Step by Step Guide to Empowering Employee Experience with Oscar Berg
Swedish Speaker, Facilitator and Author Oscar Berg speaks about his book Digital WorkPlace, a step by step guide on Employee Experience.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, welcome to this episode of HappyToday Podcast. Today, I'm joined by Oscar Berg, old colleague at Tieto, and it's funny that some of the colleagues there, we left and we set up our own companies, and everybody is somehow working around employee experience, and bringing happiness and joy, and that kind of things into their work life. Welcome, Oscar. Maybe, a short introduction of who you are and what are your passions?
Oscar Berg: Thanks a lot, Pasi. I'm Oscar Berg, and I'm from Sweden. Located in Southern Sweden, where I live with my family and a lot of kids. I have six kids, and also as you mentioned, I run my own business in this area of digital employee experience and digitalisation.
One of my passions has always been to solve problems for people, like the thing that attracted me to technology in the first place, was to design solutions that help simplify people's lives, so that's been the theme throughout my career. Although in the start of my career, no one was really interested in usability, and interaction, design, or anything.
That was just cost, but nowadays it's more a strategic thing for companies. If they don't understand it yet, it will become strategic, but those that are successful, they know that it's strategic, that human-centered design is key to succeed. If there's a red line, thin red line throughout my career, it's the human experience.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, all right and you're a speaker in events, facilitator, but also an author. There's a couple of books that have been coming out. First one, is the Superpowering People, that's one you have been writing on, designing and collaborating with digital organisations, and then the second one which I thought we take the theme around today, is the digital workplace strategy and design.
Kind of, the tagline there, is the Step by Step Guide to Empowering Employee Experience, and you wrote it also with Henrik Gustafsson.
Oscar Berg: Yeah, that's a long-time friend of mine and a colleague as well, and we were colleagues, all of us at Tieto, which is also a funny coincidence.
Oscar Berg: To me, it's basically if you look at the customer experience, it's the equivalent of when it comes to the employee, all the interactions we have with our employees in our employments or a workplace over time. It's sort of the sum of that experience, and it might be different ... or, it is different from one person to another, and it also depends on your past experiences.
If you're new to a company, you might experience something completely different because things have changed.
Pasi Nikkanen: True, true.
Oscar Berg: That also implies, that it can be hard to change the experience, because you might have lost trust, or you have a lot of negative things to undo, to keep people or, make people happy and engaged at work.
Pasi Nikkanen: I think, something that you'd call, maybe related to this, is the user experience debt that companies might start to gather.
Oscar Berg: Exactly, especially when it comes to the digital employee experience, and all the tools we use, and the systems we use, I can't think of any organisation that I've worked with where it's not a mess, where it hasn't organically developed to something that is not orchestrated or aligned.
It's a chaotic environment, and that creates sort of, and I used the analogy of if you don't clean the dishes after dinner, the pile of dishes just adds up, and that's how I feel at work for me.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, and I guess, you're talking then about digital transformation. I guess, that's what companies do when they try to start fixing things, but I saw this study from McKinsey stated that 70% of digital transformation projects fail. Is that because people treat them as tech projects and not some journey, or something like a continuous thing that you need to do. How do you see digital transformation?
Oscar Berg: The main problem, or the reason why this happens is that they don't really understand that value is created when you use something. If it's not useful, if it's not attractive to use, if it's not a good experience, you will be inclined to use it less or not at all, and then the value will not be created.
I think, it's a tech focus, or focus on delivering something, not like an output of product, not creating effective outcomes in business.
Pasi Nikkanen: Just the implementation of some technical platform, but not really what is the outcome.
Oscar Berg: And this product is successful when it's delivered on time, in budget, on specification, but it doesn't measure value or impact in the business.
Pasi Nikkanen: Got it, got it. Then, you were talking about also a little bit on the problems that lie in the digital work environments. There's six or seven that you mentioned. What do you think are the main categories, where you kind ... what the problems might be? This is not another test, that you remember in your book.
