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Here’s how (and why) we’re using customer research techniques to understand the impact of Covid-19

By Opinion

How we work, learn, shop, socialise and live changed almost overnight this year.

As researchers, we wanted to understand what these changes meant – both in terms of how behaviour and emotions would alter in the near term, and in the future. We wanted to gather a pool of data to understand what the lasting impact of the changes could look like.

To do so, we launched a self-funded study, calling upon our own team, select staff of our parent Serco, and the wider social and professional networks of each to share their thoughts on a daily basis about what the crisis meant to their day to day lives.

How the study worked

Our research was conducted as a longitudinal diary study, a method selected for its ability to gather rich qualitative data on participants’ personal experiences (see Why we used this methodology below for more details).

Diary studies require participants to self-report information over an extended period of time. We chose to conduct the diary study for a total of 15 days.

Thanks to our partners at Liveminds, we had the use of their specialised app-based tool to enable the collection and collation of participants’ thoughts.

For participants, here’s how contributing worked:

  1. Participants downloaded the LiveMinds app and logged in with a unique password
  2. Each day, they received a notification with a question, crafted by our researchers
  3. They answered the question within the app, either by writing text or recording a video of themselves speaking

Questions pertained to a broad range of topics – their work, their mindset, their family life, and how they had reacted to news regarding the pandemic, among others.

Sample questions:

1. What’s the most impactful news/media item you’ve consumed recently regarding the crisis?

  • Why did you find this item impactful?
  • What thoughts or questions did this trigger in your mind?
  • How did this make you feel?

2. What was your relationship with your local council like before Covid-19? Has this changed? If so, how?

3. What impact has the current situation had on your relationship(s) with your local community? Has this changed? If so, how?

Responses were then collated by our team, and the analysis process has been ongoing.

Why we used this methodology

Our objective was to understand both the immediate impacts of the crisis, and to gather insights that would allow us to begin forming future hypotheses about the impact the pandemic may have on people’s behaviour.

To get this understanding, we chose a diary study for its capacity to track experience and the change in that experience over time. The same questions could be asked periodically, to help us identify any changes in attitude and patterns in those changes.

The selection of a diary study methodology was also a practical decision. Diary studies are a flexible option for participants in that they can respond in their own time, and via the medium that suits them (both written responses and audio or video recordings were options in the LiveMinds tool we used). This was a significant advantage given the disruptive and rapidly changing circumstances that we all experienced during the first lockdown.

Based on our deep experience in customer research, we knew that this would yield the most suitable data for our objectives and, crucially, position us best to develop a strong pool of knowledge on behaviour in the crisis and post-crisis periods, with the potential to be fed into future client insights.

What’s next

Recent vaccine news offers hope for a return to normality in the medium term. But the repercussions of the crisis on behaviour at work, at play and in life will be felt for much longer. 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll begin releasing a selection of our findings here and on our social media channels. Our aim will be to shed light on what we think the rest of the crisis, and the post-crisis, will hold. We hope you’ll join us. Please follow to ensure you don’t miss out.

Speak to us about how we can support you on understanding your staff and customers’ responses to the impact of Covid-19.

3 Service Design-inspired principles crucial to delivering world-class remote employee onboarding

By Opinion

The sudden transition to remote working has left many Employee Experience, Talent, HR and Internal Communications teams with an urgent need to overhaul their onboarding processes.

At ExperienceLab, we’re no exception – and we’ve been tackling it through a combination of research insights and first-hand feedback from new staff.

Using our expertise in Service Design, we’ve identified three key principles which inform our new and evolving remote onboarding process. We’ve shared them below. Is your team incorporating them?


Lead with your company culture and values

Starting a new role remotely most likely involves sitting down alone in front of a computer, waiting for instructions or a call. This looks very different than arriving at an office filled with people. Most notably, a remote first day offers no physical clues as to a company’s culture – and no chance interactions with other staff to help spell them out either.

