see that there's a risk and um, slowing down and potentially building something that people don't want?

[00:13:07] Elliott Nelson: it's great question. And I think it goes to, you know, for this audience and any, any, any audience, frankly, it goes to what, what groundwork have you laid already to get credibility and trust with that leader to be able to say. I can push back, right? How confident I'd be if I, if I'm not going to put my career so that I'm not going to put my job on my career at risk.

[00:13:31] So, um, for, for those who are doing this role in companies, we really have to kind of start small, but find some business leader who's willing to experiment and use this new way of working. Doing doing, uh, UX research and design, for example, and just experiment with it and build a success record slowly a bit at a time.

[00:13:58] So that if that moment comes that you've got a business leader, and then maybe another 1 that says, hey, I've got this idea to test. You've got something to refer back to and say, hey, well, let's go talk to so and so. And see how they did how they would approach something like that. So if you've got that ally already in your back pocket, so to speak, and you have some street cred with that person, then then I think that's the best way.

[00:14:24] If you don't have that, then probably the best you can do if you're bold enough to speak up is to say, that's an interesting idea. Let's test it.

[00:14:33] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:14:34] Elliott Nelson: But let's go talk to some people and and. And try it out and I think the biggest challenge that companies have the one I was talking about assumptions a minute ago the way we're used to doing things is.

[00:14:49] Let's say taking the performance management thing or the leadership, a leadership, new leadership program or any one of these things, we think that it has to be worked on in a committee for several months and designed perfectly with all the details, all the instructions, all the communications, especially because organizations are really big on making sure everybody's on board and communicated with before something gets launched and 110 percent perfect.

[00:15:17] And that takes time and we've never tested it. So that's the way we're used to doing it. What we're talking about, what we're proposing here is let's take a small part of that idea. And go do our, our user research and our user testing and roll out maybe the most essential part of it, but quickly,

[00:15:40] Gerry: yeah,

[00:15:41] Elliott Nelson: just get it out there and try it in a small, small, maybe less, a higher, a lower risk part of the organization

[00:15:49] Gerry: yeah,

[00:15:50] Elliott Nelson: that I think should appeal to most executives.

[00:15:54] Gerry: yeah, we, we had a couple of great conversations the last couple of months with, uh, you know, design leaders in various parts of the world. Some people tended to think if you're being asked to, to do stuff that really doesn't value design and they're, they're kind of pushing you in those situations, maybe the best outcomes is.

[00:16:16] to start looking around for another job. But I guess one of the things that I'm really interested in is obviously within reason, uh, is staying and helping move the dial forward. Because, you know, a lot of organizations out there are struggling with this stuff. And a lot of people out there are struggling as well, just generally with being overworked and, you know, potentially underpaid. So forth, how do you see them improving the situation for, um, the quality of the experience of the person working in the organisation? It's obviously something that executives would be very much interested in. They're like, okay, well, you, you can, you can do an awful lot of things here for me. What I want to understand is what are those things that HX or EX tend to get asked to do?

[00:17:12] Elliott Nelson: Mm hmm. Yeah. Um,

[00:17:16] Gerry: churn was probably one of them.

[00:17:17] Elliott Nelson: yeah. That, that's a big one. I think one of the, one of the challenges, uh, and opportunities that companies are having with EX is where to apply it, right? And usually what they're saying is, uh, this should be part of HR. Right. So where, where they put this function, if you call it, I call it HX as the human experience of work, as opposed to EX.

[00:17:45] So if you hear me use the term HX, that's what I'm referring to.

[00:17:48] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:17:48] Elliott Nelson: Where they decide to put that person and that capability determines a lot of things, right? If you put it in HR, then, then people assume that this maps onto the employee life cycle. It's about joining and leaving a company and everything in between in that.

[00:18:06] What we used to call a talent life cycle, right? So we're seeing some other places like, uh, ING or Oxnobel or, um, Atruvia is a German company. Um, Credit Suisse, where they're putting it under the CIO, the CTO. C. O. O. Sometimes it even reports into the C. E. O. Very rarely. That gives them free rein to work on broader projects on workspace on transformation on, you know, building this capability and all the functions, right?