Oscar Berg: I talk a lot about it. It's good that you don't make me mention all seven or six.
Pasi Nikkanen: Let's say currently, in the current situation, what is the main issues, the main problem?
Oscar Berg: The main issue, as I see it, is the complexity. That there's a lot of things, unnecessary complexity, things that add a cognitive load on you as a user, that you have to remember things from one system to another, or you have to remember where it's worth certain things.
It adds a cognitive load on you, and at the same time, you get more and more pressure to do work fast, and with more people, and so forth. That means that productivity decreases, so if there's one thing, it's complexity.
Pasi Nikkanen: That's a good one, and I think for the rest of them, people can read from the book and find out about it, but I totally agree with you that this well thing when talking with customers and seeing the different organisation, that we just try to make it always so complex.
Oscar Berg: Even if you give them ... if you showed them this great tool, they would say, "Not another tool." The tool itself, they might love it, but it's that they have all the others, and it becomes its own big pileup.
Pasi Nikkanen: Then, you have some kind of principles, when people start to think about, "Okay, let's start to improve things." Where to start? What should be the principles to guide people in the journey?
Oscar Berg: I divide these principles into two categories, so to speak. One, is principles that guide us on how we should think, and what we should focus on. Like, users, creating value, seeing the big picture.
Then, I advocate for principles that are more about how to work, because I strongly believe that the way to solve this is to change how we work, not starting projects, buying solutions, trying to fix things with solutions, and then just letting it go, but change how we work. Establish a process, ongoing process, where we can gradually increase and improve the employee experience.
Working together, co-creating, working imperatively, making things concrete, testing, evaluating. I think, the key is in the process.
Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah, and I think that's something that big companies, it gets so complex, so people feel that there are so many silos, that the only thing that they might be able to concretely touch is the technology.
For example, when we are starting a startup and you're adding people, it's like first, you just need to have the people, then you need to create processes, and then maybe for scaling purposes, you get tech. Otherwise, you just need to first figure out what is the best way of working, and what is best for the employee so that they get their stuff done as well.
A lot of the listeners are working on service management, and I guess, services are a really important part of what people use at work. How to create perfect services? Or, what do you think are the basics when thinking about digital services? Because, the people working with service management, they might not have any background on actually setting up services or thinking what is a service.
Oscar Berg: I think, this comes back to when we once met, like you said, eight, nine years ago. The theme, the common denominator for us was service design, and also focus towards inwards towards the employee, but it's really about services and what is the foundation of service design.
To build empathy, to understand the user, these situations the user finds himself or herself in, and what needs, and the circumstances that define those situation, and learning to use the tools to get that understanding, to get feedback, to observe the users. I think, that is really the competence or skill that we need to teach ourselves and others in organisations.
Definitely, for anyone providing. We all provide services to each other, so I think that if you apply service thinking to all levels of an organisation, that will also make sure that we improve the impact and the outcomes of what we do.
Pasi Nikkanen: Then, about strategy. I think, the importance of strategy, but I think you have a very practical approach also, because sometimes when people tell about us their strategy, something that now we deal with, and then we don't touch it.
I think, it should be something more agile and more alive, but still guiding, because you might have in a large organisation multiple teams. You have vendors, you have partners who should have a focus on what they are doing.
Oscar Berg: I really don't believe in strategy, in terms of running a project, or even hiring a consultant to do the strategy for you, and he then surfaces a presentation or document somewhere. To me, strategy is a process. It's something, like we need to have this long-term vision and principles to guide us, even though we at the same time work with the operational technical things.
We need to have this, so we need to have a process which is really co-creative and agile as strategy process, that helps us go up and down, to the principles, down to the things that we're doing every day.
Basically, I advocate the same principles for a strategy, as a just totally iterative ways of working and co-creation, and this is also something you should ... Of course, you stated the technology to scale, not just doing it in a room, or in a bunch of people sitting in a close room, and create a strategy without being in touch with the reality and other people.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, and I guess, the components that you have for building a strategy, I think it's like you need to understand where you are, and I guess, you have a tool. You call it Digital Workplace Canvas. Is that something that you use nowadays as well? Or, has it formed?
