I take a lot of notes. Post-its, Google Docs, my Notes app, napkins, mental notes. I’m always listening, especially when you think I’m not. This is how I know what you need, what you want, and what you don’t like. And, usually, what you’re feeling at any given moment when I’m walking or sitting nearby. Hopefully one day we’re stunned by how comfortable we are advocating for what we want and need in a workplace. But for now, I got you.
Not a day goes by that I don’t see something in the world around me that strikes me as inspiration for aesthetics or events or food or any number of ways that experiences can translate to the workplace. That means that I have a massive collection of resources and data to help me see the patterns that tell me what you do and do not want out of your workplace experience.
So, What Counts as Workplace Experience?
Chronologically, your workplace experience (WX) starts when you sign your offer letter. From that moment on, ideally, you’re in the hands of someone who touches every aspect of the internal organization. Maintaining best friend-level rapport with each human touchpoint, ensuring a consistent top-notch experience for you AND your teammate Jill over in Amsterdam.
The IT department will set up your laptop, but are they going to give you a tour and tell you where the office supplies and snacks are? Probably not. The world of tech has not even come to an age where it is standard to set every new employee up with a laptop and software/hardware to enable them to be fully mobile or even comfortable in their day-to-day.
Now, we not only need to have a standard, but we need to go beyond that and personalize the onboarding experience. Do you want a Magic Keyboard, or do you work best with a mechanical keyboard, or maybe one of those weird-shaped ergonomic keyboards? I can’t possibly know that for you at this point in our journey, nor can I tell you how you work best for success in general. I should, and do, trust that you know how you work best.
Workplace experience means enabling and jumpstarting your employees’ success (read: your success) from day one. Workplace experience is the checkpoint between every step of your career lifecycle while under our care. We are thoughtful and cohesion-sensitive. Have you been registered with building security, told how to get around? Do you know how, and with whom, you’re spending your first day, first week? Is your chair to your liking? Do you know the weird trick to get the back left stairwell door open?
It would take me 50 more pages to take you through my fantasy of the most beautiful, well-rounded, and personalized onboarding experience. But I’ll save those of you who would rather not spend the time — and those of you who would, PLEASE, come see me!
It takes a hundred conversations (many with yourself) and an intricate web of cross-departmental collaboration to put an experience program into effect, to make it efficient and consistent. Everyone involved has to follow through.
Layers and layers of trust have to be built to affect change at any level of an organization. But behavioral changes? Winning hearts and minds? If I could tell my younger self to get the psychology major instead of minor, I would. I have 250 clients and a leadership team responsible for blessing any changes. Does your leadership team trust you? Do YOU know how THEY work best? Because you’ll need to present your business case and the data to back it up in a way that resonates with them in order to get your policy or project approved.
On that note: How many ongoing projects — most of which are not related to one another — do I have today? I could list 20 big ones off the top of my head including multiple events in multiple locations. And, with my personal brand of anxiety, I feel like I’m accomplishing nothing, as I juggle everything. But then like magic, everything works out.
Another thing to note is that no matter what industry you’re in, or where your office is located, WX teams will be working with building staff. This includes Property Managers, custodial staff, electrical engineers, painters, plumbers, security, delivery drivers, anyone delivering mail and packages… I could go on. Coworkers aside, these are the people WX teams spend their days constantly asking for help. How many times have you notified your WX team of something awry in the office like a toilet that won’t stop flushing or Diet Coke needing to be refilled? Now multiply that by how many employees are in the building on any given day.
I receive anywhere from five to 50 service requests a day — and honestly, by the time I’ve submitted my third help ticket of the day, I kinda feel naggy and needy. And because of the nature of working in a large building in a major city, this happens all the time. Now add a second building in another city. I need these people to be my friends, my pals, because asking so much of someone on a regular basis needs to come along with some mutual respect and kindness. It’s really easy to simply be nice to the people helping you out — regardless of the fact that it’s what they are paid to do — because a position or salary doesn’t always dictate how hard you work or your attitude during.
So when Hector and Will assemble shelves and hang art and re-do a paint job five times because we’re really picky about our branding, I better present as grateful and humble because they did not need to stop what they were doing to tend to my requests. But they do anyway, because I’ve carefully built and maintained those relationships. And now, a year after we met, when they see me in the halls they ask if there is anything I need THAT day. We don’t even need to involve anyone else. They help me out, and I make sure they know they are always welcome to snag some pizza from our biweekly Lunch & Learns or a beer at Happy Hour. I always give them new swag items, and the quarterly gift card inside a hand-written thank-you note to show them how appreciated they are, and that we think of them like we think of our own staff.
With healthy and positive rapport, HqO now gets the advantage of being bumped to the top of every request list and is saving money. Do you take extra care to interact with your service people? Even in your daily life, you know that if you want repeated and efficient service, you’ve got to be super nice and kind to your hairdresser and your mailman. Otherwise you get lumped into the standard level of care. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that for myself or for you. In the battle of vinegar vs. honey getting you what you need, put away the vinegar, no one wants it.
Maybe it’s the discomfort with ambiguity that actually makes us great — while I’m busy wondering how I ever meet a deadline, I’m considering every possible way every situation could turn out (go wrong) so I can prepare at least a dozen options for each of those possibilities. This is unstoppable, and sometimes burdensome, but I contribute much of my success in cultivating sentiment and earning the trust of the people it’s for to that specific brand of anxiety.
Perhaps the only silver-lining of the emergence of COVID-19 is that it tipped the world of recruiting in the favor of the employee. For maybe the first time ever, employees were interviewing companies to see if they checked all the boxes. Why should you leave your house when you’ve been here for two years just fine? Now we know we need to be creating experiences, making magic happen daily, to develop well-rounded employee-centric cultures. We need to make the physical office space functional for every type of worker. We’re ready to spend more money on snacks and ergonomic desk setups, but we’re not fully open-armed towards ESG implementation quite yet (at least in the U.S.).
No matter what we do, I want to be so intimately close with our staff that eventually when anyone asks me a question or submits a request, it’s already in the works, or has already been done.
HqO’s Take on Workplace Experience
At HqO, we are in the unique position of having a product that is meant to help people like me and our HR, IT, and WX teams. So while your friendly neighborhood WX team is planning your Summer Outing and scheduling on-site manicures and boat cruises, we’ve also evolved into a resource for our Product team.
Who better to inform on useful features for clients who want their employees to come to the office, than the people going through those processes in your own house? It feels really good to know that I’m contributing to the business via multiple streams. I do this by creating special experiences for employees with our internal culture program (A+R talent!) and through important and direct feedback through our people and our own product. I need the business to succeed if I want to keep doing awesome things for awesome people.
We know there’s more to do. We have a lot to learn. The WX team is hungry and excited not only to do the work, but to never stop learning and improving. If we can recognize that the only constant in business is change, then the same theory applies to the culture of that business and the needs of its employees. Even at HqO, we don’t have every facet of WX figured out. We don’t even always agree on what is necessary to do, or urgent, or even falls under the purview of the WX team’s responsibility. We are still learning alongside our customers. We do know that experiences are emotional and the best experiences are personalized. Thus, we hope that in the cultural program we are trying to create for every one of our 250ish employees instills a positive emotional reaction to the experiences we provide in the workplace. Wherever that may be.