Work experience as a Product

Work Experience as a Product

If the benchmark of a great conference is taking away at least one killer idea, then the recent Australian Talent Conference (ATC 2020) fits this category.

I came across two intriguing ideas that I believe may have a great impact on the world of tech talent

The first was the idea of looking at the work experience of an employee through a product lens.

This concept was presented by Dart Lindsley of Google, during his session on Talent Engagement and Mobility.

His idea is that if the work experience is a Product, it is purchased by employees on a subscription basis.

This is an intriguing concept.

This made me think about how we manage the employment experience

So by Dart’s reckoning; if the experience of having a job is thought of as a product, then the employer is a seller and the employee is a customer.

Employees “buy” the employee experience through subscription and pay for that subscription through their commitment, effort, diligence, and performance.

If the product ceases to meet their needs, they withdraw their subscription. This can then lead to poor performance and turnover.

Again, this is an intriguing concept.

At first, most employees are sold on a specific set of features and benefits when they join an organisation. These features and benefits meet specific needs for the employee at the point that they join. But, as the employee evolves in their career and life, these employment needs will change.

Often the job they subscribed to doesn’t have the ability to adapt to their needs so they leave for a new role that can. The development of an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) should combat this situation. Yet, many EVP’s are static and don’t evolve to meet changing employee needs and expectations.

Few Talent/HR functions spend time evolving EVP’s. They’re battling the day to day challenge of meeting their organisations’ talent needs

This product analogy fits well with Alexander Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas.

In this framework, he defines the value that a product or service (in this case an employment experience) delivers, into three different aspects: Gains, Customer Jobs, and Pains

Value Proposition Canvas
The Value Proposition Canvas was initially developed by Dr Alexander Osterwalder as a framework to ensure that there is a fit between the product and market.

Gains are described as the outcomes that customers (employees) want to achieve. Or, the concrete benefits they are seeking from a product (job). eg. career advancement.

Customer jobs are what customers (employees) are trying to get done in their work and their lives. These are related to their individual circumstances. eg. balance a career and family responsibilities.

Pains are bad outcomes, risks, and obstacles related to customer (employees) jobs that they are trying to avoid, eg. not having a regular income

Thinking of the employment experience in this framework shows that there are multiple facets of the employment experience that need to be met, to keep subscribers happy.

If these needs are being met then you could expect to see higher staff productivity and tenure.

This is where the second concept becomes particularly relevant. The IVP or Individual Value Proposition.

The concept was discussed by Bill Boorman. Bill is a popular speaker and thinker on issues surrounding the world of work and employment. In his opinion, the IVP is the logical evolution of the EVP.

Instead of the traditional, all-encompassing Employee Value Proposition, Bill proposes that an IVP addresses the specific factors that influence individual employee motivation.

For all intents and purposes, an IVP is a more focused EVP.
In this world of hyper-personalisation of consumer experiences, the idea of being able to craft an employment experience that meets the specific needs of individual employees no longer seems that far fetched.

Yet most organisations work to a one size fits all approach to Talent Management which puts them at a disadvantage when attracting and retaining talent.

If we combine the concepts of designing jobs as products whilst developing HR thinking that meets the individual needs of employees, the result becomes a compelling employment proposition.

Or, dare I say, an IVP.

This approach then raises the question of what are the attributes that jobs need to have so that people continue to want to buy?

The answer, drawing on the practices of Product Management, is to constantly research your Employees’ (customers) needs.

Then modifying/ improving your employment offerings in response to this feedback.

In the current competitive market for talent, your employment proposition needs at a minimum to match the market to retain existing staff.

HR functions currently do conduct market research through employee engagement and onboarding surveys and exit interviews.

However, this information is often high level and disparate and in many cases, it may only be reviewed annually. There’s then the potential delay of months before implementing any changes or outcomes from the analysis.

In the product world, however, performance is tracked daily to weekly with new product features being pushed to market monthly or quarterly. There is a formal product road map that is informed from multiple data points.

I think that Talent and HR need a similar approach where they take the regular feedback identified through constant research and codify it into a roadmap for evolving/ improving an organisation’s employment experience.

The ideas that Dart and Bill raised are not new to us. But using another business discipline (Product Management) to illustrate how things could change was very insightful.

Be it an IVP or EVP, the basic principle to getting the most from your employees is to identify what Gains, Customer Jobs, and Pains employees want addressing and making sure that your employment experience meets those needs.

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