This lack of informal knowledge transfer has been a challenge for our clients who are adapting to new remote work environments, and was a noticeable aspect of our lockdown hires’ experience as well. Making up for this lack of material culture cues means that implementing a robust virtual orientation programme for new team members is essential.

In lieu of implicit communications through live interactions, company culture and values should be communicated explicitly and intentionally to new team members, through video tutorials, briefings, and welcome packs, but also through purposeful informal communications. 

Some of the businesses we’ve observed who are delivering effective remote onboarding are using similar tactics to reinforce team culture, such as organised events like ‘Lunch Roulette’ (a kind of staff speed-dating where team members are randomly paired to have lunch virtually together). 

Here at ExperienceLab, we welcome our new team members by asking them to join our daily virtual morning tea break. On a new team member’s first day, the whole team makes an effort to join and greet them, even if they’re busy. We also provide our newbies with a welcome pack explaining what to expect during their first week, including a page full of Post-Its from the team with personal welcome messages.


Structure your new team member’s experience, from before their first day to the end of their first week

A comprehensive, structured plan is key to ensuring a good onboarding experience for new remote hires. This plan includes three important phases: what needs to be done before the new team member arrives, what happens in their first week, and what happens in the weeks after their start.

The process of making a new team member feel welcome should start well before their first day. The companies we’ve observed who are most successful with remote onboarding ensure direct managers reach out to their new reports before day one, with warm words of congratulation – and ensure they’ve primed the rest of the immediate team to do the same once the new team member arrives. 

During a new team member’s first week, go ahead and structure each day in their calendar for them. Fill their first days with the types of activities that help communicate your company’s culture: meet and greets with the team, one-to-one chats, team meetings, training activities and briefing seminars. Placing these events in their calendar at the start of the week will ensure that they know what to expect and will ease the uncertainty they’re bound to experience in that critical entry period.

After your new team member’s first week, gather feedback about their onboarding process. 

Here at EL, we use surveys internally as well as externally. We recommend taking the learnings from each survey and building them into the onboarding structure for future hires. Remember, particularly in these changing times, onboarding is an iterative process which can and should be regularly updated to meet your team’s and company’s changing needs.


Communicate, communicate, communicate

From the experience of our team – and based on the companies we’ve observed and worked with – there is no such thing as overcommunication between remote team members. Importantly, there’s no accidental communication in a remote environment, so keeping connected requires intention and effort. 

Our research shows that an informal in-office communication to ‘just shout if you have any questions’ is usually an insufficiently robust method of communicating with remote hires robust communication strategy with remote hires. Instead,  ensure that your team and managers reach out proactively during your new team member’s first days at the company. Remember that when placed in a new environment, many people are conscious about bothering others who might be busy – a feeling which is only amplified by remote communications channels. More likely than not, your new team member will be to be relieved when other more established team members reach out to them. 

Research also showed that the frequency of one-to-one check-ins with managers and onboarding ‘buddies’ is key. In our previous office context, weekly meetings sufficed, but we have found that in a remote context, it is critical to organise daily one-to-ones with managers and buddies.

To be as effective as possible, give new team members the opportunity for passive learning as well as direct communication. Trello boards, internal LinkedIn or Slack groups and channels, Google Drive folders with videos on the company culture, processes and current projects will help to fill any gaps in the active communication, and help to ensure that a new person is always learning during that crucial first week.


By ensuring that your new team member has a full first week of meetings with managers and plenty of touchpoints with the team – plus an explicit, intentional introduction to your company culture and values – you can work to proactively build the integrative, interpersonal experience that remote work conditions too often lack. And by doing so, you’ll set your new team member up for success.

Our research leads us to believe that placing these three principles at the heart of an onboarding process will help ensure that new team members feel welcomed, secured and supported – and as a corollary, that the business employing them enjoys high productivity, strong morale and good retention.

That’s why they’re at the core of the new, highly structured, communication-focused, culture and values based onboarding processes we’re now building for ourselves, and for our clients.

