In the past, employee experience and satisfaction were often times neglected in a corporate real estate strategy. The pandemic has been a huge wake-up call for companies to understand its importance. In this episode, Brittney Van Matre and Sabine Ehm discuss prioritizing the individual employee experience.
Our employee experience strategy expert guest
Brittney Van Matre is the former Director of Workplace Strategy and Operations at Nike. She started her career in consulting, which gave her the opportunity to work closely with many industries. After four years, she began working at Nike, where she remained for the following 11 years. Brittney worked in multiple areas of the company, giving her insight into how different teams work best. She started in their Internal Audit Practice, then decided to move into Product Creation, which she describes as the “heart and soul” of the company. After a while, she decided to move back into a more consulting-style position in the market place, where she remained until recently.
It was in market place where Brittney began her journey with consumer experience. For four years, Brittney worked one-on-one with retailers transforming spaces to improve the overall experience of Nike customers. This position left her well-prepared for workplace strategy.
What is the employee experience?
We can find the answer to the question ‘What is the employee experience?’ in Academy of Management Journal, Vol 45. It is a set of psychocognitive sentiments about the experiential benefits of employment. The employee experience is closely connected with customer experience through employee experience management. Employee experience management aims to deliver positive experiences to employees that leads to a positive customer experience by emphasizing their experiential needs as does experiential marketing for external customers.
Listen to the following clips to learn more about Brittney and her understanding of how to best create a healthy workplace environment.
“There are a lot of parallels between the consumer experience world and the employee experience world because actually, consumers are also employees.” – Brittney Van Matre
Creating workplace experience for and with the employees
Brittney started the conversation by stressing the importance of involving your workforce in corporate real estate decision-making. It is crucial to have employee experience and wellbeing at the center of the conversation when “looking at what kind of real estate are we going to procure, what are we going to divest of, how we are going to create services across our different campuses”.
Over the course of a year and a half, Brittney and her team created the Nike Workplace Experience Strategy. It is a holistic approach. However, at its core is the employee experience. Previously, the individual and their needs and desires were not always looked at first. Often, the company focused on real estate play or industry trends. Now, Brittney was able to refocus their strategy to be employee-centric.
“I think what will be important is that companies keep that openness to actually listen to their employees. There were a lot of surveys done in the past year, but again, we’re humans, we change a lot.” – Sabine Ehm
The pandemic changed everything. Companies are now deciding what their approach will be to employee attendance. Many big tech businesses have given the freedom to their staff to choose whether or not they want to come into the office at all. Remote-style working has gained popularity, which has also created an interesting dynamic for talent retention. If a highly skilled worker can make a good living and work from wherever they want, why wouldn’t they? However, on the other hand, how much freedom is too much?
Nike has chosen a more conservative approach, requiring employees to come into the office 3 days a week. There are different schools of thought on which path is the better one. Looking into the future, there’s little we can predict, but there are steps we can take.
Adapting workplace experience to individual needs
“Women and mothers have suffered more in the pandemic than their male counterparts because of the nature of being a mother and having to take care of the household. A lot of women are in positions now that it’s not really conducive for them to go into an office 3 days a week. The dynamics have changed.” – Brittney Van Matre
Throughout this episode, Brittney and Sabine stress the importance of understanding the individual needs of each employee. Since the pandemic forced everyone to work from home, women were impacted on a greater scale due to care-taking roles and household responsibilities.
Sabine refers to an interview with Arianna Huffington where she discussed how the workplace as we know it comes from an era where mostly men were in the office. They didn’t need to separate their private and their work lives because there was someone at home taking care of it. This doesn’t cater to the needs that we have today.
New approach to employee experience strategy
“We are still operating based on the industrial revolution mindset. Go to this specific location, clock in, do your work, and go home”. The pandemic has totally disrupted this. It will be interesting to see which businesses revert back to old practices and those that move with the times. Brittney then questioned what the true meaning of “the office” is. If it’s not a building we should spend time in daily, then what is it? Brittney went on to describe a new version of company headquarters, where its purpose is to facilitate collaboration and events, as opposed to cubicles.
“Everybody is human at work. Everybody is bringing their humanness to work, whether they know it or like it or are even remotely aware of it, they’re bringing it to work. In my opinion, the corporate space is quite an unconscious space. There’s a lot of people wearing masks, pretending to be something they’re not.” – Brittney Van Matre
Brittney is a certified teacher with the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Program from Google. The program is about teaching mindfulness and educating on emotional intelligence. In this clip, she speaks to how in the corporate environment, there’s often a stigma around mental health. Brittney sees this as a big opportunity when improving employee welfare. As the world emerges from the pandemic, companies must focus on the actual psychological employee experience.
Conclusion for why employee experience matters
As we head back to the office, it is imperative that companies take an employee-first approach to CRE strategy. Understanding the needs of each staff member will improve overall morale. Depending on the person, these needs may be different. For example, professional women were impacted on a greater scale than their male counterparts. So, businesses must figure out how to best support those individuals. Each company’s approach to individual satisfaction will determine their culture and, in turn, retention.
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