So you want to be an EX designer?
First we look at what EX design is, next you'll learn how to become an EX designer.
This is a fast track for your transition into an EX designer.
What is EX design?
EX stands for Employee Experience and is about creating and delivering meaningful and delightful experiences to employees in organizations. It is what people encounter over the course of employment and collaboration in and with a company. In an era where talent is difficult to attract and retain, the employee experience within an organization has become of vital importance. It is not to be left to chance, and can be orchestrated. The discipline of creating this experience is called employee experience design.
Every company invests in the customer experience. Now that organizations increasingly recognize people as their greatest assets, they’re starting to invest in the employee experience as well.
EX design requires a good understanding of organizations, psychology, marketing, processes, collaboration and problem solving.
It’s a great time to become and EX designer! Organizations are in need for solutions to increase the engagement of their employees. As an EX designer you can help to shape meaningful, effortless and enjoyable employee experiences.
Ready? Let’s have a look at how you van become an EX designer.
Step by step guide to becoming an EX designer
- Start reading up on EX and design thinking
- Follow thought leaders on social media
- Join an EX design course
- Understand the Design Thinking process & main tools
- Learn facilitation skills
- Apply your learning to your own projects first
- Start applying it to bigger challenges
- Network with like minded people
- Continuously improve your skills in this field
1. Start reading up on Employee Experience and Design Thinking
I read many books on the topic, some more interesting than others of course. So use me as a mentor to shortcut to the best books available out there. Here’s my list aimed at starters in this field.
Employee Experience books
Jacob Morgan, the employee experience advantage
Tracy Maylett & Matthew Wride, the employee experience
Laszlo Bock, Work Rules!
Ron Friedman, the best place to work
Daniel Pink, Drive
Design Thinking books
Tim Brown, Change by design
Tom Kelley, Creative Confidence
Marc Stinkdorn & Markus Edgar Hormes, This is Service Design Doing
Jeanne Liedtka, The Designing for Growth Fieldbook
Thomas Lockwood & Edgar Papke, Innovation by Design
2. Follow thought leaders on social media
Josh Bersin – Corporate talent, HR & learning analyst, founder of Bersin research and Bersin academy
Dave Ulrich – Speaker, author, professor on HR & Leadership
Jacob Morgan – Futurist, speaker, best-selling author
Ben Whitter – Mr Employee Experience, best-selling author
Teresa Amabile – Professor & Director of research at Harvard Business School
Daniel Pink – author of 6 books
Bill Burnett – Director Stanford Design Program
Pasi Nikkanen – Podcast host HappySignals
Amy Edmondson – Professor at Harvard Business School & author
Volker Jacobs – global leader in human-centricity and employee experience
3. Join our EX design course
A course will give you a more structured understanding of EX design. It should incorporate both theory and practice. A good course will give you clear steps to follow. There are quite some extensive EX design courses available. If you want to spend more than 1250€, you can find great courses online from good training companies.
But if you want to explore EX design and quickly learn the basics at a very reasonable price, then our own EX design course is probably suited for you. In 1,5 hour you not only learn the fundamentals of EX design but get to apply it on a case immediately. We cover the essentials of EX design in this course. We followed many courses in the past and took the best of all to create this course and help you get a quick start into this field. You can download all tools you need to get started in EX Design. Learn more about this crash course here. But off course, feel free to explore other courses. Just make sure it combines the theory with immediate practice and tools to get most out of it.
4. Understand the Design Thinking process & main tools
The most important part of EX design is to actually (learn to) do it. Familiarize yourself with the design thinking process that consists of four main phases: discover, define, develop and deliver. It is often referred to as the double diamond method, consisting of two times a diverging and converging phase.
Discover: learn about the users (employees in the case of ex design)
Define: identify the users’ wants and needs
Develop: ideate and prototype the best ideas
Deliver: test and implement the concept(s) you developed
This design thinking process lies at the basis of ex-design and makes the theory actionable.
5. Learn facilitation skills
When you become an EX designer, you will need to run workshops and group sessions to be successful. Not only creating these sessions is an important skill, but especially facilitating them. This is a specific skill I think you should learn well. Do you need this from the start? No, probably not. You can start off small, working on your own project and then evolve towards a small team that you already know. But once you go for the bigger challenges and groups, learning some facilitation skills is certainly the way to go and becoming senior in this will help you land more jobs.
6. Apply your learning to your own projects first
When I set my first steps in the field of design thinking, I started applying it right away to some of my own smaller projects or specific pain points in my daily work and explored how it impacted the results. This is a safe way to start using new knowledge and skills. Once I felt confident that I understood the process, tools and thinking enough, I looked for a small project with a team I trusted already. The advantage is that I didn’t have to spend much time in understanding team dynamics, since I’ve been working with that team quite a while and trusted them to collaborate and give some space for learning.
7. Start applying it to bigger challenges
Slowly but surely I evolved towards using design thinking in bigger challenges related to people management, HR and organizational change. It was not a linear process. In between, I learned some more tools, deepened my knowledge in employee experience and design thinking through books, articles, videos and networking with like minded people. I didn’t look for large EX projects, but looked at how I could apply this thinking and approach to challenges I was already addressing in my work and projects. In the meantime, I was asked more and more to facilitate design thinking workshops and train other people on EX design. That’s when the real learning and deepening of my knowledge started and is still evolving now everyday. So don’t look too much for the perfect project or assignment, but look at what you can already do in the challenges you or your company are faced with now. Once you start doing that, you’ll notice that most challenges in organizations are people related and thus elect for using ex design approaches.
8. Network with like minded people
EX design is a rather new discipline and is changing or learning everyday. That’s why it’s even more important to network with other people working in this field and learn from each other. LinkedIn offers many possibilities to search for job titles and content on EX design. Get in touch with those people, meet online and offline. It’s also interesting to meet people from related disciplines like design thinking for innovation, user experience design, etc. There’s so much to learn from people applying the same user-centered thinking and methods in a different field or on a different level of abstraction.
9. Continuously improve your skills in this field
Never stop learning. As I said, this field is still evolving enormously, so keep on having your eyes open for new approaches, cases, experiences. Look at how other industries then your own are using this. Get some more online learning. Read that new book. Keep track of the great articles of thought leaders. And last but not least, look to learn from fields closely linked to your own. EX design is not just about applying design thinking tools to people related matters. It’s mainly a philosophy. Making associations with behavioral science, marketing, organizational design, HR expertise, change methods and many more can help you to transition into a top EX design professional.