Next step: 3 quick wins (and 1 extra idea) for improving your remote onboarding

  1. Make a shortlist of the key company cultural values you want to express to new employees
  2. Review the initial meetings a new employee has as they’re onboarded at your company. Ask whether it communicates the values.
  3. Consider whether those initial meetings constitute sufficient touchpoints with the new employee, over a long enough period. Ask whether they are being communicated with enough.
  4. Speak to us at ExperienceLab about how we can help – we’re currently assisting a number of businesses research and design new processes for staff homeworking and onboarding. Talk to us about how we could support you here.


The Three Cs — Why direct user research is critical to organisations post-lockdown

By Opinion

The unlock of the economy is now leaping forwards, and organisations and businesses are now tackling a significant challenge in evolving their environments to meet the new requirements, while resuming business in a meaningful way.

There are three ‘C’s that we believe summarise what businesses’ working, travelling, and sales environments must achieve. They must make staff and visitors feel that:

  • Safety measures are being COMPLIED with
  • CONFIDENT that their health is not being compromised
  • This is an experience they feel COMFORTABLE in repeating

This challenge is one that is made even more complicated by two key influencers:

  1. There is no reliable template upon which to base unlock plans. Around the world different ideas are being trialled with as yet no real evidence of effectiveness
  2. There is no single user mindset upon which to base the design and planning. International research is of limited value as countries have had different experiences of the mindset

In short — while the step towards a safer environment is a necessary one, there are a number of unknown factors.

So — how can organisations gain the understanding of whether the measures they are taking are achieving the target 3 Cs of Compliance, Confidence and Comfortable?

The first thing to recognise that the response to each of these is heavily vested in the emotions of the individual. They are not measures that prioritise the environment’s ability to enable an individual to better achieve their goal, or an organisation to more effectively sell to them.

These are important factors of course — but they now pale in significance against the emotional reaction of individuals. It’s this emotional response which will drive whether individuals feel safe and are happy to repeat the exercise — and will be the primary governing factor in how successful the environment is in enabling them to complete their tasks, or encouraging them to buy.

Organisations which don’t understand this might initially believe their changes to their environments are effective and working — only to find that they are experiencing a reduction in visitor or customer numbers, a decrease in sales, or a decrease in staff satisfaction (potentially alongside attendant issues of increased staff departures or absenteeism).

Many organisations will employ surveys and other self-service feedback options to try and learn about the response to their environmental changes. But while this can provide some insight, a nuanced understanding of the customer or employee’s emotional response can only be accessed through qualitative research.

To achieve the three ‘C’s successfully, this sophisticated research must be balanced with organisations’ need for rapid insight, in order that environment changes can be tested, evaluated and adjusted quickly.

This is something we have been keenly focused on, and have now developed a replicable process for. It’s a product in large part of our work to support the Government response to the crisis, which demanded rapid user insight and guidance to inform mission critical designs.

It has proved hugely effective and formed a template for providing near real-time qual research moving forward — exactly the type of research organisations and businesses now need to provide the type of quickfire guidance on staff and visitor emotional response that is critical to delivering the three ‘C’s effectively.

There’s an irony to this — or perhaps it’s proof that necessity is the mother of invention. Not only has the COVID-19 crisis driven the need for a method of delivering rapid, effective qual research for iterative design, but it has also provided the route to its creation.

Speak to us about how we can support you on understanding your staff and customers’ responses to how your organisation is dealing with the post-lockdown period.

How the principles of user research will be critical to businesses reinventing themselves post-COVID-19

By Opinion

How we choose the products and services we use, what we aim to achieve through them, and the approach we take to discovering them are all changing at unprecedented speed.

Many of us are now working from home, increasing our reliance on deliveries, reducing our travel, using telecoms services and home entertainment more and interacting with physical services less – the list of the changes to our daily lives is large and growing by the day.

