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Methods: Employee journey maps: Specifying

by David Blakey

The first step of employee journey maps is specifying. It is often omitted or overlooked, however.

[Monday 21 September 2020]

The first possible step in an employee journey map is specifying. It can be used when an organization is setting up new plans or when the organization is considering new recruitment within existing plans. It is often missed off employee journey maps, but we shall see, in succeeding articles, how important it is for keeping the flow through a journey map.

New plans

When an organization is setting up a new division or a new branch, or is moving into new products or services, or is expanding into new countries, or is merging with another organization, it should identify the need for employees to perform tasks.

When the outcomes of the new plan have been established, work will start on building task descriptions and, subsequently, position descriptions to complete those tasks. The result of this exercise will be justifications and specifications for the positions. It will include an assessment of the interactions between one position and other positions in the organization, between that position and peers within the organization, between the position and internal and external stakeholders, and between the position and internal and external suppliers and customers of the tasks covered by the position.

The specifying step of the employee journey map can start. This will involve preparing the documentation that will act as an umbrella over the position descriptions and the employee contracts. In my first job, which was with a very large international IT company, I was given an A5 ring-binder, which contained a complete guide to working for the company. It included a history of the company, a history of the company within my country, and statements of the company's values and expectations. It was in a ring-binder so that it could be updated or extended, but I do not recall there being any changes during the five years I spent there. What that employee handbook did do, however, was to give me the impression that such handbooks were common practice. They are not. The next time that I was given such a handbook was 18 years after I left my first employer, when I joined a very large international software company.

The specifying step will also handle employee contracts and any other documentation that employees will be provided with. I am writing this during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the specifying step could have been used to update safety guidelines for employees or to update advice on working from home.

For new plans, this step may be considered as outside the employee journey map, as it will be undertaken before the employee journey maps will be built.

Existing plans

Let us say that an employee is leaving or has left the organization. This can be caused by one of several events.

  • The employee may have resigned.
  • The employee may have retired.
  • The employee may have been fired.

When someone resigns to move to another job outside the organization, the specifying step should be activated with a focus of that employee's job description and performance measures to try to find out if the nature of the job caused the employee to leave. If so, then perhaps the job can be changed to make it more attractive. The question also should be asked whether the job itself is still needed.

When someone retires, the specifying step should be activated to find out if the job had remained the same so that that employee could continue to do it. The question should be asked whether a different set of tasks should be developed, or if a different kind of person would be better for the role in future (especially if particular skills are needed that the retired employee developed during their employment.

When someone has been fired, we can assume that it was because of criminal or antisocial behaviour. This should lead to the specifying step being invoked, looking at the overall employee documentation, to see if it is susceptible to the behaviour that led to the dismissal.

Another reason that someone may leave an organization is because of their being made redundant, but this may often happen as a result of a specifying step, either as a result of changes to existing plans or as part of a regular review of positions in the organization.

Environmental changes

Changes to the environment in which the organization operates may also lead to the specifying step being re-visited.

There may be national or supranational changes to laws about health and safety at work. There may changes to the way in which trade unions and their members should be approached. Events such as these should cause the specifying step to be run through again.

These are all matters that can affect employees, and all employees should have complete documentation, either hard copy or online, that they can access. In some organizations, not all employees will have access to the organization's intranet or to the Internet at work or home, so consideration should still be given to producing hard copy employee handbooks for them.

You should be aware that, to many people, a hardcopy document is within the control of the employee and any changes have to be made by each employee. If the information is only available online, it is in the control of the employer, and employees may be suspicious that the employer could change parts of online documentation without employees knowing. A hardcopy handbook may seem old-fashioned, but it could inspire greater trust.


From all of this, you can see that this step is an important part of the employee journey map. It is also a part that the employer should not shirk from performing. It should also be a highly visible part of the employee journey map.

We shall return to discussion of the specifying steps as we look at the other steps in an employee journey map.

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