[00:18:45] So it doesn't get so myopically stuck into H. R. Things. And I'm not saying that's a Always a bad thing, but where you put it tends to determine where, where it's going to run. Right. I, what are the, one of the cool opportunities I think for people who are listening is that we're seeing organizations, these early teams of, of HX leaders are putting UX and design people on their team.

[00:19:12] I can't recommend that highly enough for several reasons. One is usually that HX person or EX person is usually the title. They've got people experience, employee experience, that head that's running that new function. 90 percent of them started their job in the last two and a half, three years since 2020.

[00:19:33] Gerry: yeah,

[00:19:33] Elliott Nelson: 90 percent and of that 90 percent they're coming from another HR role. So they don't have any clue about the skills and methods, the tools and and what these things can do. So how they work, the impact. So being able to have that. If you're a UX person joining that. That person who's newly running a company, you can be a huge help

[00:20:02] Gerry: yeah,

[00:20:03] Elliott Nelson: Right? So, um, yeah, and I think that, uh, that I was just doing a search for a company, a big multinational company of 60, 000 and. I really tried to feed them candidates who had been in UX and design roles before, because if I look at the LinkedIn profiles of those people versus the ones doing HX or employee experience,

[00:20:31] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:20:32] Elliott Nelson: the, the skills and the things that those people do, the way they talk about it, it's like night and day.

[00:20:40] Gerry: remember years ago when I started my career, way back when horses were on the road and people used to forage in the forest for food in the 18, only joking, but I remember when I started my career off. HR were seen like, if there was a problem, you could go to them. They were like, okay, they were your allies.

[00:20:58] They were like the middle ground between, you know, the, the nasty executives that were going to make you, you know, work on the weekends. And, you know, they were kind of like an ally. Like NATO, okay, right? And, um, something seems to have shifted in the last 15 or 20 years where they've, they've kind of lost the human side of it and they've just leaned into the resources side of it.

[00:21:24] I don't know if I'm imagining this, but I remember years ago in one business I was like, oh look, you know, I'll just go to HR and I'll ask them about it. They go, don't go to HR! They're the business, they'll just tell you exactly what they want to say, and I was like, really? I was like, I was so confused. I mean, I'm still from that mindset where, um, you know, there's not really an us and them, we're just, we're all in it together,

[00:21:49] Elliott Nelson: same team.

[00:21:50] Gerry: we're on the same team, but that whole kind of resources, human resources.

[00:21:55] It's still, it makes me feel uneasy when I say it. Okay. Because is that something that happened post industrial kind of revolution? Is this still, are we kind of, is there ties still to that era? Where does the human resources, I think, is a time maybe to chop it up.

[00:22:14] Elliott Nelson: Well, yeah, I mean, there, there have been lots of people talking about that in the last 20 years. Uh,

[00:22:21] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:22:22] Elliott Nelson: I, look, I think, first of all, I've known, I still know a lot of HR people. Some of my best friends are in HR

[00:22:29] Gerry: pretty brilliant. Yeah.

[00:22:31] Elliott Nelson: they're brilliant, caring people. You know, it's, it's not, not, not a fault or not.

[00:22:38] It's not there that the problem is coming from. I think there are 2 things that have 2 big things that have happened in the last 20 years. Number 1 is we've seen big rounds of layoffs, right? So people feel like at the end, I'm just a, I'm just a number. Um, and this is an issue I could talk about too, for a bit, because when people, when executives do make a decision about who to cut.

[00:23:02] It's usually some finance or consulting people that come in the room with a spreadsheet and say, here's your budget and where, where you've got headcount instead of saying, let's understand. Um, where things are, where stuff is getting done in the business, what are key, key roles and what are key linkages between functions that we need to keep, right, make the business not just survive, but thrive.

[00:23:30] They don't do that. And I'm being very general, but it doesn't happen. Second thing is we bought starting with SAP. Now it's work day and success factors. We put these big systems in that run everything and assist people. don't have a human interface anymore. It's me with my, my mobile device or my, my laptop.

