[Panel] Scaling and Navigating the New Workplace

[Panel] Scaling and Navigating the New Workplace

At Epoch’s Employee Experience Symposium, Jade (Co-Founder and CEO of Epoch) moderated an insightful Keynote: Scaling and Navigating the New Workplace. Scroll down for key takeaways! 👇

Meet The Panelists

The Scaling and Navigating the New Workplace keynote had 4 amazing panelists.

How has the workplace evolved over the past five years? More importantly: Where are we going with WX?

Corey shares that people are investing more in people experience and social capital. This is driving opportunities to network, connect, and mesh. Elastic doesn’t have any location strategy, they hire people based on the work they do, not where they live, so they have team members in 40+ countries. They continue to support co-working spaces.

Ains shares that for Glassdoor, pre-pandemic, they worked completely in-office. During COVID, they began closing some office locations. Since then, the team’s strategy has changed resulting in a great deal of employee burnout. Therefore, it is now the time to shake it up and think about what we can do and where you can provide that difference. It’s all about meaningful connections no matter whether they are virtual, in-person, or hybrid. It’s important to be moving towards hospitality by creating spaces that increase employee connections both with other employees and the company as a whole. Given the recent layoffs, it has lately been about learning how to do more with fewer team members and prioritizing where we are putting our energy to get the most impact. Per Ains, “This is the time to try new things as the future isn’t defined. We can start defining the next five years now.”

Nathan shares that simply stating values can come across as cheesy and inauthentic. Once we find out the goal we want to achieve, how do we get there? You need to understand the value that you actually want to drive, and focus on the present. Pagerduty is hosting pop-ups globally where there aren’t office locations to bring people together using highly customized invitations with a unique piece about each person in the invite. Through this, employees can see that you care about them on an individual level and they will feel more connected and mirror the energy given to them. 

Nikko shares that five years ago, it was easy to use food to bring everyone together in the kitchen at the office - that was an easy pull. But now, what is the incentive to bring people into the office and understand what’s important to employees? Today, food isn’t enough to bring people in as it’s not going to make up for their hour commute. That’s why it’s especially important now to understand what employees are telling us and actually make it happen for them.

How should we be thinking about hybrid work? 

Nathan's goal is to make everything an excellent experience for each employee, even though he acknowledges that providing an equitable experience for remote employees is challenging compared to in-person interactions. Nonetheless, he is determined to take it to the next level and turn that aspiration into a reality.

Ains shares that when creating the budget this year, they scrapped their historical budgeting. With the move to people working mostly remote - it didn’t make sense to put all that money to food, beverages and office services when there aren’t any employees there. To Ains, it’s important to give employees more choices and flexible options to let them know that the people experience team is listening to them. Previously, remote employees always felt like they weren’t thought about. So it's imperative they can see that they are as much of a priority as in-person employees. Therefore, budget funds shouldn’t be allocated solely to lunches in the office when not all employees work from the office. They should be redistributed into programs that are going to have a better impact on more people and build a strong culture. Money is a huge way to provide equity.

To Corey, it’s about asking yourselves: “Are we matching our impact to our effort?”  Elastic also wants to get rid of the lunch program as less than 20% of employees step into the office. The question then becomes: “How do we now come to them with something more meaningful?”

Nikko shares that when you lessen the times you are able to get together in groups, the more people want to come together. This increases turnout and helps stretch the budget. Some people would rather have a happy hour once a month with everyone than lunch 3 days a week.

How do you measure the success of programs? 

Nikko shares that previously, with boots on the ground as an office manager, success was a feeling. However, now the question is “how do we balance people needs with business resources?” (i.e. what employees are saying vs. leadership demands). It’s also core to think about the budget required to create incentives and spaces to allow employees to feel safe and welcomed.

Nathan shares that his team spent a lot of time overinvesting in how to capture all data possible and using metrics to drive decisions. Now, they follow more of a trust-based approach for managers making the decisions of when it makes the most sense to be in-office together or not. PD had all the tools to capture data but saw that this didn’t resonate with employees and thus pushed more towards prioritizing gathering to build relationships versus being forced back into office.

Ains’ team uses multiple channels to measure success (surveys, 1:1s, touch points with execs, etc.) and notes it’s crucial to understand that each company has vastly different budgets. Ains also suggests leveraging tools like Epoch to really understand what is effective in events (i.e. understanding feedback metrics). RSVPs + attendance, similar to Nathan’s point, is important to understand what’s actually attractive for employees while balancing budgets and resources.

Corey shares that tracking metrics is about earning a budget and building your credibility. Metrics can support getting more resources for programs to support the employee experience. It’s important to be able to position the stories and capture the moments that add credibility to programs.

How do we effectively use data to tell stories? 

Nikko shares that managing up and understanding your audience is extremely important: if your leaders only focus on hard data, telling them about impact won’t resonate. Benchling is now a data-heavy company, and Nikko’s team is always asked to show the numbers behind everything. Knowing how to take your quantitative data and present it to leadership in a way that is number-centric is important. 

Nathan was over-tracking data about the office as people weren’t using the spaces as frequently as they anticipated. Reflecting back, he notes that if they focused on tracking an NPS score versus tracking how many people were going into the office, they would have had more valuable data.

Corey says that the process is similar to politicians. Their job is to tell a story that then gets money and gets attention. It’s really all about telling the story of what you are producing with the funds you have, whether it be data or a slide deck.

Ains shares that they know what timezone every employee is in, and they can see how many employees are in each hub location. This is valuable information, especially for distributed teams. When planning events, people may not understand where people are and where they are coming from. It helps to show you where the value adds are.

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