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By: Jason Averbook, Jim Holincheck, David Guazzarotto | February 18, 2021

Susan logs onto Facebook on Saturday and sees a curated news feed designed especially for her, based on her interests and passions. Then she visits her favorite home goods website and sees products based on her previous purchases.

From social media algorithms and items customized to a shopper’s personal preferences, to news stories targeting a particular demographic, people have become used to a customized experience in all areas of their lives.

Since most employees have been working from home and away from an office setting since March 2020, they’ve become even more accustomed to being known and seen in a personal way. Imagine if Susan received the same personalized experience in her work environment? This would vastly accelerate her job satisfaction. Employers that design personalized employee engagement will emerge ahead in a competitive hiring landscape.

In the first blog post of this series, we talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how organizations can help their employees and teams move from just surviving to fully thriving at work. We shared that “to create an engaged and empowered workforce, leaders need to create a culture and environment that supports and nurtures teams while recognizing each person’s unique contributions to the team.”

The human side of work has become more important than ever as changing workplace dynamics mean changing workplace needs. In response to these shifts, personalized employee engagement must be one of a leader’s highest priorities. As commerce or social media websites are highly personalized to anticipate our next moves, employees now expect this same level of personalized experience in their work lives as well.

Impact of Distributed Work Models

Before the pandemic, employers invested in creating engaging and attractive physical work environments. Aesthetically pleasing design, quiet rooms, sunlight-drenched spaces, and fun gathering areas helped to attract and retain staff, reduce stress and increase productivity, and enrich company culture.

Pre-COVID, technology supplemented these physical environments. Some employers resisted remote working and insisted that their employees sit in the office. And those who worked remotely often found the digital resources provided by their employers to be sorely lacking. The remote work experience fell well short of the personalized experience employees encountered in their consumer lives.

In early 2020, many people were thrust into a remote work environment, or a distributed work model, for the first time. They often lacked the tools and resources needed to remain productive. Many struggled to adapt to a forced convergence of work and life, juggling conference calls with homeschooling their kids and constant family togetherness.

As employers evolved their work environments to accommodate these new ways of working, leaders had to adapt to new ways of communicating with their teams. Organizations learned some important lessons:

  • Work doesn’t always need to be performed in the same place and at the same time as other team members.
  • Positive outcomes can be achieved using a hybrid mix of work and life flexed around the needs of our families, friends, and employers.
  • Employee experience needs to be considered at a deeply and uniquely personal level rather than assuming all employees have the same needs.

For example, Susan greatly values the flexibility to extend her work hours into the evening as she’s helping her young children with online school. Her coworker Dennett doesn’t have children at home and prefers to get all of her work done during the day so she can relax in the evening.

Employers can tailor their workspaces and operating models so that each employee’s needs are met. As we established in “Ensuring Teams Thrive in the New Era of Work,“ it is far more challenging to build connections within a team or across an organization when working in a distributed work model.

How to Apply a Human-Centric Approach to Work

Imagine building a work environment where each employee’s skills, needs, and interests are truly understood by their leader and the organization at large.

Susan’s online experience is highly attuned to her needs and wants, presenting her with compelling and attractive opportunities to forge deeper connections with her favorite brands.

What if we created a similar employee-centric, personalized approach to best support our workforce’s needs? A great, sustaining culture starts with micro-moments that create connection. When you incorporate as many opportunities for connection as possible, you can transform an organization. Here are five steps to getting there:


To start, team leaders need to rethink what new touchpoints (virtual and face-to-face) they can bring to their teams. How we replace the lost water-cooler moments, after-work team happy hours, and offsite team-building retreats? What about an online learning event, with a motivational trainer, team-building activities in breakout groups, and catered meals delivered to employees’ homes? Establishing peer-to-peer collaboration and learning opportunities will result in deeper, more meaningful connections embedded into your processes and environments. This is just the starting point for thinking differently about your existing workforce. By fostering a lean-in culture of inclusivity, your agility and adaptability will act as a barrier against the inevitable challenges that affect a business.


