Employee experience: How to hire – and keep – the best


A superior user experience is relevant not only for the relationship between companies and customers, but also between companies and employees. In fact, it is a key factor in attracting and retaining the top professionals that today’s companies need to succeed and thrive. Ports and terminals are not immune to these changes either, and solution providers can help the industry to keep up with the transformation required by the future workforce.

In our previous blog posts, we talked about how the concept of user experience (UX) can create significant added value  for companies designing products and services, or even enable radically new business and revenue models   – all without adding much to the financial overheads involved. UX can be conceptualised in many ways, but the definition we adopted was that UX at work is the way a person feels about using a product, service, or system in a work context, and how this shapes the image of oneself as a professional.

Let’s think about the previous sentence for a second. Traditionally the work environment in ports and terminals has been physically straining with noisy equipment and  shift work. Could UX design actually be relevant for us as employers, too?

Wow-quality experience

The young professionals currently beginning their careers are the first generation that has grown up since childhood to expect a wow-quality experience from their devices and services.  In the real world, the consumer votes with their wallet and buys whichever phone, tablet or computer they like best. In the workplace, the procurement department usually procures a set of standardised tools that meet a predefined specification at the most competitive price. But what does this mean for the UX of the employee? In any field, the best talents have the luxury of choosing between multiple prospective employers. How can we ever hope to attract them, if we are not able to provide them with the best tools – and, more importantly – a great workplace experience?

No more jobs for life

This is not just theoretical speculation. The entire concept of employment has been undergoing a gradual but radical shift over the last few years. Traditional lifelong careers in the service of a single employer have become a historical curiosity for today’s young professionals. Digitalisation and the convergence of mobile and online technologies are transforming business models in every field, along with the ways we work, lead our teams and interact with our customers. The user experience is always at the very core of these developments.

Even in relatively traditional fields such as port operations and industry, the younger generation is accustomed to using modern online tools and smart devices, so we need to be able to offer them the same experience no matter what their field of work is. Physical labour, traditional working methods and outdated, painful-to-use business software simply does not cut it anymore.

We also need to remember that as employers, we are competing not just with the players in our own field, but with other industries as well. If you think this is not relevant for your company, you may be in some trouble without realizing it. Top talents are always a scarce resource, and the choice between taking a job at a container terminal or a high-profile consulting firm could hinge on how well the employer succeeds in creating a high-quality work experience for their people. Are they providing the best tools for the job? Are they actively involving their staff in designing not only the products and services they sell, but also their own work? Are employees given genuine agency to manage the changes that they face together with their employers?

Motivated employees perform better

Great UX in the workplace helps create drive in everyday tasks, streamlines collaboration and makes learning faster. And it tells a lot about how people are valued in the company. Motivated employees are a major part of ensuring strong results for any business; if you keep your employees satisfied, it is more than likely that they will keep your customers satisfied too.

Just as a “wow”-quality user experience can’t be tacked onto a product at the last moment, striving towards a superior employee experience needs to be a central part of a company’s culture, if it is to have any hope of attracting and keeping the best talents in the industry, and getting the full benefit of what they can offer. Can we make it feel great to come to work at this company every day? Many companies clearly succeed in this, so why couldn’t we – and you?



Jari Hämäläinen Kalmar
Jari Hämäläinen

Director, Terminal Automation, Kalmar



Maaria Nuutinen VTT
Maaria Nuutinen

Vice President in Business, Innovation and Foresight, VTT

Building brand love with superior user experience

We would like to pose a provocative question: Could you make your product or service so great to use that your customers would want to tattoo your logo onto their arm?

In consumer products, customers are happy to display their loyalty to brands that they love and with which they identify. Why couldn’t this be possible in industry applications as well?

Well, in fact it is – and there is a growing body of research that supports this conclusion. The key concept here is user experience, or UX for short. The User Experience and Usability in Complex Systems (UXUS) research programme of the Finnish Metals and Engineering Competence Cluster defined UX as follows:

The User experience (UX) at work is the way a person feels about using a product, service, or system in a work context, and how this shapes the image of oneself as a professional.

The field of UX is based on solid experience and research results that can provide concrete new tools for companies seeking to innovate and renew their business. In industry, the UX framework is still not widely used, whereas in consumer products and services it is often at the very core of product development.

At the heart of UX is putting yourself into the position of the experts that have the most knowledge of how your product works: Your customers, and more specifically, their end users. If you truly understand their world, you can create something that not only works, but also feels good to use, day in and day out.

Word of User Experience.

The UX world. Source: “User Experience and Usability in Complex Systems – UXUS”, Final Report 1/2015, published by FIMECC Oy.

Forget B2B, think H2H

A term that we should bury once for all is “B2B”. Ultimately, it’s always a person using your product, service or solution. So forget about business-to-business, think human-to-human. You are not designing a product for your customer. You are designing it for their users. If you just think in terms of one business selling to another, you will never reach the realm of double-price premium.

Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what the solution is – not for the container shipping industry, nor for whatever other field you may work in. But we can tell you that whoever does come up with that one golden idea will be the one whose offering the customer will want no matter the price, and the customers will be happy to pay extra for using it.

A superlative user experience can’t be something that is just styled onto the final product. It needs to be a core design goal throughout the entire process. You can go beyond a merely well-engineered product (with all due respect to engineers) and create something that truly “wows” the user – and it doesn’t need to add any cost overhead to the development process.

Goal: Make some people super happy

Reaching this level of UX will require providing not what the customer ordered, but something that greatly exceeds their expectations; something they haven’t even imagined yet. We need to deliver more than what the customer asked for. On the other hand, this also calls for great skill as we can’t overstep the project brief or make the customer feel like we are underestimating them.

UX goes beyond traditional concepts of usability, user interface design, industrial design and brand identity. An axiom of good UX design is that we shouldn’t worry about designing a product or solution that makes everyone happy. It is much better to create something that makes some people super happy.

If your customers love using your product – if they feel good about it – they will love your brand. Think about Apple users and their relationship to their tablets, smartphones and computers. Think about Harley-Davidson enthusiasts actually tattooing the logo of their motorcycle on their arm. This is certainly the ultimate victory for any brand. Or is it? After all, the question then becomes how to transfer this brand love to the next, upcoming generation of customers.

What, then, is the equivalent for our industry? It is unlikely that many clients in the container shipping business would want to engrave their service provider’s logo onto their biceps. But if a product or service is so good that people feel great using it, they will want to buy from us – or from you – and price will not be the only deciding factor. How does that sound?

So, the race is on. Who will get there first?

To read more about the possibilities of the UX methodology and research results in the field, visit http://uxus.fimecc.com/tags/ux-booklet

This post has been published also at Kalmar’s Port 2060 blog.

Jari Hämäläinen Kalmar

Jari Hämäläinen (Dr Tech.), Director, Terminal Automation, Kalmar, sees interesting opportunities in the digital convergence of ICT, industrial engineering and services. He has led offering development in Kalmar and service concept development in Cargotec. He has a background in the telecommunications and software industries, with over 300 patents in 40 global patent families helping smartphone users in their daily business and pleasure. His passion is to lead renewal through technology and business innovation.

Maaria Nuutinen VTT

Maaria Nuutinen was programme manager of the FIMECC UXUS programme (2010–2015). Her passion is to understand and help human and organisational activity in the context of technology enabled business. She is particularly interested in developing ways for enhancing mind set change and value co-creation based on user and customer experience. Her research interests include organisational culture, change management and service innovations. She is a Vice President in Business, Innovation and Foresight at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. Maaria Nuutinen received her PhD in psychology from the University of Helsinki in 2006.

Twitter: @MaariaNuutinen