Employee Experience Lessons From Kindergarten

I recently had the pleasure of going along on my son’s Kindergarten class field trip.  The plan called for us all to hop on board a Big Yellow School bus (boy that brought back memories – they still look and smell exactly the same as I remember them), stop at the neighbouFarm Field Tripring school to pick up MORE kids and then head out of town to visit a prototypical Saskatchewan farm.  Now for those of you not familiar with Saskatchewan – it is a place where the locals consider the Mosquito our Provincial bird.  It is the place where summers may be short, but the days are typically long and “sun-drenched”…So, I was looking forward to this rare day off work to spend it out in the sun with my son!  Wouldn’t you know it – the day dawns only to find it “socked-in” with rain – you know the kind of day I mean – grey, unbroken clouds as far as the eye can see…

Undaunted, my son viewed it as a rare opportunity to try on his Spider-Man rain jacket and rubber boots…So off we go.

Once we had assembled all the parents and kids from both schools we began the trip out of town….That is when it struck me – the kids were all smiling, eager to experience something new, while chatting with the kids from the other school as if they were life-long friends.  Unlike the grumbling adults, the rain was just another element of the adventure.

It got me thinking – we could learn a lot just watching kids interact during a kindergarten field trip.

So, what does this all have to do with HR Technology?  What if we approached architecting HR software not from the technology perspective, but more from the human factor?  What kind of employee experience could we deliver?

Provide Just-In-Time Experiences

Kindergarten kids are perfect examples of “living in the moment”.  They focus on the specific activity at hand.  They use the tools supplied (paint brush, crayons, tape, etc.), ask questions of the experts (teachers, volunteers) and interact with their classmates to get the activity completed. When the particular task is done, they move on to the next project comprised of a whole next set of tools, experts and classmates.  What if HR Tech worked that way?  You log in and the system knows what role, location and project you are working at.  It provides you with a personalized job-hub providing one-click access to all the information, system tools/processes and people necessary to complete the tasks at hand. It automatically connects you via real-time chat to subject matters experts available at every step along the way so you can ask for assistance/guidance.  It detects which of your peers are online and available so you can collaborate as needed.

Foster Making New Connections

Kids are great in that they are so open to new ideas and playing with kids they haven’t met before.  I was amazed to watch kids from both schools intermingle, cooperate and try new things.  They are refreshingly honest with each other – but that is ok, because it is done as a matter-of-fact with no sense of intrigue, hidden agendas or ill will.  The end result, they learn from each other, devise creative solutions and make “new best friends” with ease.  What if HR Tech could help do the same thing?  Provide an employee collaboration environment built upon transparency?  A place where everyone’s opinion is respected and it is ok to debate with each other.  You could browse to find colleagues, learn about the person behind the name, start a conversation with someone you haven’t met before, find someone with expertise/interests aligned with a project you are working on, create a personal network or simply recognize a peer for a job well done.

Easy To Use Yet Engaging

Kindergarten kids are the ultimate usability lab…If an activity is too complicated or boring – they’ll disengage in record time.  The magic is in creating interactive, relevant, productive experiences without the complexity.  When you have that balance right – as evidenced by the line-up of kids waiting to try their hand at milking Daisy the Cow – adoption happens naturally. The same can be said about designing effective technology.  Is it easy to adopt and useful/relevant to the employee as they go about doing their job?   Is the solution interactive and engaging (i.e. does it possess innovative design elements in support of intended use)?Employee_Experience_Ring

Advances in Internet technologies, mobile devices and social applications are making it possible for enterprises to change the way they engage with and manage the workforce.  Leveraging a unique combination of these technologies, when deployed in support of a specific employee function, is creating a new kind of employee experience.  An experience that isn’t only interactive and engaging, but one that also drives adoption and increases productivity for the company.

Now if only I could figure out a way to create a “groundswell” of support for instituting afternoon naps at the workplace.

Cary Schuler, CEO, cfactor Works Inc.  @CarySchuler

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