While not all of these changes will be permanent, many of them will have far-reaching impacts in both the medium and long term. All of us are learning new coping mechanisms and new methods of achieving our goals, many of which will become habits that stretch beyond the current crisis. We are trying new products and services we might not have otherwise have done, and abandoning old ones that are suddenly no longer relevant.

How businesses react will reflect how their staff and their users change

As the individuals within organisations and the individuals they serve adjust and change their habits, those organisations are finding themselves grappling simultaneously both with entirely new ways of working and a need to reorientate their products, services and communications to fit the new landscape.

Many will be doing so with one eye to the future, in the knowledge that many of users’ behavioural changes are likely to have a lasting impact on their business – and that they will need to adjust their long term strategies accordingly.

Some organisations, less well-positioned to weather the crisis, have already in some cases found the impact decisive and disastrous. Others have found themselves fortunately (or wisely) positioned to deliver what users now newly require and demand. The majority are likely to find themselves somewhere between these two extremes.

For this third group of organisations, the crisis has the potential to reveal not only their vulnerabilities, but also opportunities for them to improve. The priorities for many will be twofold – to establish how they can protect themselves from the changes in the near term, and how they can capitalise on them  in the long term. 

To do this successfully will arguably require a strong understanding of how customer needs have changed, and, consequently, a reimagining of their services to better meet those needs. 

Importantly, this reimagining must not stop at reconceptualising only what the customer receives – instead, it should consider the end-to-end delivery of the service. Lack of labour availability, disrupted supply chains and other medium to long term impacts will require serious appraisal if organisations are to effectively deliver their reshaped services to customers.

User experience design principles will become an ever more valuable touchstone

Key to undertaking the planning necessary for businesses to thrive in the Covid and post-Covid era will be a strong and renewed understanding of both service users and service providers – their drivers, values, pain points and other emotional and operational factors which they bring to bear, knowingly and unknowingly, on the success of an organisation’s services. 

The core fundamentals of how these factors can be researched and understood remain broadly the same, even during the crisis. It’s these fundamentals that many of the most forward-looking businesses are likely to seek to anchor themselves to as they undertake the research crucial to adapting their strategies. These fundamentals are only likely to grow in importance – the need to maintain an evolving understanding of users as they rapidly change will be critical to successful reinvention.

The next step

The true nature of the post-Covid business landscape remains unclear.

What is clear, however, is that those organisations who wield user research principles effectively will be among the best positioned to begin building an understanding of their customers’ emergent behaviours.  These principles should be considered a critical part of the strategic toolkit – even for businesses who find themselves at an advantage in the post-COVID-19 world.

Remote Working – Fad or Fixture?

By Opinion

We are still only in the relatively early days of the new ways of working, but already the nascent indications of a new normal are emerging and generating speculation.

Not least, the questions raised by the almost universal adoption of remote working and homeworking. Does this mean the end of on-site working? Will we ever go back to the office?

The positives of remote working are obvious. It promises no expensive commute costs, no delays, the potential to be productive virtually from the moment you open your eyes, the end of office-based interruptions, higher efficiency, a better work life balance – the list goes on.

Observed in isolation the evidence is strongly that this mode of working is here to stay, as it pleases both the employee and the employer.

But is this the reality we are all experiencing?

Whilst all of the above ‘benefits’ are possible, many of them can be viewed from an equal and opposite perspective.

Home working raises crucial questions about how we manage the relationship between our home and work lives. Already the physical and geographical differences between these two parts of our lives have been eroded, as knowledge-based work has become almost completely digital, and smartphones have proliferated. Does working from home remove the last distinction between work and private life?

This is just one of many potential risk factors. Three more which stand out to us are:

 1. Isolation

Physically removed from our coworkers, are we also mentally remote? While it is true that many conversations in offices are ‘idle’ or superficially non-productive, many are also breeding grounds for new ideas borne of time devoted to free thinking.

