A Guide to Employee Journey Mapping | HBS Online (2024)

A business is only as strong as its employees—a sentiment that’s top of mind for human resources professionals and people managers amid mass resignations.

As the so-called “Great Resignation” has employees leaving jobs at chart-topping rates, you not only need to retain existing employees but compete with other organizations for top talent.

One way to proactively identify areas for improvement and create value for existing and prospective staff members is through employee journey mapping. Here’s a primer on what it is and how to leverage it to create value.

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What Is Employee Journey Mapping?

Employee journey mapping is the process of visualizing the employee experience from hire to exit. Its goal is to determine areas for improvement and opportunities for value creation so you can retain and attract stellar employees and motivate themto do their best work.

Benefits of the employee journey mapping process include:

  • Visualizing each employee’s experience at your company
  • Illuminating holes or areas for improvement in your current employee experience
  • Enabling more accurate job descriptions
  • Informing budget allocation for initiatives that boost retention and engagement

Each of these helps increase employee satisfaction—thus increasing their motivation and quality of work—and your company’s competitive edge in the talent search.

To understand how to use the employee journey map to create value for employees, first explore the basics of value creation.

The Basics of Value Creation

In the online course Business Strategy, Harvard Business School Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee explains how to create value using a tool called the value stick.

A Guide to Employee Journey Mapping | HBS Online (1)

The value stick has four components:

  • Willingness to pay (WTP): The maximum amount a customer is willing to pay for a company's goods or services
  • Price: The actual price of the goods or services
  • Cost: The cost of the raw materials required to produce the goods or services, or employee compensation
  • Willingness to sell (WTS): The lowest amount suppliers are willing to receive for raw materials, or the minimum employees are willing to earn for their work

There are two ways to gain a competitive edge and attract the best talent: Offer higher compensation (raise the employee’s cost) or make the job more attractive (lower the employee’s WTS).

Lowering an employee’s WTS means they’re willing to accept less compensation. To do this, you need to make the job more attractive and create value.

Value creation not only pays off in terms of employee retention; it can impact the customer experience, too.

“In many services businesses, there’s a strong link between WTS and WTP,” Oberholzer-Gee says in Business Strategy. “By lowering WTS—by making work more attractive—we increase employee engagement, and this then leads to better customer experiences.”

Here are five steps to leverage employee journey mapping to create value.

Related:A Beginner’s Guide to Value-Based Strategy

How to Leverage Employee Journey Mapping to Create Value: 5 Steps

1. Define and Select Employee Type

The first step in the employee journey mapping process is defining employee types, or personas, and selecting which to map first.

If your organization has many roles, you should map a journey for each persona; for example, an “entry-level data analyst” or a “new-hire mid-level marketing manager.”

Some parts of the process will be the same for all employees; others will vary based on job function and level.

2. Map the Employee Journey

The next task is documenting the selected persona’s journey throughout their time at your organization. This can be done in a list format or by drawing a timeline and mapping the journey visually.

This step requires thorough brainstorming to account for as many aspects of the persona’s experience as possible.

It can be helpful to think of the persona’s experience in stages. Use the following example, and tweak it to fit your organization:

  • Hiring stage:From job posting to signed offer letter
  • Onboarding stage: From day one to ramped up and fully acclimated
  • Development stage: Developing skills while performing daily responsibilities
  • Progression stage: Opportunities to advance their career within the company
  • Offboarding stage: From resignation letter to exit interview

Some organizations operate on a strict schedule for role progression. If this applies to yours, use time as map markers instead of process stages. For instance:

  • Before the first day
  • First day
  • 30 days in
  • 60 days in
  • 90 days in
  • One year in
  • Two years in
  • Eventual offboarding

After defining map markers, list each persona’s planned experience for each stage. This may seem daunting, given the number of factors that influence the employee experience. To make it easier, start by listing processes already in place.

For instance, under the “onboarding stage,” you could list:

  • Receive a laptop and a company ID card
  • Gain access to email, the project management system, and necessary accounts
  • Go on an office tour
  • Attend mandatory training

Next, list any added social or culture-building aspects of the experience, such as:

  • Receive a company-branded T-shirt and a water bottle on the first day
  • Get treated to lunch by the manager and team during the first week
  • Attend meet-and-greets with senior leadership and members of each team

More in-depth journey maps include a list of resources needed to make each line item possible—for instance, the platform to conduct onboarding training or a budget for lunches with new hires.

While not every interaction can be documented, each step of the employee journey is important to their overall experience at your company and, ultimately, whether you retain them.

During this process, you may realize there are holes in the journey maps for some roles; for instance, if you don’t currently have practices in place for the development or progression stages. Note these so you can use them in step four when identifying value-creation opportunities.

3. Factor in Employee Feedback

Gathering employee feedback is a general best practice, but it can also play a useful role in assessing current employee journey maps.

There are many options for gathering feedback, including anonymous surveys, private interviews, and physical or virtual suggestion boxes. Other valuable sources of insight include exit interviews with people who leave your company and online reviews from current or former employees on sites like Indeed and Glassdoor.

Map employee feedback to the specific stage or time frame it applies to and notice patterns that emerge. Which stages have the most positive or negative feedback? Are there any general sentiments that could be addressed in a specific stage?

For example, perhaps you observe that employees commonly note in their exit interviews that their job description didn’t match up with their day-to-day tasks. In such cases, you can map that feedback to the hiring stage and use it to create job listings that more accurately reflect roles’ responsibilities.

4. Identify Value Creation Opportunities

Once you’ve mapped the persona’s journey and tracked feedback to each stage, identify areas for value creation. Remember that the two ways to create value for employees are increasing compensation (raising their cost) or making the job more attractive (decreasing their WTS).

Opportunities for value creation can include:

  • Holes in the employee journey: Are you providing enough support during the onboarding process? Are professional development opportunities available? Is there a pathway for career advancement within your company for each role?
  • Feedback about specific benefits: Benefits can include typical perks (such as vacation time and wellness budgets) or intangibles (like an increased sense of control or flexibility of work location or schedule).

5. Revise the Journey Map

Once you’ve identified opportunities to create value, prioritize and apply them. This can be a long process requiring budget allocation and organization-wide shifts.

Once changes have been implemented, revise the journey maps to include new elements. After you’ve gone through the process once, you can periodically reassess and update the journey maps to adapt to employees’ changing needs and values.

Creating Value for Employees

Creating a competitive employee experience is vital to any business strategy. Without strong, satisfied employees, no organization can reach its goals.

Armed with knowledge of the value stick and the employee journey mapping framework, you can create meaningful value for your employees and attract new ones.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into value creation, consider taking Oberholzer-Gee’s course, Business Strategy. It’ll equip you with a broader picture of how to factor the employee experience into your overall business strategy to create value for your customers, firm, employees, and suppliers to achieve success.

Want to learn more about how to create value for employees? Explore Business Strategy, one of our online strategy courses, to gain the skills to create organizational value. Not sure which course is the right fit? Download our free flowchart.

A Guide to Employee Journey Mapping | HBS Online (2024)
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