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teams getting aligned - people & culture

Prime Time To Personalize the Employee Experience

by Jessica Jagoditsh | March 26, 2021 | Blog

Good Day Scrummy Friends. What an exciting time!  For many of us, masks are starting to come off, restrictions are being lifted and, just as the sun rises at dawn, we, too, are beginning to venture out of our homes in search of long lost thrills - such as dentist appointments, open-air dining, haircuts and maybe even some live music or sports.  Huzzah!  Feels pretty amazing if I do say so myself.  

I wanted to share with you a recent experience that got my thinking wheels a-spinnin’.  I attended a monthly virtual brunch of local People Operations leaders. The topic - ‘Employee Wellness’.  We started off talking about that topic and it was interesting to watch how the topic morphed very quickly towards something more like ‘Returning to Work Post-Covid.’  Because really, in our HR world, no topic demands our attention more right now.  

employees brainstorm around tableDuring brunch, As ideas and experiments started to popcorn up - some successful and not-so-successful - I realized a few things. We are ALL going to struggle with adjusting to the evolving world. AND We are ALL working in very different kinds of organizations, with different types of systems and levels of complexity. And yet, all of us have one thing in common - in order for us to make this transition, we all need to partner up with and listen to our employees - our #1 customers. Everything needs to be about them - their experience and their needs.  

Eureka! It’s a new world. What in tarnation do we do?

I think now, more than ever, needs to be a time of reflection. As we look toward the future, what might our company look like for our employees? 

  • How did we work before COVID?  What did we like about that? What didn’t we like? 
  • What has worked for our employees since the lockdown?  What didn’t?
  • What do our people need their tomorrow to look like in order to bring their best self to work every day?

We need to be asking these questions, and we start now.

Why is NOW so important?

Friends, we have a unique window of opportunity. A return to “normalcy” or whatever you want to call it, does not mean a return to “the way things were.”  Instead, we must inspect and adapt, and put those hard lessons to good use because you can be sure that your competition is thinking about these questions, and the smart ones are going to be making changes - changes your employees need.

There is certainly no one size fits all approach. What worked in some places won’t work in others. And while many of us only offered a generally common employee experience in the past, going forward we are going to have to personalize those experiences so that we do still have amazing places to work.  

Personalizing the Employee Experience 

So, what might the next evolution of our employee experience look like?  Can we seize this opportunity to really conceive of some ideas and create a better place to work? 

To come up with the very best solutions, we are all going to have to run LOTS of experiments and be open to success and failures. By experiments, I mean come up with something you want to test out, figure out what metrics to track, then try it, reflect on the result, and tweak.  We will have the biggest wins by creating a transparent and rapid feedback loop with our employees so that we can inspect and adapt. We are going to need to change course nimbly as the world, and our workforce continues to change around us. What better way to organize these experiments than using Scrum?

There are several areas for People Operations to tackle, and one area that has come up often is what to do with our physical office spaces. Let’s ask ourselves these questions, “What might our new workspaces look like?”  

With fewer folks around, and as folks trickle back a little at a time, how can we better relate our workflow and our workspace? On this topic alone, there are tons of experiments we could try. Here are some questions you may be asking yourself that will undoubtedly impact your employee experience:

  • Have you ever wanted to change your workspace but it was just too solidified in old ways to adjust?  
  • Have people been planted in their 4” x 6” cubes for too long?  
  • Does putting people in boxes create a productive environment?  
  • If everything is open, will privacy be an issue? Will some need a quiet space? 
  • Can we create a space where there can be collaboration and also privacy? What is the balance? 
  • How might you play with your space to enable a better experience for your people?  
  • How can we accommodate fewer folks (perhaps with a cost savings bonus) if we use a hybrid and still make shared desks welcoming? 

Team, let’s flex our Agile muscles and get to work. Using Scrum is an amazing framework for testing hypotheses.

If you are wondering what working through a problem like this might look like using Scrum, and how Scrum incorporates our employees' thoughts into solutions, here’s a high-level approach to consider:   

Sprint 1: Get some ideas from employees and brainstorm to design an experiment. Create a backlog and execute it. Maybe you decide to try a desk reservation system. Arrange desks in a way that seems logical, and use a spreadsheet as a simple reservation system to start. Release it to a small group of folks, let them try it, then ask them - is this what you wanted? What might be better?  

Sprint 2: Take that feedback and try a tweak. Maybe so many people wanted to sign up that there wasn’t availability and some folks complained. Maybe the first people to sign up took up all of the spaces before everyone had a chance. What could we try to create an even distribution?  Brainstorm. Create a backlog. Execute. Ask your testers - Is that what you wanted? Is this what you need? 

Rinse and repeat. Evolve with the world, not in spite of it.

This example may seem simple, but remember, Scrum is simple. The problems we need to solve, now those are really hard. But we can solve them if we put our people’s experience and needs front and center.

Friends, I don’t know the best answer for you, but what I do know is that if we use this brief window in time to be the forcing function for change, great things will happen. New environments will emerge. Experiences will lead to ideas. Feedback will drive improvements. And, your  #1 customer, those amazing employees, will love you for it.