[00:23:55] If I need to make a requisition or submit a ticket or, you know, it's the same level of frustration you have. If you have a problem, Gerry, um, you want to talk to a person. You don't want to wander through a website and find a help desk and talk to a chat bot.

[00:24:11] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:24:11] Elliott Nelson: So it feels very impersonal. Both of those things make it feel very impersonal.

[00:24:19] Gerry: So as your organization scales, you know, you mentioned a business there that's got 60, 000 people. Do you know what the ratio is there for a HR person to supporting a human within an organization of that size?

[00:24:34] Elliott Nelson: Yeah, they, they focus on that a lot. I think, uh, and they, they bad about ideal numbers, you know, what's the ratio. So, um.

[00:24:44] Gerry: no idea. Is that the right or wrong approach to think about these things?

[00:24:50] Elliott Nelson: again, it's numb. It's quantitative versus qualitative. What are you trying to do? What are you trying to solve? Right? What's, what's the objective that you're out for is if people get focused, I think this is one of the issues we've got, right? If you're focusing on quantitative versus qualitative and thinking about the problems to solve, you're going to probably go down the wrong path.

[00:25:09] Gerry: Yeah. The, the follow on was, was basically like they're pushing to this AI alternative, this autonomous system that will make decisions on behalf of humans versus that whole contextual understanding of, well, this person has had X, Y, and Z happened to them over the last 10 years. That human empathetic.

[00:25:32] uh, sort of aspect is lost when the ratios get too big and it becomes a cost factor, a cost saving factor, where they're like, okay, well, you know, it's costing us, you know, 500 per person per year to have a HR person manage this team. How much does it cost to have a system look over that? That's where I was thinking, is that how these decisions are being made?

[00:25:58] Elliott Nelson: I think generally, yes, but I like to think of what we're doing in HX and what, uh, People who are part of this design and experience any, any experience domain could do inside an organization. The good we could do is reversing that. Right? So. We're kind of the human side. We're the human side of this, how to bring the human focus back into organizations, even while we're doing systems.

[00:26:24] So, for example, I've got a good friend, um, Martijn Saesener, who does EX at Credit Suisse. He has created several dozen service blueprints. Of what the organization and different functions are doing, and how, you know, trying to identify within specific situations. What are the problems people are trying to solve?

[00:26:44] What's the context for that? What are the, you know, key touch points or interactions? How do you value all these different things and make decisions based on. Insight and what what needs to be done. So, you know, the service blueprint is you got the top line of the actions of what the employees are doing.

[00:27:04] And then the bottom part is the front and backstage. What are we doing to support them? We're not support them. If we can see how that's lining up, that gives us a quick visualization of where we need to focus our priorities. It's a simple tool. But a UX person who knows how to use that and how to put that together could put that in front of a business leader and say, hey, you want to make some great decisions for next year for where you need to focus and put your money.

[00:27:33] That's based on insight rather than a top level number. Here's, here's the solution.

[00:27:42] Gerry: So, in terms of, you mentioned there about the service blueprint, um. It's part of the service design toolkit for anyone who's not familiar with it. Um, what other tools do you find very helpful for creating alignment and helping getting people onto the same page? Because it's one part of the change making toolkit that I kind of educate businesses about.

[00:28:06] Um, but I'd love to get your perspective on what's working, um, with your engagements with your clients at HXWize. Um,

[00:28:16] Elliott Nelson: what we do, um, we, we start, we, we kind of have a, a, a learning or capability roadmap. It starts with, um, first of all, connecting people in a network to other people who are We're doing similar kinds of work in similar kinds of situations that it might be a step ahead. So in the first few years that we were doing this, we had a HX leaders network.

[00:28:41] So people who are running employee or people experience for a company got together and talked about the projects they're doing, what kinds of tools or methods, what are they learning from doing this and what are the challenges to change or transformation we've expanded that to include. The UX and the design and the CX communities, all these other experience demands, because we're all working on similar.

