Danny Seals is a Design Strategist who redesigns experiences by placing the human in the spotlight. Danny is known within the L&D community as the host of the Mindchimp Podcast — a show that discusses big ideas, from L&D and experience design through to marketing and corporate culture. 

Over the last few years, Danny has been challenging the traditional mindset towards learning and development, and providing modern, data-driven solutions instead. 

A few weeks ago, Looop’s Chief Learning Officer, David James, invited Danny Seals to the L&D podcast to discuss how experience design can be applied to learning and development. Listen to their conversation in episode 10 of the podcast or read on for the highlights. 

 

What Is Experience Design (XD) in L&D? Why Should You Care?

Danny’s definition of experience design (XD), through an analogy of an actor with a performance, is “the interactions between the actor (person) and the touchpoints of their journey, this involves designing the experience in the Macro, Micro, and Nano and designing from the actor’s point of view. This takes into account their senses, space, and movement to create an emotive response.” 

Taking employee onboarding as an example, Danny breaks down what Macro, Micro and Nano mean in terms of XD:

  • Macro – the overall feeling of the experience (e.g., how a new starter felt after completing their onboarding course) 
  • Micro – a stage, or cycle within the experience (e.g., a one-hour presentation on the company’s values)
  • Nano – the tiny touch points within each stage (e.g., a slide in the presentation that discusses the importance of brand values) 

The origins of XD are based in peak-end theory. The concept was formed by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and states that “people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak and at its end” instead of the “total sum or average of every moment of the experience.” 

Whether it’s elation, shame, fear, or other, a memorable experience is formed on the back of a strong emotion. Design enthusiasts like Danny, identify potential peaks and dips within an experience and look for ways to maximise the peaks and minimise the dips so that a positive, memorable experience can be formed and learning can take place.

Find out why Looop was voted #1 for UX by eLearning Industry

 

Redesigning the Onboarding Experience: An Example 

power point presentation not experience design

“Another PowerPoint presentation? At least it’s dark enough to sleep.”

 

Experience design is gaining traction across L&D because it’s helping companies design relevant, valuable, experiences that facilitate learning with an impact.

What Usually Happens: 

  1. A new starter — let’s call him Max — accepts a job offer from Company A. He’s excited to be taking the next step in his career and can’t wait to start.
  2. A month has passed since Max accepted the job offer and HR have contacted him to say when he should arrive on day one but not much more. Max asks HR for some additional information but gets tumbleweed in return. This dampens the lead up to his new job. 
  3. A few weeks later, it’s time for Max’s first day at Company A. Max turns up on a day one. He’s apprehensive because he has no idea what the next few days will bring. He’s told that his manager was too busy to prepare everything for his arrival so he’ll just need to manage without a laptop and phone for a few days. But (!) this shouldn’t be a problem because Max will be on an onboarding course until Thursday. Problem solved!
  4. After a quick tour of the office, Max is shipped off to his onboarding course in another building.
  5. The next days are overwhelming as Max — along with 15 other new starters — has to sit through various presentations about Company A and their expectations.
  6. By day three, Max is feeling pretty bored and would like to ask his manager about his new role. Unfortunately, Max’s manager is nowhere to be found at lunchtime. Max would send a message or pick up the phone, but he still doesn’t have a laptop or a phone.
  7. At the end of the induction, Max is asked to provide feedback by placing a smiley — or sad — face on a board at the front of the room when he leaves. Unsurprisingly, he picks the sad face. 
  8. When Max is back in the office, he finally has a one-to-one with his manager. Apparently, Max will need to “hit the ground running from next week”… but no one has told him what he’s supposed to be doing!

Despite the initial excitement of accepting the job offer (the peak), at the end of Max’s first week, he feels frustrated, bewildered, disappointed and undervalued. He’s wondering what happened to that alluring company that offered him the job.

 

What Could and Should Happen: 

office employees

New starters are eager to join your company — that’s why they accepted the job! The candidate experience doesn’t stop when they sign the contract. Here’s an example of how to overhaul the process: 

 

Before Day One

It is HR’s job to ensure that the new starter feels 100 percent confident that they’ve made the right decision. At an absolute minimum, this means providing the employee with all of the relevant necessary material before they stroll into reception on day one. New starters should be in no doubt about the basics such as: what to wear, what time to arrive, where to sign in, when they’ll get paid, etc. The key to creating an excellent onboarding experience is making candidates feel valued and included from day one. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Provide team-building and “new starter networking” before day one (this could simply be via a Whatsapp group)
  • Ask and answer questions to ensure all concerns are voiced 
  • Give them an idea of what their first week will look like
  • Send them a video welcome message from the team

Every new employee is an asset to your company and they should be treated as such. Don’t drop the ball just because they’ve signed a contract.

 

On — and After — Day One

New starters want to prove themselves quickly and add value to the team. Instead of firing irrelevant information at them via a week-long induction, give them relevant information at the right place and time. 

Integration into a company and a new role takes time, make the effort to:

  • Share experiences of previous new starters and what did — and didn’t — work for them
  • Introduce them to the team and the other new starters — even if they’ve already been networking 
  • Buddy them up with a more experienced colleague inside the team
  • Answer their questions and listen to their feedback
  • Connect them with resources that will guide their learning throughout their onboarding period

 

Almost one in three candidates leave a new position within 30 days of starting. One of the main reasons cited (in 34 percent of cases) is having a “bad experience”. Make sure your employees are supported throughout the onboarding experience and beyond. If you don’t value them from the outset, why should they bother to see how the rest of their employment with you pans out?

 

How to Get Started with Experience Design

Unfortunately, there isn’t a process sheet you can follow to master experience design because it’s mostly a new way of thinking. That being said, there are a few guidelines you can follow to adopt a design-centred approach.

 

Approach Experiences from a Different Angle

The next time you find yourself at the end of in a familiar situation, step outside of your perspective and approach it from another angle so you can understand its complexity and the potential touchpoints. Ask questions like:

  • What caused the experience to start? Was the catalyst intrinsic or extrinsic?
  • What did you like about the experience and why? 
  • What did you dislike and why? 
  • Were you able to get everything you wanted? 
  • How did you feel at the end of the experience? Why? 

Danny says, “if you’re going to design and shape these experiences” then you really need to “go into an experience with a different view in mind” and draw inspiration from different sources. Otherwise, you’re in danger of recreating the same things time and time again. 

When you understand the components of a great experience, you’ll know which questions to ask your employees so you can create great experiences for them. 

 

Apply the Principles of Design Thinking 

With the experience that you want to overhaul in mind, apply the five stages of design thinking to your XD:

  • Empathise: learn about the audience at the heart of the experience
  • Define: build out a profile for the audience based upon their demographics and psychographics 
  • Ideate: Identify how peaks can be created and how dips can be eliminated or reduced
  • Prototype: Produce a scaled-down version of the product, service or solution
  • Test: Take your prototype out into the world and start getting feedback so you can continue to improve it

When applying XD to your L&D strategy, Danny’s biggest recommendation is to place the make the employee the centrepiece. If you always lead with this principle, you’ll continue to create valuable resources that employees depend on for continued growth.

 

Build Your L&D Strategy with a Design-centred Approach

Find out how Looop uses experience design to facilitate learning at the point of work by reading this post or starting a free trial today.

Connect with Danny Seals on LinkedIn and Twitter 

Ask David James a question LinkedIn or Twitter