YMMV. I had no idea what this meant when I first saw it. I’m not that old — at least I try to tell myself I'm not — but I couldn’t pick what it stood for without doing a search. 

YMMV (your mileage may vary); this is an apt phrase in so many ways for employee experience strategies being pursued around Australia and New Zealand.

We’ve been driving the 'employee experience' thing for many years now, and, for some organisations, the focus on people in the workplace is hardly a new priority. For instance, the activity-based working (ABW) and mobile worker movement — which kicked off in 2008 and largely defined workplace strategies — were closely intertwined with the lived experience of workers. Now, over 50 per cent of Australia and New Zealad organisations say they fully support flexible working. 

But the 'mileage' achieved with these ABW and 'work from anywhere' strategies did, and do, continue to vary from organisation to organisation, from team to team, and from individual to individual.

I argue that one of the reasons some organisations and individuals struggle with approaches to flexible working is that it’s far too often equated with the funky open-plan and hot-desking offices of notable technology companies.  

Fostering stereotypes of this kind is not what ABW is about — in fact it’s entirely against the philosophy of designing and using the right space and tech for the right activity with the right people. 

But unfortunately, that open-plan, cost-cutting perception of the modern workplace was established, and many organisations tried to copy. As a result, their mileage varied wildly, especially with the correlation between happier employees and higher productivity.

Of course, we’re all acutely aware of what is defining workplaces now: the rush to address changes and challenges (for example, to support remote working) during the last 24 months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the current and emerging expectations and requirements of the workplace. We're asking ourselves:

  • Are we going to stop working from home and head back to the office?
  • Will we keep or change how we support remote workers?
  • Have we landed on exactly what defines an essential worker?
  • Will contactless and biometric-laden spaces be the norm?

There are lots of questions and just as many answers and opinions right now.

Here too, whatever transpires to define 'work' over the next few months or years, it’s really important to keep in mind that concept of YMMV. 

Actually, let me put it another way: you don’t have to settle and just accept that YMMV. By this, I mean the current shifting circumstances in Australia and New Zealand present an opportunity to continue to work on and improve the employee experience. That is, you can make the employee experience what you want it to be for you, and not just something you’ve landed on because of the pandemic response.  

I’m a big believer in starting any strategic planning with a discovery stage that places your people — customers, employees, partners, patients, citizens, students — front and centre. Everything else develops from there. 

I want to emphasise the 'your people part of this advice and how unique they are to your organisation. You want to improve their employee experience? It’s hard to do that by giving them an experience created for someone else, or one that ignores the ongoing shift in circumstances. 

So, understand what your current and desired experiences are first, and then start building, refining, iterating, and reimagining.

At Datacom, we encourage organisational leaders and stakeholders to consider four key pillars of the workplace and the trends or developments within each as they formulate their own unique plan:

  1. The physical spaces and things
  2. The processes and practices
  3. People and culture
  4. The technology.

Each of these pillars will have an impact on the employee experience and, as a result, the outcomes your organisation achieves. They all need to work in harmony.

I want to pose some questions for IT leaders, specifically, so they’re getting the best mileage out of their strategy: 

  • Do they, or their service providers, know if they're really in tune with efforts to improve the employee experience?
  • Do they have proactive monitoring and employee support that’s based on evidence/data?
  • Do they have the right balance between automated self-service and the human touch?
  • Is application and user experience hindered by underlying platforms?
  • Are they driving innovation and outcomes?

This article is supported by Dell Technologies and VMware.

Darren Hopper is highly passionate about employee experience. With over 20 years of leading marketing and product development initiatives, his expertise lies in product and proposition development including research, insights, and customer end-to-end journey mapping across all touchpoints.

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