Designing employees experience
What does it mean to be a human-centered company? How can a company improve both the day-to-day and year-to-year experience of its employees? These questions were the basis of a project named Humax which Fifth Beat worked for the Italian telecommunications company Fastweb.
Fastweb S.p.A., the Italian telecommunications company that provides landline, mobile services and broadband Internet, turned to Fifth Beat to work for an internal project named “Humax” (a crasis of the terms human and experience). The main goal of the project was to design the best experience possible for Fastweb’s employees. 360° research tools were used to examine multiple aspects of employees’ work experience, from intra-company communications to interpersonal relations, in every unit of Fastweb’s Human Capital structure. The project kicked off in October 2016 with a classic three-phase approach: research, design, and deployment. As of this writing, the research phase has been successfully concluded and delivered. Though efforts to improve internal human resource processes are not uncommon, Fifth Beat’s work with Fastweb was a rare instance of a company choosing to start with in-depth research rather than a set of pre-conceived goals or existing mission statement.
What we did
Our ethnographers and designers and Fastweb project owners team created a complex and structured research plan to get to the insights we needed. Techniques included in-person interviews in different cities around Italy and five-day “work diaries” completed by employees performing a range of roles within the company. With anonymity guaranteed to all who provided input, we sought to build an ethnographically-verified portrait of Fastweb employees’ perception of internal process and company dynamics.
Fastweb began the project with a discovery workshop to clarify project goals and understand the project’s potential.
Two Fifth Beat researchers worked in three cities to interview 10 Fastweb employees. Through semi-structured in-person interviews, we started our investigation into employee’s experience with a simple question: “Digital Human Centric Company: what does it mean for Fastweb employees?”. These interviews were conducted in the company’s three key offices: Milan, Bari, and Rome, and involved speaking with male and female employees, working in different roles in each location. All interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed with purpose-built software. Researchers focused on employees’ storytelling their work history, needs, frustrations, ambitions, perceptions, and expectations. What emerged were specific examples of experience “pain points”, setting Fifth Beat up to effectively examine communication channels between Fastweb and its workforce.
What we did
user research, ethnography, employees experience, user centered design, organizational design
Fastweb in numbers
As a complement to in-person interviews Fifth Beat distributed diaries as a means of inviting a select group of Fastweb employees to record their work experience and expectations over a five-day period. In past ethnographic research efforts, we have found diaries to be an effective means of collecting qualitative data on actual behavior and activity. In addition to recording their experience, employees were invited to describe their expectations for the upcoming workday, including hopes and fears. Although this research technique is uncommon in Italy, Fifth Beat proposed it as a means of deepening our understanding of the data that had emerged from the interviews. As with all information submitted by employee participants, total anonymity was assured.
Personas and storygraph
A thorough analysis of the data gathered through interviews and diaries was then used to create three personas. For each persona Fifth Beat then described, with the help of the work diaries, a unique scenario to better understand behaviors, touch points (interaction with specific systems, equipment or colleagues), pain points, opportunities, and communication channels inside the company. This creation of personas and associated scenarios gave Fifth Beat the information needed to map employee needs and touch points which were then visualized using our Storygraph tool: a visual mapping which combines channels, user stories and touch points on a two-dimensional plane on which and groupings and vectors representing opportunities for connection and dialogue can be indicated.
Lego Serious Play (LSP)
Near the conclusion of our research phase we ran a Lego Serious Play workshop with 12 people enacting the personas and scenarios developed using the interview and diary data. Lego Serious Play is a means of expressing concepts, connections and outcomes using the plastic bricks many people learn to love as children. Participants build structures and connections to illustrate relations or outcomes. Fifth Beat used this workshop to more fully document participants’ ideas of what a human-centered company could be. Brick by brick we had Fastweb employees create a portrait of their future workplace. This workshop was an important step in the project’s development: bridging the discovery phase to the upcoming design phase focused on workplace and process optimization.
Employee journey map
With the research phase complete Fifth Beat chose to create a “Journey Map”, illustrating the value of the work accomplished with Fastweb’s Human Capital participation. Taking the form of a visual manifesto of joint work, the map shows the journey-so-far divided in three steps: kick off, progress, and evolution. Each step lists actions, descriptions, emotions, quotes, actors, and touchpoints. This map serves as a personalized memory of the research effort so that connections, development, and process of all collected insights can be vividly recalled in future project phases.
Fastweb is now working on design phase, starting from 3 research insights: recognition; working smart and effective meeting. Fifth Beat is still main partner of the project.
Fastweb, in particular to Sara Bruno, Humax ideator and manager, and to her project team.