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How to create journey maps to improve EX (Employee Experience)

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Sep 13, 2022

A gap between employee desires and company priorities

All too often, leaders neglect to understand employee behavior, and instead invest in financial perks to improve the employee experience. As a consequence, workers can feel like they’re a part of a transaction rather than a working relationship.1

This has contributed to “the great resignation” - when nearly 57 million Americans quit their jobs between January 2021 and February 2022.2 This trend isn’t just US-specific: 43% of employees across the globe were thinking of leaving their jobs in 2022.3

Journey mapping can help

Journey mapping has become a useful and popular tool in both user experience (UX) and marketing. It encompasses creating a visual map detailing all the processes that an individual goes through in order to reach a goal.4

To create a journey map, you first compile all of the relevant actions into a timeline, then add in user thoughts and emotions, and then condense the timeline to create a visualization.4 Understanding the ins-and-outs of a user’s journey uncovers pain points that service-providers can eliminate or revamp.

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Personas help humanize complex data

Personas, the unique perspectives and experiences of a cluster of the target population, can help researchers identify where to make changes.4 A persona is a mock-up of a fictional person that embodies a cluster - it might include a name, short biography, short quote, key interests, or other relevant information.5 

Using personas can help foster empathy and a greater understanding of the customer.6 The strategy also helps to humanize a set of data that might otherwise be difficult to explain to software engineers, product managers, and other stakeholders.5

Despite its potential in helping to understand customers, journey mapping and personas have rarely been applied inwards to improve the employee journey. Rather than grouping all employees into one journey, dividing employees up into personas helps to more effectively identify areas for improvement as each group faces unique challenges. 

A changing employment landscape

The pandemic has changed the way we work. People want to work together to create authentic, encouraging experiences that bolster individual, team, and organizational success.7 As such, there is a need like never before to ensure that the employee experience (EX) is as positive as it can be and flip the journey mapping process inward rather than outward.

Company leadership shapes the employee experience. They can use journey mapping to make it better. 

chart: 40% of employees are at least somewhat likely to leave their current employer within the next 3 to 6 months.

A McKinsey survey revealed that 40% of employees are at least somewhat likely to leave their current employer within the next 3 to 6 months.

Good EX yields better corporate outcomes  

  • People who have had positive experiences with their employer are 16 times more engaged than those who reported negative experiences8
  • They’re also 8 times more likely to want to stay with their employer8
  • At firms that prioritize good EX, employees are more predisposed to surpassing expectations, exhibiting 40 percent more (optional) effort8

Firms that prioritize EX are more productive and are perceived to be more innovative and better employers than their counterparts.9

Using journey mapping to improve management decisions

The employee experience is as important as the customer experience. In the same vein, leaders should investigate the employee journey using the same tactics that they would with their customers.10

This provides employers with quantitative data points from which to better understand key variables, e.g. when workers become disengaged, how long it takes to bring on a new hire, or the average tenure at the firm.10 

Gathering data also helps employers take a birds’ eye approach to employee behaviors. For example, if turnover was high one year, it could indicate onboarding was insufficient or they didn’t feel supported by their superiors. However, if employees are consistently leaving after a few years, it could point to insufficient opportunities for advancement. 

In taking time to create detailed personas, leaders will be in a better position to make decisions about how to best support their employees.

How to: journey mapping for EX

Before beginning on their EX journey, firms require a strong commitment to understanding their employees’ needs, pain points, and the emotional contexts of their personal and work lives.7

Once this is established, they can identify each of the core steps that employees take, from the application process to departure. A standard process looks like: a) recruitment, b) onboarding, c) development, d) retention, and e) exit.11

A good methodology to uncover employee journeys and personas looks like this:11

1. Begin by establishing a current-state baseline and an aspirational level of employee satisfaction7

2. Divide employees based on role, not demographics

3. Create a journey for each type of employee

4. Make sure leaders use a consistent form of success measurement across the different divisions of the organization, for example a set of issues that can be measured using a 5-point Likert scale (like engagement or excitement)

