Appirio’s Worker Experience Tour Kicks Off in the Windy City

May 2, 2016 Nicole Klemp

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Professionals from all over the Midwest braved an unseasonably chilly day in the Windy City to attend the inaugural event of Appirio’s Worker Experience Tour. The event was held at OFFSITE, a hip and tech-friendly venue in Chicago’s West Loop. After a cocktail and networking reception, Latané Conant, Appirio’s Senior Vice President of Global Marketing, kicked things off by explaining what exactly “Worker Experience” means, who should own it (answer: everyone!), and what happens to organizations when workers are disengaged. In the healthcare field, for example, Conant explained that engaged workers can actually save lives; nurses that are more engaged in their jobs tend to visit their patients one more time per hour than those who are not engaged.

Next up, Harry West, VP of Services Product Management (and Appirio’s resident Worker Experience guru), discussed the age of the customer and how Worker Experience directly affects Customer Experience. West presented 2 schools of thought: the first from Steve Jobs, who said we should start with the Customer Experience and work backward toward technology, and the other ideology from Richard Branson, who says that clients don’t come first, employees do. In a way, they’re both right. By creating a culture of empowered, engaged workers, customers are better taken care of and more satisfied. We call this the Virtuous Cycle:

Why do we say worker instead of employee?

Companies today must adapt to new ways of work, and that includes employing people in different capacities. Not everyone who works for a company or promotes a brand is a traditional employee. That’s why it’s important to refer to anyone who works for your organization or on behalf of your organization — whether they be a contractor, intern, part- or full-time employee, or something else — as a worker. And regardless of what type of worker they are or what their role is in the company, today’s workers expect consumer-grade technology and tools to be efficient and productive in their jobs.

Nuggets of wisdom from the customer success panel

Some of the greatest takeaways from the event came from the stories shared on the customer panel. These professionals were VPs in HR, company presidents, HR directors, and marketing leaders. They all had different titles, but they all had one thing in common — they were instrumental in making Worker Experience a priority in their organizations.

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Appirio CEO Chris Barbin questioned the panel members about things like how they rate their Worker Experience efforts, what their biggest lessons learned have been, and how they handle “funding shafts” (aka budget constraints) when it comes to implementing Worker Experience initiatives. All the panelists agreed that the biggest challenges they face come not from the actual implementation of new technology itself, but with change management. There are often struggles with changing the hearts and minds of workers who have gotten used to doing things a certain way, and aren’t always thrilled about learning and using something new. Lisa Nikkila, a marketing leader at CHEP Containers Group, said the best way to handle those people is to take them from detractor to promoter: “We had salespeople who 2 years ago only wanted to use their little black book; now they can’t live without Salesforce.”

The panelists shared their success stories and their not-so-successful experiences with implementing new Worker Experience initiatives. Eric Dirst, President of Online Services at DeVry University, described the importance of piloting new programs — before implementing them company-wide — to see what will work. He also emphasized the importance of embracing (and celebrating) the failures, as they are great learning experiences.

I think Brett Eidahl, Director of Operations, HR Process, and Technology at Thrivent Financial, summed up the importance and value of the Worker Experience best: “See your people as valuable assets… not just a name, a desk, and a paycheck.”

Don Tapscott — the digital Nostradamus

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The crowd let out a collective giggle when Latané Conant introduced Don Tapscott as a “modern day Nostradamus,” but the truth is — she’s not far off. Tapscott has been predicting how new technologies will influence society for decades. Known for his bestselling books and popular TED Talks, Tapscott has become one of the foremost authorities on technology and innovation — specifically how technological advances affect our lives and economies. At the event, Tapscott spent a good amount of time discussing millennials (or the “net generation” as he calls them), and how their entry into the workforce changes things. He has been studying this generation for years, starting in the 1990s when he wrote his book, Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. He adamantly disputes the idea that people in this (my) generation are lazy, entitled, and narcissistic. (I must say I agree!) Instead, he says they are a generation of innovators and collaborators, and yes, they do in fact demand instant gratification — because it’s a digital world, and they should expect things to be instantaneous.

Tapscott explained that the old approaches to talent no longer work, and that organizations need to rethink talent for the digital age if they want to compete for the best workers. He said in today’s “knowledge economy,” companies shouldn’t be looking for skills; they should follow the example of companies like Google, and look for problem-solvers. Skills can be taught, but the desire to think outside the box cannot. To attract millennial talent, organizations need to create worker experiences that are collaborative and engaging. As Tapscott puts it, “Their culture is the new culture of work.”

Didn’t make it to the Chicago event? You can catch the Worker Experience Tour at one of our upcoming stops. These events will reach capacity, so register now!

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