We’re passionate about the world of work, and how we can make it better. To help satisfy our curiosity, we’ve launched an interview series where we pick the brains of experienced leaders, business owners, managers, and individual contributors to get their thoughts on how we can collectively build better.
We’d love to get to know you a bit better, tell us a bit about your backstory.
At first glance, my professional history might look like a jumbled mess of different industries and roles, but there is a common thread; I’ve always worked on delivering impactful experiences for people.
I started at Walt Disney World in Florida on the College Program, making someone’s day while they were on holiday, then graduated into helping them book amazing holidays as a travel consultant. Continuing the pattern, I started helping shape peoples’ work lives as a recruiter, before moving on to design better employee experiences at an organizational level with intelliHR.
Now I’m their first ever Learning and Development manager and my job is to bring all of that history to bear, so our people can support all our customers to deliver positive work experiences for their staff.
At a personal level too, I’m all about variety. Born and raised in far north Queensland, I’ve been a volunteer firefighter, a chemistry tutor, an exchange student and studied a double degree in Business and Psychology. Right now I’m working on a Diploma of training development and design. I also know how to juggle (literally and figuratively).
If we were to ask a friend to describe your personality to us, what would they say?
Lauren is full of energy and big ideas. She’s not shy and will jump on a stage to explain an idea if that’s what you need. She’s kind and thoughtful and has a cheeky sense of humor (at least I hope this is what people would say!)
Thinking back to your career journey, what’s an interesting story that stands out?
This will sound like such a small story; it represents a huge shift in mindset though.
I was working with a customer who wanted to bring in a continuous feedback process. We set up a really simple questionnaire that was pulsed out to all their employees once a month, asking them how they were going in their roles and whether there was anything the business could do to support them better. (You can learn more about why we, at intelliHR, think continuous feedback is important here).
When we caught up to review the results, they were underwhelmed. Most people hadn’t suggested anything, and one long-standing employee had made the big ask for the business to provide full-cream milk in the breakroom (he didn’t like the taste of the “light stuff”).
They were disappointed that this person wasn’t taking their efforts seriously. I understood their reaction, but I was also curious to see how this would play out. I asked them what would happen if they did buy the full cream milk? How that employee might feel when he opened the fridge and saw exactly what he’d asked for? That’s when the conversation shifted.
They realized that this was a really easy (and cheap) opportunity to show that this feedback process was legitimate. That someone was reading the responses and doing something about it. That maybe it was ok to share more serious things next time, because it was being taken seriously. They added the milk to the weekly grocery shop and haven’t looked back.
What’s the most impactful lesson you've learned over your career thus far?
I was always a little self-conscious of the variety in my work history, wondering if I’ll ever find “my thing”.
I knew from my chemistry days that the first law of thermodynamics is that energy can’t be created or destroyed, but realizing that it applies to all the energy we put into our careers has had a big impact on me. Now I know that the efforts in learning each job is always reused in some way, that the collection of jobs and experiences one person has will be completely different to someone else. Your unique profile of experience might just be what you need to succeed in a way nobody else ever has before.
Thanks for giving us some insight into who you are! Let’s jump into things. When you hear the phrase “build a better world of work”, what comes to mind?
“Better” means different things to different people, but most of us envision a world of work with less of the frustrating, annoying parts and more of the good, exciting, challenging, rewarding ones. To me, building a better world of work starts with acknowledging the significant amount of time we spend working and committing to mindfully designing the experience so that it’s worthwhile for everyone.
Unpacking that, mindful design means taking an intentional approach to everything that makes up the world of work: the responsibilities of the role and the way they’re expected to be met, the environment people are working in, the lived experience of working with fellow humans. It’s looking at the big and small parts of that world with a critical eye, always asking “is this the best we can do?”.
Making it worthwhile for everyone involved is also important; yes, it needs to be a great experience for the people doing the work, but we also need the right results for the customer and the business (otherwise the work won’t be around for very long!). Luckily, better for employees usually means better for customers, which means better for the business.
For you, what’s the main blocker you see as standing in the way of building a better world of work?
Change is hard!
Being the person willing to take a risk and suggest something new isn’t easy. There’s an instinctive fear of loss when the old ways go, so we tend to stick with “ok” instead of chasing “better”. This goes for new processes, tech, ways of working and more.
It’s not just about being brave enough to propose something different. Aside from the readiness to change, the other blocker in a lot of situations is being unsure about how to make the leap and having the authority to do so. That trifecta of motivation, information and jurisdiction together is rare (but worth chasing).
What’s one thing within our control that we can practically do to build a better world of work today? And, how do you recommend going about it?
A practical approach to change means pulling two levers at the same time.
If we were talking about a boat, it would be about getting rid of the anchors and raising the sails; we need both to be able to go fast. Building a continuous feedback culture is a great example of this in action.
These are the anchors that make it seem like things are dragging. There might be big problems, like an employee feeling like they don’t have everything they need for their role or that the annual performance review process is time-consuming and unhelpful. They might be as small as the daily frustration of having to use the light milk to make their coffee when they really want the taste of full cream. All of these frustrations and “fiddly bits” add up, so opening a channel for people to share this with you is a great place to start.
Then we can raise those sails! This is about making sure you and your people are doing the things they want to do (and that have value for the business). How do you find out? Ask them. It might be as simple as regularly asking people what they’ve enjoyed doing the past month or what they’re most proud of themselves for achieving. It’s amazing how many secret strengths people have, and if you can use them strategically, they’ll be much happier and so will the bottom line. (You can read my article on managing performance and engagement through continuous feedback loops here).
Can you share one thing you’ve experienced, seen, or read about that is leading us towards a better world of work?
Something that really excites me as we continue to navigate this new world is an increased willingness to try something new. The last few years forced a lot of change on everyone. A lot of it was bad, but there were some moments of innovative brilliance in response. Things like virtual menus at restaurants, telehealth psychology appointments and increased openness to remote working are all tectonic shifts that would have taken much longer to happen before the pandemic.
That permission, even that imperative, to explore and leverage technology to mindfully design processes that have the user at the heart of them is something that people management has always wanted to do, but now has a mandate to deliver is game-changing. I really hope that the spirit continues. We know how fast we can move if we have to; let’s keep that pace! (We talk more about changing traditional management with continuous feedback – and some analytics and tools to get started – here).
I’m curious, thinking about building a better world of work, is there a company and/or leader who stands out to you as someone we should follow? If so, what are they up to?
One of our customers, MICM real estate, has done some really great work using continuous feedback to problem solve. Check out how they did it here.
How can our readers follow your work?
- I often contribute to the intelliHR insights blog.
- Feel free to follow or connect with me on my personal LinkedIn. We also regularly publish lots of awesome content on intelliHR's LinkedIn.
Thank you for adding your voice to People Managing People’s interview series on How to Build a Better World of Work!
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