The other day, I was grocery shopping with my son. As we were checking out, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten to grab some bananas. My son pointed over my shoulder, and sure enough, there was a whole standing rack of bananas just behind me. 

You may be asking yourself, what could bananas possibly have to do with impacting my employee engagement? Well, in a circuitous way, this small moment made me consider how we design an effective and efficient employee experience.

At this particular grocery store, they place certain items at the checkout area, certain items at the aisle end caps, and certain items right when you first enter the store. These products are strategically positioned to adapt to the consumers’ thought process and shopping experience. The store is able to anticipate what last minute items you will inevitably forget, and place them right where you’ll end up remembering them. Of course, the store is maximizing their sales, but they’re also meeting your needs before you’re conscious of them.

That is precisely how organizational leaders should design the ultimate employee experience: anticipate and address your employees’ needs before they’re needed in the first place.

How do we architect that kind of organizational planning? There are a few options. One of the services we provide is journey mapping, or visualizing the process an employee goes through in a given role, capacity, or project. This allows us to simulate the employee experience across different scenarios and comprehensively think through each stage, and anticipate which touch points along the way will necessitate additional support or structure.

Another option is to hold in-depth focus groups with employees at different stages of their experience, so we know what obstacles are commonly encountered within our workflow. Similarly, employee roundtables where colleagues can engage in rich dialogue about what structural gaps are hindering their performance yield especially poignant feedback. However you choose to solicit employee feedback, getting it in the first place is critical. Caring leaders should avoid conjecturing or imagining what their employees’ experiences are like—there’s nothing more presumptuous than speaking for your team members without listening to them first. Your employees are an invaluable resource for taking the temperature of your organization, and you should prioritize them as such.

Once you have a sense of the average employee experience, you can then architect specific check-ins, programs, or resources into your organizational model that speaks directly to the individual’s needs. If you know a particular quarter exerts extra stress on your employees, have mental health and general wellness resources at the ready. If you know new employees frequently struggle to feel integrated into the team, organize informal staff hang-outs early on in the on-boarding process. In a sense, part of your job as a caring leader is to foresee problems, and proactively brainstorm solutions for them. Just remember that those problems will change over time, so it’s paramount that you engage in this kind of design process every so often to stay abreast of your employees’ evolving needs. Though we can’t always predict the future, we can at least try our best to prepare for it.