Oscar Berg: I use it sometimes, not always. It's like these tools, that we use it. There's a lot of tools, and the tools that we use whenever relevant. I think, the canvas is a good ... It's like other canvases, the purpose is not to show everything. It's to provide an overview, to create something that you can see and work with together.
Although, it might bring people who otherwise might not share a common view, to create a common view, and discuss how things relate without getting into details. That's like the business model canvas, "Why are we here? What customers do we have, and what should we offer?" So forth.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right. Then, I need to be a little bit selfish.
Oscar Berg: Sure.
Pasi Nikkanen: What we do, of course, we provide happiness and productivity measurement for the services. How important do you see it is that you actually measure continuously the experiences of the services, so that you have that data transparently for everybody to show? Or, why would you measure?
Oscar Berg: Good question, I'm just kidding. Or, it's a good question. I think, it's obvious, it should be obvious. How can you know if you're successful or not if you don't measure. If you don't collect feedback, how can you learn? To me, it's like it should go without saying, but I understand. We have this history, where we haven't cared about this. We just introduce stuff, and hope that things will improve.
Pasi Nikkanen: Like you said ... I think, you said earlier. It's like, you measure the process at the project schedule, and budget, and time, but-
Oscar Berg: Not the impact. Not the important stuff you measure. I've been a product manager before, and I was appreciate by often the customer, but not the other product managers, because I wasn't really good at reporting to the budget or whatever, but I cared about the results.
Pasi Nikkanen: I think, when Agile came, I was also a product manager at that point, and that was the time when I ... because, then we were just having these small iterations, and to just show the value all the time, what are you doing, and fine tune. You didn't have to spend so much time on first trying to-
Oscar Berg: I didn't like at all being a product manager, and just ... All I was supposed to do, was to keep track of the schedule, the budget, and functionality, and not care about the outcome.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, and maybe last. What do you see the trends now? Or, has this topic, has the interest been rising? How do you see people now in corporations? How important do they feel that it is, compared to six, five, fours years ago or whatever?
Oscar Berg: Wow. I don't know if it even existed in the minds of people, the notion of the employee experience five, six years. I think, usability and things like that, of course, but now employee experience it's becoming a strategic concern. A problem I see, is that they often don't have structures or ownership of this in the organisation. The awareness of how important it is, is increasing, but how do you actually channel that to action? That's a challenge that I see in a lot of organisations.
Pasi Nikkanen: Yeah, I also see that there's also a lot of interest, that people don't maybe have the skills, they don't know where to start. I guess, after this podcast, if somebody is intrigued and they feel that, "Yes, now we just need to facilitate, to actually help us get started."
If people want to get in touch with you, how do they do it, and what do you offer, and where do you work? Is it Europe?
Oscar Berg: Yeah, Europe, mainly. Unless I can work remotely. I have worked remotely with clients outside of Europe as well, but then you have the time difference and I have six kids, so there's the reality. Since I do a lot of workshops and coaching, and I also work remotely using digital collaboration tools.
I see Europe as the region where I operate, and as I said, I do a lot of workshops, facilitation, train the trainer approach.
Pasi Nikkanen: Is there a website, or address, or email that people can contact?
Oscar Berg: Yeah, I'm on LinkedIn of course, but I have a website. It's basically just one website with my URL, which is oscarberg.net, so that's the best way to contact me.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, all right.
Oscar Berg: I'm on Twitter as well, @OscarBerg.
Pasi Nikkanen: Cool. Hey, thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure, and also nice to meet you and see you in a long time. We have been exchanging some messages in LinkedIn, but finally we got together to do something.
Oscar Berg: I'll see you soon again.
Pasi Nikkanen: All right, thank you.
Oscar Berg: Thank you.