An important step in this process is to identify key employee populations, understand how they work, and recognize their needs, frustrations, and work-life journeys. As we learned by examining Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, employees won’t care about the experience you deliver unless their basic needs are met first.

As we’ve established, Susan’s personality and passions are different from Dennett’s. Her needs in the workplace will be different too. Employers should establish profiles for each group of their employees with accompanying datasets about the ways they work. A strong foundational dataset will enable you to address the unique needs of an individual worker. That data and metadata should be continuously appended, curated, and used to configure experiences tailored to each individual.


The key to thinking differently about your workforce and forging stronger connections is to use human-centred design (also known as design thinking) to inform the business and technology changes that will elevate employee experiences. We call this “designing for the empty chair.” In other words, employers need to examine the work experience from various employee perspectives and create and cultivate workplaces that meet those individual needs.

Consider how employees can design their work situation to best suit their lifestyle and enable them to bring the best version of themselves to the work they perform:

  • Could we let employees decide for themselves when to do their work, where to do it, and when and how they would like to be paid?
  • Can we ensure that as more workers seek to return to office environments, they will feel safe and confident that they are not at risk?
  • Do we have the means to check in with our people to ensure they are managing their physical and mental well-being effectively and support them at a deeply personal level where necessary?
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As we know from Internet commerce, customers need more than easy transactions. A great user interface is just the beginning of a positive customer experience. It’s necessary, but not completely sufficient.

An app might have a great user interface but still result in a poor experience. Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have compelling mobile UIs, but if your driver takes you to the wrong destination, it’s likely not a good experience.

It’s the same for the employee experience. Trust is built with positive, meaningful, and personal interactions. An occasional $50 gift card might make one employee’s day, while another might vastly prefer written positive affirmations from their supervisor. Human-centered design can inform employers of how to create those valuable interactions, which are different for each employee.

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More workers are beginning their journeys entirely remotely with new employers and workplaces. They might only have a remote, digital orientation and connection to their employer and managers. How these experiences are delivered will be critical.

Employers can build credibility by starting out of the gate with outstanding hiring and on-boarding experiences, designed for different types of individuals. Susan might excel with an independent online orientation, for example, while Dennett might prefer a much more personal interaction with her leader.

Your datasets will drive the way you design these experiences. By personalizing your hiring and orientation experiences, you will be establishing credibility as your new employees come on board. This proven methodology can help you create data-driven experiences that consider the unique wants and needs of your employees.

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If employers want to be at the front of the queue to attract, retain, and engage their workforce effectively, they need to think about how to deliver a deeply personalized workforce experience by default.



Jim Holincheck has more than 25 years of experience in the HCM technology industry and is the Vice President of Advisory Services at Leapgen. Before joining Leapgen, Jim gained experience as a vendor (Workday – Services Strategy and Product Management), an industry analyst (Gartner and Forrester/Giga), and a consultant (Accenture). He has spent his entire career working with customers to strategize, select, implement, support, and optimize their usage of enterprise applications. Helping customers successfully get the most out of their enterprise software investments is something he is very passionate about.

David Guazzarotto is one of Australia’s leading authorities on HR, talent, and technology and is the Managing Director of the Asia Pacific Region at Leapgen. Highly respected as a global keynote speaker, thought leader, consultant, and change leader, David is also a host of the Humans of HR podcast. David brings more than 20 years of experience as an advisor and change leader in people management, worker experience, and technology with expertise in both the Australian and global HR Technology markets.

Jason Averbook
is a global keynote speaker, industry analyst, thought leader and consultant in the area of human resources and workforce experience. He is the Co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a digital transformation shaping the future of work. Author of The Ultimate Guide to a Digital Workforce Experience ~ Leap for a Purpose, Jason seeks to broaden executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that exceed the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business.


Leapgen is a global digital transformation company shaping the NOW of work. Highly respected as a visionary partner to organizations looking to design and deliver a digital workforce experience that will produce valued outcomes to the business, Leapgen helps enterprise leaders rethink how to better design and deliver workforce services and architect HR technology solutions that meet the expectations of workers and the needs of the business.

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