[00:29:02] Things or similar types of problems, maybe different applications, very similar types of experiences. Right? That's that's the 1st 1. when we get inside an organization, we try to build champions of this. So build some awareness for. Not just HR, but including HR if they own it, certainly, but other functions and key sponsors.

[00:29:27] Who would be sponsors of this? We call this a champion's boot camp. So it's, it's a multi day, take them through the stages of service design, UX, human centered design, right? So end to end from research. And then putting this into visualization tools, like a persona and an experience or journey map service, blueprint, identify priorities.

[00:29:50] And then from those priorities, let's take the ones that we've evaluated as. Number 1, 2, 3, and ideate and generate some, some prototypes of those and then test those. So we take a live focus topic, like first week of onboarding, or we did with L'Oreal a few weeks ago, their cross boarding, the first week of a new assignment within L'Oreal.

[00:30:14] Uh, we're doing a company later today on the performance appraisal. Process what happens when I'm having that sync conversation with my manager and all the processes and systems and tools that sit around that any what what happened with Lori all as an example is that we had them bring in some. Raw data surveys.

[00:30:39] They've done some focus groups. They had help desk and we said, bring in your quantitative and qualitative data. Let's look at it. And the 1st part of the workshop, we, we put them in breakout groups. And we said, so talk about this. What are you hearing? And it's interesting because when you have process owners looking at data coming back, that's impacting, you know, what they designed, they get a little defensive, they get a little bit, uh, don't they know they should do this or why are we hearing the same problems coming back and forth?

[00:31:12] So, um, it's their lens, right? And In the, and we worked through how to, how to build empathy and persona maps to, to organize and structure that data. And then on day three, we brought in real or day two, we brought in real colleagues who had gone through a job transfer recently in the last six months. And we said, let's do a co creation, a mapping exercise of that experience, your first week, and let's understand a little bit around that, right?

[00:31:41] But what take us through, tell us the story of this and. Tell us about your pain points. What, what were your moments that mattered, et cetera. So, um, and then we looked at the front and backstage. What were the people in the room who are the designers afterwards doing to support that? So we created that service blueprint and a marvelous thing happened, Gerry.

[00:32:06] They started to, to see what was going on through the eyes of these people. And I love these co creation things because. Typically, we hear people say, who are the responsible again for the design of it, I never knew that. I never, I thought this was the problem. I found that it was something else. Those are big breakthroughs.

[00:32:32] And then when they went through the ideation and prototyping on day three, we just take them through it. It's fast, right? You want to give them a touch of this. Um, They brought people back who were, who were the colleagues that had gone through this cross boarding experience and they pitched back their new ideas to them and they had a connection.

[00:32:52] They were using their language, their words, they had that voice. They talk about voice and employee. This is how you get there. Right? So it was, and it was an emotional moment too, because yeah. Recipients of this were saying, thank you for listening. I've never had anybody spend the time.

[00:33:11] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:33:12] Elliott Nelson: that sounds like a great idea.

[00:33:14] What about this? So they had this conversation. That's what, when I say, talking about listening, that's, that's what you do. So that's kind of the

[00:33:22] Gerry: nice.

[00:33:23] Elliott Nelson: first way to get, and if you get business leaders and all the people who touch that particular journey and a workshop like that, model it, that's how you build converts to this.

[00:33:34] And then. You go from there and teach them, you focus on different, um, roles and specialties. So who's going to design that let's work with them on a bigger project. Let's expand it and use all these different tools. And for the sponsors and others, let's teach them about governance and what to look for, what questions to ask, what to measure for the runs who are running this.

[00:33:59] It's managing all of this from a strategic level, the change, how to manage multiple project teams. So. We have to think also structurally, how are we going to build this up? Um, reason why that's important is a lot of, I'll give you an example, J and J Johnson and Johnson, as an example, a couple of years ago, hired at a design firm to come in.

[00:34:21] I think they trained 2 or 3000 people. They did a. Bootcamp, like I'm talking about, but they never did anything after that.

[00:34:30] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:34:30] Elliott Nelson: So it didn't go anywhere. You have to embed the skills and et cetera.

