employee experience, service design & barber shops


My haircut days are behind me, sadly. But thankfully I’ve invested heavily in Project Beard which means I can still enjoy a regular trip to the barber for, in my case, a fancy beard trim and treatment.


Aberdeen, like most cities, is full of choice for a haircut – from walk in snip’n’go’s to high end boutiques with designer shampoo, frothy coffee & little biscuits. Something for everyone – so why do I choose Mr Dun on Aberdeen’s Belmont Street?


They simply understand the customer journey. Great social advertising backed up with a detailed website an effective online booking tool lets you get to know the team before you arrive. Take your first few steps into their barber shop and you are met with a smile then the sound of snipping scissors with some bang on tunes at just the right level to provide background but not overwhelm. It even smells great.


If I can I try and arrive early to grab a freshly brewed coffee or a beer and snuggle into a comfy armchair by the log burner and relax before my appointment.


I chat though what I want and the trim itself is a relaxing and enjoyable experience.


Mr Dun also run a barber school and this investment in training really shows through in the attention to detail from everyone in the team. Yes, they understand key customer touchpoints, but interactions are genuine and do not feel forced. They know how to cut hair and they get to know their customers.


This is service design.


“Service design is the application of established design processes and skills to the development of services. It is a creative and practical way to improve existing services and innovate new ones.” live|work [2010]


Get it right and great service design is what makes you walk into Mr Dun and not another barber offering the same product.


Service design is a collaborative process which can be applied to any business. At its heart is a human\customer centered focus on design which puts people at the heart and builds everything else around it.


So how can service design improve employee experience?

Great service experience will drive engagement [of either employees or candidates] with benefits of increased retention and workforce productivity. This applies to the most transactional HR interactions, where employees naturally expect an effortless experience. For the more critical touch points [recruitment, onboarding, relocation, life events, etc.] where HR creates, or destroys, disproportionate amounts of employee engagement, people expect high experience levels in return for engagement towards the company.


In HR terms, design thinking means focusing on the person and the experience, not the process. At its core, adopting a human-centered design approach involves studying people at work and developing personas or profiles to understand employee demographics, work environment, and challenges. It relies on generating ideas quickly and testing prototypes that generate further ideas, digital tools, and solutions.


Applied correctly, service design and service delivery are a rigorous, disciplined methods of problem-solving. They represent an opportunity for HR to reshape how it works with the organisation and to redesign its own procedures, using technology to ensure positive employee interactions. Applying design thinking to the work experience compels HR to ask “What does a great employee experience look like from end to end? How can we facilitate collaboration and learning in everything we do?”


Design thinking - or lack of it - can make a huge difference in how companies are perceived. This is clearly evident when attracting new talent into your business.


We live in a talent-constrained environment where employee experience is transparently shared and good talent will pick their employer of choice. For many sectors this means a candidate led market. Just as customers jump to the best service experience, the best talent naturally flow to companies with the best employee experience. Consequently, organisations are now designing the candidate experience to attract high-performing people and make it easy to find the right job and apply quickly.


HR does controls most [but not all] levers of employee experience and service design thinking offers a potentially game-changing opportunity for the HR function to directly improve engagement and workforce productivity. An added benefit is often a reduced cost which means HR can demonstrate a positive impact on bottom line performance rather than always being perceived as a pure overhead.


Service design thinking [or doing!] is a relative newcomer to the world of HR yet brings measurable success and proven business benefits from the customer-facing world. No other approach to HR innovation or process redesign holds as much potential to directly drive employee experience and shape HR’s contribution to business performance.


The method is intuitive and engaging for HR teams. It does not require massive investment and supports one of the major reasons why most HR professionals chose the profession in the first place: ‘to help people’.




forty2 use service design tools and methods to help you shape your people function around your business so if you’re looking for an HR partner to support your growing business give us a call or chat to us on twitter. Or if you’re in the market for a haircut, try Mr Dun…