Epoch hosted a Happy Hour for leaders and innovators in the Employee Experience space to mix and mingle in San Francisco. The event also featured a fireside chat where Jade Choy, Epoch's CEO and co-founder, had conversations with leaders and innovators in the employee experience and engagement space.
In case you missed it, here are some key learnings and takeaways from our Fireside Chat featuring Shaun Lee, Director of Global Workplace Services at Okta, and Corey Williams, Global Engagement Lead, Workplace Experience at Elastic! Scroll on for notes! 👇
Corey is the Global Engagement Lead for Workplace Experience at Elastic. Elastic operates in a distributed work model, being a remote-first company with a global presence in 40+ countries and 30+ offices, emphasizing hiring based on capabilities rather than location. Corey has a background in theatre stage management and values the importance of creating people-centric experiences in the workplace, drawing early inspiration from watching the show The Office and understanding how social capital enhances a workplace.
Shaun's professional journey has taken him from being a general contractor to providing project management services to his current role as Director of Global Workplace Services at Okta. Okta is an international company with 21 offices across 15 different countries. Prior to the pandemic, Okta had a strong in-office culture but has since shifted to embrace a more Dynamic working environment. Workplace culture varies significantly in different regions and different functions. For example in APAC and EMEA, office utilization rates tend to be higher than in NAMER, while certain functions like Sales have a more in-office culture than engineering. These differences in how employees utilize office space highlights the need for multiple approaches in evaluating the Real Estate needs of the workplace.
At Elastic, Corey emphasizes the significance of having a physical space for people to gather, a concept that has evolved over time. In the past, the office was frequently used for work, but today, these spaces have transformed into event hubs. Their slogan, "bringing people together," embodies this shift in mindset.
They've even reimagined the physical layout by removing desks and incorporating flexible furniture that can be rearranged for different events. In essence, Elastic is positioning its offices as gathering spaces, prioritizing interaction and collaboration over traditional office setups.
Shaun's perspective also highlights the evolving role of physical office spaces in the modern work landscape. With an appreciation for the possibilities of remote work, Okta embraces a culture of innovation. In NYC, they've gone beyond the traditional office setup by incorporating a retail space that helps with brand awareness, with a space for experiences tailored for customer events as well as an office space for employees to connect and collaborate.
In San Francisco, the company is taking innovation to the next level by developing an amenities floor complete with a movie theater and mini-golf, creating unique and engaging environments to foster collaboration and camaraderie.
Okta’s approach to office sites centers on creating spaces that not only facilitate team gatherings but also accommodate different types of work. Recognizing the diverse working styles of employees, they prioritize meeting rooms for collaboration, as well as areas for deep focus work, ensuring that the office remains a valuable asset for a wide range of work activities and employee preferences.
Many new joiners at Elastic may not even be aware of the existence of offices due to the fact that the company is primarily distributed. To encourage utilization of these spaces, they actively promote their workplace team, being visible and building relationships and loyalty with Elasticians. Their strategy involves active presence on Slack location channels and social platforms, alongside extensive marketing efforts to convey the offerings available at their office.
They maintain a monthly newsletter highlighting workplace-related information and prioritize hosting enjoyable events at the office. Elastic's Workplace hiring strategy also leans toward individuals with hospitality backgrounds to further enhance the workplace experience.
Conversely, Shaun's customer-centric approach at Okta focuses on understanding specific user needs and partnering with Employee Resource Groups and other associations to ensure that the physical workspace caters to the needs and expectations of their employees effectively.
When it comes to engagement, it's essential to not only assess the qualitative aspects but also find ways to collect quantitative data. Corey asks questions like how people can be encouraged to attend events and how to track space utilization. Tracking the number of events supported, including those organized by other teams, and the number of events created internally is crucial in understanding workplace engagement at Elastic.
At Okta, a workplace experience survey is conducted twice a year to gather employee experience feedback. Metrics around space utilization and how physical spaces are used by employees are also used or in development. Shaun acknowledges that there is room for growth in data analytics within workplace teams and coming up with ways to measure what truly matters to the business and encouraging employees to participate in surveys for valuable feedback is key.
Corey underscores the importance of having leadership actively participate in workplace events at Elastic. Their strategy involves scheduling events to accommodate the availability of leaders, allowing them to witness firsthand the impact of bringing people together.
In addition to qualitative insights, it’s also important to collect quantitative data, like cost and return on investment. Corey recommends having the spend per person available to leadership along with the amount of additional impact that you can have.
Shaun also recognizes the significance of qualitative aspects and the awareness of executive leadership. Similarly, they are working on linking these qualitative elements to return on investment.
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Key learnings from our Epoch & Talk half day conference in New York.