[00:34:35] Gerry: a case, um, and you've kind of just answered the question there, but is it a case for design riding in on a white horse saying we'll save the day or is it a case of teaching them how to fish and provide for themselves? It's probably a little bit of both.

[00:34:50] Elliott Nelson: I would say it's two things. We've been doing this for seven years. So we're new, but we're also, EX has only been around for seven years. So we're the, we're the one eyed Kings in the land of the blind. Um, you have to do two things. You have to teach them to fish. And you have to fish with them because teaching them to fish, especially with new skills, new tools, and especially new mindset, they'll be excited about it.

[00:35:17] And then the week after they're busy with something else

[00:35:20] Gerry: yeah.

[00:35:20] Elliott Nelson: and they forget it. So you have to sit with them and show them how to do it and model it in a bigger project.

[00:35:28] Gerry: exactly. And it's that two pronged approach that I've spoken about before at conferences. Um, I know actually, Lou Down, who's been on the podcast a couple of times, um, messaged me saying that Mark was speaking about One of my methods called the wall of pain at the service design global conference, which really visualizes the repeated problems within an organization that's been had from the customer's perspective and creating the level of accountability on why those problems still exist and how much it's costing the business.

[00:36:02] Um. And I think that accountability is, is good, like sort of sitting with them while they're fishing, but also having that two way conversation with the people that are the, the sponsors of those projects and saying, actually, you know what, this isn't good enough, this is, this has been hanging around here for six months.

[00:36:20] We need to solve this problem. Um, what other things do you think that, uh, Yeah. Have worked for you and your clients post that training piece, because, you know, one of the things I love is the Friday optimism where they're like, this is great, we're going to take it into the organization and then they have a great weekend and they're telling all their friends at the barbecue and they're like, yeah, it's great, looking forward to it, it's going to be all different.

[00:36:45] And then they come back into work on Monday morning, they've got 10, 000 emails because they've been out for a week doing training. How do you handle that readjustment? Um, and What are the things that, in those situations, organizations can do to measure the improvement of human experiences post that training experience?

[00:37:08] Elliott Nelson: Yeah. Well, number one is they have to start using the things they learned, especially the measurement. You touched on the measurement, right? So, um. Companies like to use for this. HX related work, they love to use engagement surveys, and I'm not going to, I'm not going to suggest that they should abolish those, but they need to get into the particular experiences or journeys that they're focusing on and identify from the user perspective, what do they, what do they, what touch point or interactions or touch points do they find most valuable and then focus on those laser focus and create a dashboard.

[00:37:51] And say, let's, let's take one week, usually within the bootcamp where we're creating several, right? Because you have several different work groups or breakouts. So follow up with those measurements, um, and validate them and go deeper. Number 2, as I was suggesting a moment ago, train and get your different roles in the organization who impact this or touch it in some way.

[00:38:19] teach them to roll and get them to practice it. Um, so you've got sponsors and stakeholders. if I'm a, if I'm a business leader and turnover is a big deal. What's, and I research on and design something that addresses turnover. how do I, how do I know what questions to ask to manage that and, and keep that moving forward so that we're really addressing it?

[00:38:46] So, um. And then another role, I think, is really key within companies, because this is so new, right? Um, the product teams or solutions teams, we call them in some places, right? The people who touch a particular journey who come from across these functions. So, onboarding a product team could be facilities.

[00:39:09] It could be IT, digital, somebody from HR. Um, it's. Maybe even, yeah, somebody that represents a manager who's or helping them connect on that first week, right? Or that first time they're there. Get them to train those people on their role.

[00:39:31] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:39:32] Elliott Nelson: How do you lead a project? So project management is a big thing. You know, how do you, how do you listen together?

[00:39:39] How do you visualize and synthesize the insights you're building? And then how do you quickly focus on the priorities and get those, those prototyped and tested and out the door.

[00:39:51] Gerry: Elliott, look, if people are interested in upskilling, and is there an upskilling, that's another question I wanted to ask you, from the design world into HX or EX, whatever you want to call it. Let's call it HX from now on, I prefer human experience. How do they do it? Like, you know, is there a case of just looking for an opportunity where there's a demand and kind of sidestepping into it, or.

