- At the WorkX Conference, attendees explored how to bridge the talent gap through data-driven workplace decisions and mapping the employee journey for a more focused effort.
- When you effectively deploy a more holistic approach to the employee experience and design strategy for the office, home, and third places, you are able to then create an enjoyable and lasting employee experience.
- The conference speakers collectively advocated for leaders to create an environment and team where it’s safe to fail, be honest, and experiment.
At the WorkX Conference hosted by Future Offices in New York City last month, attendees explored how to bridge the talent gap through data-driven workplace decisions and mapping the employee journey for a more focused effort.
Among the takeaways:
1. Close the talent gap with a multi-prong strategy.
Managing today’s talent pool is complicated, and today’s headlines do not always tell the full story, according to Human Capital Management (HCM) Consultant Pamela Stroko. When planning for talent, management must be aware of overall trends relative to who’s leaving, who’s staying, who’s looking, and how, where and when do they want to work.
“We are in a talent market of declining supply and increasing demand, which is global,” Stroko said.
In the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the most robust job market in more than 50 years, and we have the lowest number of employees filing for unemployment in decades.
“With unemployment rates at 3.4%, that translates to 1.9 jobs for every person who wants one,” she said.
She cited the huge demand in healthcare, where opportunities are available at all skill levels, and continuing demand in the tech sector — which is predicted to grow jobs more than 14% over the next seven years.
Layoffs in tech were a response to rapid growth and hiring during the pandemic due to changing business needs (such as Amazon who staffed up as pandemic-bound customers created massive demand for online shopping), as well as poor business decisions (Meta’s recent layoffs of 11,000 people were a result of the tech leader quietly closing the Metaverse.).
“It’s about pressing the reset button,” she explained. “Netflix was paying $500,000 for a software developer. That’s not sustainable.”
For nearly every function in tech, there is a need far beyond available talent, and she noted that job openings in tech are four times the number of recent layoffs.
To close the talent gap, Stroko advocated implementation of a long-term strategy comprised of:
- Creating a talent marketplace
- Deconstructing jobs to skill sets
- Skill matching
- Developing a workplace strategy based on how you work: remote/hybrid/in office
- Creating a culture that people want to be a part of — something Gen Z particularly desires.
2. Before you measure, know what you need to learn and how you will use the data.
Adrienne Rowe, head of workplace strategy at Raytheon Technologies, shared tactics she has found helpful when conducting workplace research. She suggested:
- Align measurements with real business decisions. For example, if lease decisions are made every three to five years, daily utilization reporting likely will not add value over less frequent reporting.
- Focus on the 3Es when measuring
- Efficiency (e.g. portfolio data and cost when available to create ratios)
- Effectiveness (how well workplace supports desired and previously agreed-upon outcomes)
- Experience (best achieved via survey)
3. Balance quantitative measures with qualitative insights to tell a more holistic story.
Rowe suggested, when possible, to incorporate multiple known and trusted sources of measurement comprising both quantitative and qualitative data. For example, focus groups can be used to understand the context behind utilization data or survey scores. Other tools could include:
- An employee engagement survey
- Portfolio data (square footage, headcount, seat count, cost of ownership)
- Behavioral data (onsite presence, usage of different space types, employee mobility rates)
- Employee sentiment
- Internal data, such as attrition rates
- Secondary external data such as industry benchmarks
4. Use data to guide where to dive deeper.
In some cases, initial findings that capture the voice and experience of the employee are only the first step in informing planners what merits further study. At one organization, a heat map led to focus groups that revealed insights about employee jobs, family, tenure and age. The findings helped researchers understand why certain areas were red and green at particular times.
At another organization, a study was done to right-size a portfolio that had expanded due to acquisition. Data helped determine how to size and locate different spaces that led to an activity-based work program comprised of focus zones, huddle spaces, thinking zones, focus areas, chatter zones and more.
5. Survey employee engagement broadly and often.
One organization sought to hear from large numbers of employees on a regular basis. They directed surveys to employees on their anniversary month, assuring a regular flow of data, but only reaching out to individual employees once a year.
6. Understand the employee journey.
Journey maps and personas are powerful tools that can lead to the right solutions for the company and employee. They can help when developing communication plans and resources, as well as ensure creation of the right workspaces and resources that employees will use.
Wells Fargo Vice President of Workplace Experience Jeff Martin advised using journey maps to determine key moments, identify pain points and process gaps, and then develop solutions. For example, a change such as removing paper coffee cups in break areas may appear to have minimal impact on employees but create a poor experience for visitors.
Walking the experience himself revealed potential pain points that could be uncovered and resolved before implementing the change. Similarly, using a journey map to walk through the experience of moving to a new building may reveal gaps in the execution of the process, such as ensuring that security access is updated and employees know who to go to with questions.
7. Employ an active listening strategy to understand employee sentiment during specific moments that matter in the employee journey.
When you effectively deploy a more holistic approach to the employee experience and design strategy for the office, home, and third places, you are able to then create an enjoyable and lasting employee experience, Martin noted.
Test. Measure. Fail quickly. Reboot. A “test and iterate” approach was advocated by several speakers as a way to test new programs, policies and space uses.
It can take a collaborative approach, such as interviews with leaders of different business units. This yielded rich insights that a team workshopped together with leadership to understand how different teams worked globally.
It was also a way to develop a customized approach for what works best.
“One size fits one. What works in Barcelona may not work in Reykjavik,” speakers related. “You need to pivot and make agile decisions.”
Failure means a learning emerged that likely prevented something from scaling that was not going to work, speakers revealed. While it can be difficult to discuss, it helps to build trust and psychological safety.
The speakers collectively advocated for leaders to create an environment and team where it’s safe to fail, be honest, and experiment.
Contents of this article represent the author’s own point of view and do not represent the positions, strategies or opinions of MillerKnoll.