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How To Design An Equitable Employee Experience

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

Dislaimer: The following blog post has been developed using guidance from PWDA on terminology and language as of 7th December 2020. If you would like to propose changes or provide us with feedback, please reach out to us at

For our last webinar of 2020, the wrkflow team had the opportunity to chat with Gemma Saunders, Lead Consultant at Workplace Edit.

Many interesting topics were raised throughout the discussion so we thought we could give you a brief summary of what you missed. You can also check out the discussion here.

What is Equity?

For us to understand equitable design, we need to understand what equity is. So, what is equity?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. This is unlike inclusion, which refers to the action or state of being included within a group or structure, or equality, which is the state of being equal in status, rights and opportunities.

For instance (as the amazing Gem said) if we have a cake and we cut it into 10 slices for 10 guests and everyone can have a slice of that cake, that is equality. But equity is understanding who is hungry and who needs the cake at that moment while taking into consideration their preferences.

To Gemma, equitable design is

“looking at the range of people and then looking at the system that has overlapping systems of oppression and how do we challenge ourselves knowing the system we are in and the people we are trying to support in our workplaces”

Equitable design recognizes the opportunities that each person in a company needs by assessing the individual’s innate strengths, challenges and needs. Through that awareness, businesses can develop experience design solutions that are both practical and empathetic. Whilst it's clear that the start line is different for everyone, the focus has historically been more on team-based contributions (the majority) than individual needs when it comes to EX design.

Why is it important?

According to the ILO, 1 in every 6 people in the Asia-Pacific region live with a disability yet businesses are still using standard processes to assess, support and engage with their employees. Equitable design fundamentally drives thoughtful and reflective collaboration within a company and allows for adjustments across existing processes and systems that may not fit everyone.

In today’s climate, equitable design plays a more important role as most employees are working from home (WFH) due to the pandemic. While WFH may be seen as more convenient for those with disabilities, levels of in-person support are reduced and questions about missing out on certain opportunities also arise. Equitable design forces businesses to rethink their methods and strategies to create a more conducive and inclusive work environment for all.

So how do you drive personalization?

Understanding each individuals’ needs within a company would be a lengthy process and it is simply not realistic to interview all employees in a large organisation. While designing and personalising multiple versions of the process may not be possible, equitable design thinking methods and empathetic leadership can be momentous.

Leaders and managers are often the ones driving key employee processes. The aim is to look at the capacity and capability of leaders to have more personalized conversations and to help them avoid making assumptions. Providing them with the flexibility to meet the needs of those within their team can be incredibly powerful.

We need to ask the right questions and use enabling and empowering language to create a better future for the workforce, recognizing that all employees matter.

Tips for EX Projects!

  1. Create Equitable Design Principles

Understanding equity at large can go a long way. This will shape your business ideation process and heighten awareness in diversifying experiences, making the workplace a conducive and welcoming one for all. The Design school at Stanford University suggests that designers can adopt a Notice and a Reflect phase, one of self and social-emotional awareness and the other to take time to notice and reflect on your actions and emotions with the team respectively. Both phases support a design process that embraces equity and inclusion.

2. Invest in the right focus groups

The power of group discussions can be utilized, and the best approach is to let your employees shape the experience design. Let them shape the design process whilst learning more about individual needs, preferences and how they want to be recognized for their work. Make sure you're challenging your own thinking around the focus group format, invite list and even the language you use to describe the session. A great focus group should be a supportive space for all.

3. Provide Empathy training in leadership

Don't underestimate the power of leaders and managers during the design process and beyond. With empathy training, leaders are building a sense of compassion, awareness and consideration for others. They'll champion your equitably designed experiences everyday.

The New Normal

The road to achieving equity is a long and tough one, with equality being the real starting point. But no road to success is ever easy. This pandemic has allowed us to slow down our processes and re-evaluate the action biases that we have in fast-paced working cultures.

The question is – have we learnt something from it, and what does this mean for your organisations stance on equitable design?

Re-watch our exciting webinar discussion here on Youtube:

About our guest speaker, Gemma

Gemma is a Lead Consultant at Workplace Edit that is based in Melbourne, Australia. Workplace Edit aims to make workplaces more conducive for people and brings people together through more diverse practices, inclusion strategies and learning more about improving employee experience.

You can find out more information about Workplace Edit here:

Useful References


BCG Report:

International Labour Organisation:

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez

Extra Resources:

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