2. The loss of the commute

Does (or did) the commute serve a useful purpose in a lot of people’s lives? Many individuals have talked of the commute as a time to de-stress, allowing one to prepare for arrival at home. Without this natural ‘fire break’, there is perhaps the potential for work stress to detrimentally spill into relationships with partners and family.

3. Erosion of teamwork and loyalty

The camaraderie of the office is an acknowledged part of our working life. Will we miss it? Will our understanding and engagement with our colleagues be eroded by the lack of real human contact? We all need others both to understand and to be understood by, a dynamic forged by a million small interactions in a working day. There is also a danger for businesses, in that the disappearance of these interactions and the relationships they support may make employees more willing to leave.

We believe all three are valid concerns. But what about organisations who have deliberately set up as almost 100% virtual? Many seem to avoid these issues and thrive with large workforces happy to work this way. Yet just over a month into lockdown, many of us in businesses which are usually office-based are struggling with our new enforced homeworking.

Perhaps the answer lies in employee expectations. If we join a company with an exclusively remote-working operational dynamic, we have already made the unconscious decision to make it work and have made the necessary adjustments to avoid the above issues.

But for the rest of us, our anticipation that one day the lockdown will end is causing us to resist re-thinking how working from home means a new way of thinking and behaving. In fact is there a strong distinction we have not grasped – that in our new, enforced situation we are actually working at home rather than working from home?

Many employees have lauded the pre-COVID-19 practice of working from home one or two days a week. It was seen as giving an opportunity to catch up on things, think more clearly, improve work-life balance, and so on. However it did not demand any shift in our mindset or our attitude to work.  This is where working at home is different. The sudden move to only being at home, all the time, has been brutally quick and it is no surprise our attitudes and behaviours are taking time to catch up.

The long term impact of the new mode of working will unfold in time and it is likely to be forged by a complex set of drivers. However if organisations are tempted to retain the virtual operational model post-COVID-19, they would be advised to address the mindset changes required to support their staff – and their operational models – to adjust to working at home, rather than from home.

Using User Centred Design in the Fight to Defeat COVID-19

By Opinion

You may not know this, but ExperienceLab is part of Serco. That means we are a small but important component of an organisation that currently has thousands of frontline staff at the heart of the battle to defeat COVID-19.

In numerous hospitals throughout the UK – including the new Nightingale hospitals – Serco’s Health division provides the cleaners, porters, housekeepers, and more which supply vital support to the NHS’s tireless clinicians.

Other divisions within the organisation are responsible for resourcing and delivering a huge number of critical services on behalf of UK Government, including frontline call centres such as the Universal Credit hotline and the Shielding Helpline. Still others are responsible for Environmental Services, providing essential waste collection teams.

And it does not end there – these are just a few examples of Serco’s work for UK Government. To say that these are challenging to deliver during COVID-19 would be an understatement. Surges in demand for the telephone helplines alone are the stuff of a Risk Manager’s nightmare.

In recent weeks we have made supporting Serco in delivering these services a key priority. As a User Centred Design (UCD) agency we more commonly handle the needs of private sector clients, and delivery to these clients at the highest standards of course remains a parallel priority.

However, the scale of the response required from Serco to manage the impact of the COVID-19 crisis is huge, and we are keenly aware that there is a significant role for us to play. As a result we are employing our knowledge and skills in UCD to rapidly design or re-design services to meet the surge in demand.

These are no ordinary UCD projects. The timescales now in place require responses and solutions in hours and minutes, not days and weeks. We have therefore had to refine our approach to Agile Sprints and design cycles, distilling our processes for understanding users and implementing designs for maximum efficiency.

In addition, we have deployed our collective experience – borne of thousands of hours of research and design – to optimise deliverables. And we have shortened decision chains to ensure prototypes receive rapid review/refine/endorse responses.

The team is now moving at a pace and intensity far beyond what many organisations and agencies previously would have believed was possible and effective, while staying absolutely true to the guiding principles of UCD.