[00:40:21] Do you feel like there's a, an element of retraining, maybe with a business function added onto a design, uh, expertise? What's your advice on that? Hmm.

[00:40:31] Elliott Nelson: UX people, your designers who are listening, I would look for opportunities, maybe put your hand up to join a team who are doing HX in your company. And just offer your services, you know, and experiment with it in some small place. You know, and, and see how it works and then build from there.

[00:40:52] Um, we're seeing teams, like I said, having UX people, I think it's the, I think it's the fastest way because we're talking about the level of skill that these new

[00:41:03] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:41:04] Elliott Nelson: it's the fastest way to teach an organization to have something with experience in another domain, come in and help IBM asked IBM's HR asked their UX and design team to help out with a career development.

[00:41:18] Problem focus and that's how they started their whole HX team. Today. They've got hundreds of people in this. So, uh, Walmart, Walmart just borrowed them for a year. They had 100 or so people. So, put your hand up 2nd thing is, I think you. It, it, uh, it is does need to be learned as a skill across the organization.

[00:41:41] So maybe you go to your learning and development people and say, hey, I've got a great idea for some new tools and methods. You probably haven't seen before.

[00:41:49] Gerry: Yeah. And from the HR side of things, if they're looking to get more into the HX side of things, it's probably easier, an easier sell for them because they're, they're part of that tribe if you want. But what are you, what advice do you give to those people who are from that background or discipline and looking to become more HX advocates?

[00:42:13] Yeah.

[00:42:16] Elliott Nelson: again, it's, it's, uh, it's connecting with the people who own this and organization volunteering for some different projects and getting some things started. Um, and it's, it's challenging for these people because H. R. works a little differently than. Then, uh, maybe it or digital where they're, they're currently residing.

[00:42:38] Um, but I, the ones that I've talked to who have made the transition, who they, they do it because, Hey, I'm, I'm a consumer of this. I'm in the company. I've got some, I've got a stake in this. And I believe in it. So start there. If you feel that calling, so to speak, get involved, um, but be aware that you're going to have to do some teaching of how to fish and fishing with people as, as they go, because it's, it's not something we do intuitively or that we're used to doing.

[00:43:12] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:43:13] Elliott Nelson: One more thing I would say with that is keep it, try to build analogies, right? I think everybody understands more or less the rationale for building CX capability, right?

[00:43:24] Gerry: Yeah,

[00:43:25] Elliott Nelson: want to understand customer insights. We want to design products that people need.

[00:43:29] Gerry: hmm.

[00:43:31] Elliott Nelson: Put, keep that analogy in front of people all the time.

[00:43:34] Why should employees be any different?

[00:43:38] Gerry: I love the fact that throughout this conversation, you're, you're a big fan of the analogies and the metaphors, um, and it's, it's a storytelling skill that, uh, a lot of leaders I've noticed have the ability to be able to simplify complex problems and make them them. Actionable and something to get on board with.

[00:43:59] And I think that's one of the things that I'm taking away from this conversation is your ability to take a question, distill it and make a succinct response. So I really, um, applaud you for, for giving me your time and your energy today, Elliott. I will put a link to your website. It's HXWize.com. I think from recollection, um, what's the best way for people to reach out and get in touch with you if they've got any questions or if they want to learn a little bit more about what you do.

[00:44:27] Elliott Nelson: Yeah. Connect through the website. There's a, there's a place where you can, uh, where you can connect with us. Info at HXWize is, uh, is a simple email. HXWize is spelled with a Z or a Z as we Americans call it. So HXWize info at HXWize.com. Um, or through LinkedIn message me through LinkedIn.

[00:44:50] Gerry: Absolutely. Brilliant. Elliott, listen, thanks so much for your time. I really enjoyed speaking with you today and hopefully you come back on the podcast, uh, a little bit more in the future.

[00:44:59] Elliott Nelson: Thanks, Gerry. Been a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much.

John Carter
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