5. To make sure employees find the  journeys accurate, there should be opportunities for feedback. Automation can make this process efficient: for example, set up reminders to automatically send requests for feedback when an employee hits a milestone

6. Review journey and create an engagement survey to monitor the accuracy of the journeys

As you’re implementing the outcomes from the EX journey mapping, you can track its impact using surveys and KPIs, like the number of offer acceptances, resignations, absences, and engagement.12

Mapping the EX has benefits for all

Beyond providing better resources and opportunities for employees, understanding the EX also has benefits for the firm. Finding talent and keeping them happy through retention will boost the organization’s reputation and increase the likelihood of future talent acquisition. Besides, it’s just good business to treat people well, and show employers that their leaders care enough to try to understand their experiences.

The Decision Lab is a behavioral consultancy that uses science to foster employee wellness through science and design. We work with some of the most well-known names in innovation and health to improve experiences for firms large and small. If you'd like to implement changes in your organization, contact us.


  1. De Smet, A., Dowling, B., Mugayar-Baldocci, M., & Schaninger, B. (2021, September 8). ‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours. McKinsey & Company.
  2. Ferrazzi, K., & Clementi, M. (2022, June 22). The Great Resignation Stems from a Great Exploration. Harvard Business Review.
  3. Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work. (2022). Microsoft.
  4. Gibbons, S. (2018, December 9). Journey Mapping 101. Nielsen Norman Group.
  5. Howard, T. (2014). Journey mapping: A brief overview. Communication Design Quarterly, 2(3), 10–13.
  6. Schäfer, C., Zinke, R., Künzer, L., Hofinger, G., & Koch, R. (2014). Applying Persona Method for Describing Users of Escape Routes. Transportation Research Procedia, 2, 636–641.
  7. Emmett, J., Komm, A., Moritz, S., & Schultz, F. (2021, September 30). This time it’s personal: Shaping the ‘new possible’ through employee experience. McKinsey & Company.
  8. Emmett, J., Schrah, G., Schrimper, M., & Wood, A. (2020, June 29). COVID-19 and the employee experience: How leaders can seize the moment. McKinsey & Company.
  9. Morgan, J. (2017, March 10). Why the Millions We Spend on Employee Engagement Buy Us So Little. Harvard Business Review.
  10. Lee, L. (2021, July 29). You Have Customer Journey Maps—What About Employee Journey Maps? The 360 Blog from Salesforce.
  11. Wowk, A. (2020, December 1). 6 steps to mapping the employee journey at your organization. Qualtrics.
  12. Holliday, M. (2021, January 29). How to: Employee Experience Journey Mapping. Oracle NetSuite.

About the Authors

Lindsey Turk's portrait

Lindsey Turk

Lindsey Turk is a Summer Content Associate at The Decision Lab. She holds a Master of Professional Studies in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston University. Over the last few years, she’s gained experience in customer service, consulting, research, and communications in various industries. Before The Decision Lab, Lindsey served as a consultant to the US Department of State, working with its international HIV initiative, PEPFAR. Through Cornell, she also worked with a health food company in Kenya to improve access to clean foods and cites this opportunity as what cemented her interest in using behavioral science for good.

Sekoul Krastev's portrait

Dr. Sekoul Krastev

Sekoul is a Co-Founder and Managing Director at The Decision Lab. He is a bestselling author of Intention - a book he wrote with Wiley on the mindful application of behavioral science in organizations. A decision scientist with a PhD in Decision Neuroscience from McGill University, Sekoul's work has been featured in peer-reviewed journals and has been presented at conferences around the world. Sekoul previously advised management on innovation and engagement strategy at The Boston Consulting Group as well as on online media strategy at Google. He has a deep interest in the applications of behavioral science to new technology and has published on these topics in places such as the Huffington Post and Strategy & Business.

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