Case Study

Leveraging AI for Employee Engagement

Using design thinking to re-imagine the employee experience.

Laptop screen with a display of an HR system for employee feedback.

One of North America’s leading relationship management SaaS providers asked Orium to tackle a series of intimate user research engagements focused on understanding how smart technologies, such as virtual agents and automation, could fit into their employees’ view of the ideal experience at work.

Expertise required for this project

  • Design research & persona development
  • Digital employee experience strategy
  • Interface & user experience design
  • UX, content & personalization strategy
Example of different employee niches and a sample profile in the HR system.
The Challenge

With over 30,000 employees worldwide, the company faces a number of challenges in ensuring their employees are able to access the information they need when they need it. The diverse requirements of their staff, with employees located around the globe and at various stages of their careers, are difficult to track and to understand.

Orium partnered with the organization’s HR team to explore a user-centred application of recent advances in automation and AI. The aim was to uncover areas where their employees and processes would benefit from smarter tools and set a strong foundation for any future changes to their HR systems.

Design thinking and user research help us align data, employee needs, and our own assumptions. They allow us to figure out and articulate what the right engagement experiences are for our teams in a way that is guided, actionable, and predictive.

Director, HR Strategy
Two members of Orium's team are interviewing a stakeholder on a project.

Orium's team conducts a stakeholder interview.

The Strategy

When overhauling an HR system at an organization with tens of thousands of internationally distributed employees, the risks are amplified. Time, money, and the high cost of disrupting people are all important factors to consider, which is why setting a strong foundation for any new initiative is critical. Design thinking, with a specific focus on generative user research, can be the safest and most productive means to an end in high-stakes contexts like this.

Spending a little money up front on research to gain understanding probably saves us a million dollars on wasted investment in technology solutions that weren’t the right fit for our needs.

Director, HR Strategy

For the first phase of the engagement, Orium focused on a critical slice of the organization’s HR program: Employee peer feedback. Mapping the employee experience and developing personas to uncover areas of opportunity, we then took that information and used it to explore possible solutions to advance the feedback program.

In phase two, we broadened the scope of potential use cases by shifting the focus of the research to “self-service” user experiences. Orium helped the HR team to better understand the impact self-service experiences (automated / not directly guided by a person) would have compared to more full-service experiences (direct human guidance), and how automation would best fit into that picture.

Our priority was to figure out not only what could be done with novel technologies, but what should be done to enhance the digital employee experience.

Collage of a typical brainstorming process at Orium including laptops, sticky notes, and papers.

The Recommendation

Working alongside the HR team, Orium interviewed a broad cross-section of employees from across North America and Europe. In total, Orium conducted interviews with over 60 staff members to gain a perspective on the palatability of automating different parts of the employee experience. We then delivered a comprehensive set of recommendations for the digital employee experience, captured in the form of employee personas and design principles.

We need to start thinking about a holistic HR lifecycle. Rich and relevant experiences keep employees engaged— it’s what they want. And these were the first few steps toward providing that for them.

Director, HR Strategy

Understanding the potential use cases for AI-powered automation was a major research aim, but understanding employees’ general comfort levels between self-directed and more personally-guided experiences was paramount. Which situations will people feel most comfortable figuring out on their own? And when would they rather have an experienced and knowledgeable professional walk them through a process directly? Furthermore, does this change based on role within the organization?

Most critically, we discovered that an automated solution would need five key attributes to succeed. First and foremost, it would need to be relevant, accurate, and performant, surfacing the right information (i.e. role and region specific) at the right time, and doing so error-free in order for employees to have confidence in the system. Secondly, the solution would need to be user-friendly to give employees an easy, intuitive source for their HR needs, and robust enough to truly serve as a functional solution.

A graph displaying three different tracks of thinking and the desired service level of a user. This is used to create personas.

Careful synthesis of research data revealed distinct criteria on which we mapped users’ mindsets. This provided the foundation from which we built personas that exemplified the different perspectives, goals, and needs that users had about the holistic HR experience.

Having lots of jumping off points to self-service support when needed, so users feel empowered to start tasks independently, is the third critical component to an automated solution. Part of achieving that comes from how smart the solution would be, the fourth element we identified in our research. Employees want a solution smart enough to prompt them around career and life milestones without veering into overly invasive behaviours.

Finally, an automated solution would need to be neutral and secure. The advice, recommendations, and perspectives offered need to feel transparent, impartial, and fair to all employees, and employees need to feel safe in the knowledge that their requests and personal information won’t fall into the wrong hands. If all five components are working together, an automated solution becomes not only a viable optional, but much more likely to succeed and even exceed expectations.


Example of different types of employee personas.

Outcome and Next Steps

The insights and principles Orium introduced to the HR team have provided a critical perspective for new employee experience initiatives. Where employees can self-serve, the reduction in overhead will empower HR staff to focus on deeper issues that truly require their expertise. Meanwhile, these experiences will fulfill the expectations that employees have for a usable and user-friendly digital ecosystem.

As the war for talent increases, the way that companies differentiate themselves is through the cultural experience. And providing an easy-to-navigate HR experience for all employees, regardless of role or responsibility level, is an important facet of that cultural experience.

Three Orium team members meeting to discuss a project.

The great thing for us about working with Orium is that you come in and work to truly understand our culture, where we are in terms of technology maturity as well as from a cultural perspective.

Director, HR Strategy