That means we still focus on the end user, we still look to design immediately deployable and adoptable services, but we are now doing so on a very rapid turnaround.

In the past two to three weeks we have:

  • Deployed new technology and new processes which have greatly increased the efficiency and effectiveness of the recruitment and orientation of frontline hospital staff
  • Worked with Critical Shielding Contact Centre staff and agents to optimise for surging and changing demand for advice and essential care package services for the most vulnerable citizens
  • Developed and deployed new learning and training processes for new recruits across a broad spectrum of nationally important COVID-19 related roles

What we have done and will continue to do is relatively insignificant when compared to the frontline staff, and the incredible contribution they are making every day.

However, I’m immensely proud of how the team at ExperienceLab have responded, of what they’ve achieved so far, and of the impact it has made. It has also proved to me, once again, how fortunate we are to have such a talented group of people in our team.

The work they are performing on these essential services is also helping to expand our ability to respond creatively to our private sector clients’ challenges. We are continuing with this work via remote research and testing, and a key focus for us as we move beyond the crisis will be to look to ensure the learnings from our COVID-19 support work are effectively repurposed for private sector projects.

That said, we are aware that this is only the beginning of our responsibility for supporting vital, national services. We know there are many more challenges ahead for our Serco colleagues and UK Government, and we are placing the highest priority on using our skills, experience and expertise to providing them with effective, rapid support as we move forward.

For Financial Services firms targeting millennials, authenticity is the key

By Opinion

‘Don’t lie to anyone, but particularly don’t lie to millennials. They just know. They can smell it. Be yourself’ – John Green , Author

In our extensive face to face research with millennials on their attitudes towards financial management and financial services providers, their constant underlying desire was for authenticity and influence.

Lots of research has taken place on what millennials want from Financial Services providers and guess what? They want what everyone else wants. They want flexibility in products and channels, they want help but not interference, they want a grown up relationship based on trust not avarice, they want to ‘have it their way’.

The difference with millennials however is why they want these things. Our face to face sessions revealed a cynicism about brands that went far beyond the world-weary responses of older generations. Older generations have a wariness born of experience with Financial Services, and the associated ‘boom and bust’ economic cycle of economics, the various financial crises, and the resulting disappointing pension performance.

The majority of millennials are not old enough for such a world weary view – and while the prevailing public distrust of Financial Services institutions is a strong influencer on their opinions, behaviours and choices, they tend to take a more optimistic view.

Our research has shown that millennials believe that authenticity from financial institutions is possible, that they can have a genuine voice to engage with it, and that they will reward organisations who prove and provide it with their loyalty.

To successfully engage with this generation therefore Financial Services companies need to understand the origins of this desire for authenticity. The generation that has matured during the noughties have developed alongside the growth and exploitation of the ephemeral, the insubstantial, the disposable – they have come of age in what some have termed ‘the age of artifice’.

The multiplication of ‘always on’ channels of information and communication has created an avalanche of ideas, concepts, beliefs, and marketing hype. This has the potential to overwhelm but millennials have developed a filter to manage this new world and take benefit from it. You might call it a kind of useful cynicism. Every claim, statement, or commitment is looked at with a jaundiced eye. In the age of fake news, the default response of most millennials is doubt.

Our recent work with millennials pulled back the curtain on their attitudes towards banks, financial products, financial advice, and neo-banks – but more importantly it also showed why millennials feel the way they do regarding FS. In short they see banking differently from previous generations, and view financial services as simply another utility that enables their life plans, with its providers having the same onus to provide proof of authenticity in their products and messaging.

In trying to build trust with this sector, many FS providers have rushed to provide products, gadgets and gimmicks which they feel are ‘millennial friendly’.

This is having the opposite of the intended effect – and is only adding opportunities for questions and doubts from millennials. The focus should instead be on establishing authenticity in every interaction and communication. How this can be done effectively is part of the research we are continuing to undertake in this area.

Watch the first part of our research on millennials and financial services here.

As an organisation, we focus on providing companies with a true understanding of their customers and how to engage with them.

Our research sessions are designed to focus less on the ‘what’ and more on the ‘why’ – answering why customers think and act the way they do, and how organisations can respond effectively.   

Talk to us about how we can help you understand how to engage your customers.

How User-Centred Design Delivered an Award-Winning Staff and Patient Experience

By Opinion

At one time or another, we’ve all come into contact with the army of people who work within hospitals to support clinicians. Porters, cleaners, housekeepers, and more, they’re people who are crucial to ensuring that the hospital environment functions smoothly and effectively for patients, visitors, clinicians etc.

The idea that this hardworking group of individuals – who patients are interacting with frequently, every day – could make a positive contribution to patient recovery has been discussed for some time.

But making this a reality has to date focused on vague rebranding ideas rather than examining the evidence for the validity of such a concept. What in reality could be different and deliver positive impacts on the patient recovery journey?

In taking on this challenge we employed our structured user-centred design approach that aims to understand not only the actions of actors within a service but also crucially their emotional drivers. Only by understanding these can we hope to create designs that are deliverable, adoptable and sustainable.

How we achieved this

We began by researching and proving the tangible impact that the actions of facilities management FM staff could have on patient wellbeing. This enabled us to establish an outline hypothesis for the service re-design, and we then sought to test our thinking in a number of hospitals.

Working closely with the facilities management (FM) staff – including donning porter and housekeeper uniforms as we shadowed them – we spent time observing how interactions with patients were woven into their jobs, and the difference those interactions were already making to patients.

In parallel, we engaged closely with stakeholders – including hospital trust management, patients, visitors, carers, volunteers, unions, and, of course, the FM staff themselves – to understand their needs, fears and expectations, and to understand how we might work with them to define and communicate the role of FM staff in the patient care journey.

In parallel with our in-hospital research we used agile design sessions to assimilate our huge quantity of findings. This enabled us to create a series of service blueprints, our first step towards implementation. Those blueprints were then iteratively re-tested and validated in the hospitals with key stakeholders. The result was the creation of a service design driven by those who would use it and experience it.

The next step was to move from design to delivery. This required the creation of an education and communication programme designed to engage emotionally with the variety of individuals that made up the FM workforce and provide them with the means to own the new service elements.

Making it ‘live’ commenced with a small ‘Pathfinder’ group that allowed us a controlled environment within which to refine our thinking. The final design was then implemented across 10 major UK hospitals and to date in excess of 3,000 FM staff have been through our engagement and education workshops.

But it didn’t end there. We treated implementation not as a single event but as an ongoing change in thinking and behaviour – a key priority being ensuring that the improvements we were introducing were sustainable, and would be living things, continuing to grow and develop after the initial research process was complete.

That change continues to go on now, long after the initial engagement and education sessions have been completed. The initiative is enthusiastically owned by the frontline FM staff. We have succeeded in making it a ‘bottom up’ design and implementation – not a ‘top-down’ mandated training programme. As a result, new ways of developing the initial design are constantly being identified by the FM staff themselves. The impact of this is seen every day on the wards.

It passes the key test of sustainability – FM staff are now doing things differently even when no one is watching.

The outcome

 The greatest testament to the impact of this service design implementation is that we have removed the expression ‘I am just a porter/cleaner/housekeeper’ from the vocabulary of frontline staff.

They understand their importance and so does everyone else in the hospital, which has led to improvements in service outcomes, staff morale, safety and patient satisfaction.

The design has been recognised externally as the new service was a recent winner at the prestigious Patient Experience Network National Awards. While Dr Steve New of Oxford University’s Said Business School described it as ‘brilliant’ and ‘the most impressive service design exercise for frontline workers I have ever seen’.

But best of all was a comment from one hospital porter who took part. He told us that the initiative ‘Makes you think differently about your job, the impact you are having and it makes you kind of proud’.