Keeping People at the Center of the People Experience
Allstate Insurance Company provides affordable, simple, and connected protection that empowers customers to achieve their hopes and dreams. For over 90 years, Americans have trusted Allstate to protect their families and their belongings. Our product offerings keep expanding so we can provide an even bigger circle of protection. With over 50,000 employees in five countries and multiple family of companies (Arity, Avail, etc.), employees follow four guiding behaviors to ensure that we are demonstrating integrity for our customers: collaboration, challenge ideas, provide clarity, and provide and seek feedback.
The organization is on a transformational journey. What this entails, specifically for the HR area, is ensuring that we are putting employees at the center of our design decisions, whether we are reinventing programs, processes, or products. Knowing that organizations with great employee experiences yield significantly better talent and business outcomes compared to those who don’t, in April 2022, Allstate created a Employee Experience team dedicated to co-creating meaningful experiences for employees through consulting with other areas across HR. Employee Experience (also known as Employee Experience) serves as an enabler and accelerator of talent and business outcomes.
This case study represents one of the submissions for i4cp's 2023 Next Practice Awards, winners will be honored at the i4cp 2023 Next Practices Now Conference. You can also view other Next Practice Award case studies.
The business challenges HR faced at Allstate has been a result of working “traditionally” in a legacy company. As with many large organizations, we realized an opportunity to work cross-functionally within HR and across the business to design solutions that meet our employee’s needs. To bring the voice of the employee into those decisions, we are introducing new ways of working into the ecosystem to move HR forward.
With the shift to a more employee-centric focus, there was an opportunity to refine how HR operates in terms of new mindset, structure, processes, and skills. To improve the employee experience, we need to keep who (not what) we were designing for at the center of our decisions.
On the Customer Experience side, consumer research panels are often used to bring together a group of individuals with the express purpose of providing opinions, insights, and feedback on products and services. We were looking to bring that concept into Allstate on the employee side.
Through the introduction of the Employee Experience (EX) lab, we had the specific business goals of:
- Increasing transparency and collaboration by inviting our employees into early-stage design
- Amplifying the voice of our employees by actively listen to – and acting upon – meaningful insights
- Proactively addresses missteps before they happen to improve speed to market
- Accelerating our journey in enhancing effectiveness of experiences
Solution – Scope & Innovation
The EX Lab provides a virtual space to test employee-facing programs, processes, and products. Leveraging design thinking, which is a human-centered approach to designing meaningful experiences and solving complex problems, the EX Lab provides a differentiated way to keep employees engaged in the design approach and at the center of our design decisions.
An initial, representative group of employees were invited to join the first EX Lab cohort in September 2022. Leading up to that invitation was approximately four months of designing how the lab would work – from determining the dates for testing, writing communications to bring awareness to employee’s leaders and employees themselves, to working with legal representation to seek approval to share confidential (and sometimes secret) projects with a broader base of the employee population.
Because diverse perspectives are core to the EX Lab, our People Analytics team provided a global list of 500 candidates across our Areas of Responsibility, gender, ethnicity, tenure, and employee band level. Those who accepted our invitation would participate in up to three hours per month of testing for the duration of six months. Originally, we anticipated a response of 50 participants for the first cohort. By the time the registration period closed, we had 170 employees who signed up to participate in the inaugural experience.
Employee representation spanned our global locations of United States, Canada, India, and Northern Ireland, with BIPOC (33%), Non-BIPOC (55%) as well as female (55%) and male (38%) cohort participants. (Please note that we do not have the ethnicity stats or gender stats for those outside of our U.S. locations). We also have both exempt and non-exempt employees in the population.
The participants are given the opportunity to provide feedback in two of the four monthly testing sessions. Special opportunities also arise to provide feedback through interviews, focus groups, surveys, or diary studies. The EX Lab live sessions are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This allows the HR leads who bring their programs, processes, and products into testing - the space to iterate based on Tuesday’s feedback before they go into the Thursday testing session. The sessions are 85 minutes with the opportunity to provide feedback on multiple concepts leverage break out rooms.
We are also building design thinking capability with the EX Lab cohort members and with the HR leads. A barrier the team has encountered has been an initial resistance to adopt design thinking mindsets of curiosity, inspired action, and experimentation. At times, it can be difficult to break the legacy ways of working, grounded in perfection -. In our short time, with providing resources on design thinking as well as the experience of taking products into the lab, HR leads are starting to see benefits of inviting employees into the co-creation of the prototypes. We have also provided a Mural template they can leverage to collect feedback as well as tips on how to test prototypes.The EX Lab concept is not only a totally new concept for Allstate but for the industry as well. An employee testing lab was not a concept that surfaced in our external research. In leveraging the i4cp Employee Experience Exchange forum, we also did not find another organization leveraging this technique to bring their employees into the testing and vetting of prototypes.
Results & Impact
Because the EX Lab is new, we have initial, directional feedback and results. On an ongoing basis, we use two different methods to evaluate the effectiveness of the lab experience – one targets the inputs from the cohort participants and the other targets the perspective of the HR leads bringing their prototypes in for testing.
For the cohort participants, at the end of each lab session, we use Mural to complete a I like/I wish activity. With the PX Lab being new to the organization, it is important for us to collect feedback regularly to inform future changes. To date, we have tested 10 products in the lab ranging from a new performance rating scale to a new hire landing page site.
In response to the “I like….,” the cohort has shared 244 comments to date. Themes include:
- Highly collaborative interactions in the live sessions
- Feel like their voices matter
- Value in having different perspectives
- Ownership in improving experiences for other employees
- Having exposure to innovative products and programs not launched yet
- Learning about design thinking
In response to the “I wish…,” the cohort has shared 132 comments to date. Themes include:
- Need for more context in sharing prototypes
- More time for discussion
- Ability to see the results/outcomes based on the feedback
From the HR lead’s perspective, there is also an evaluation sent after they test a prototype with the lab. The results include:
- 100% indicate either Very Satisfied or Satisfied with the overall EX Lab experience.
- 91.4% would recommend the EX Lab to a colleague.
As far as measuring our business results, the following were the top three impacts of getting feedback from the EX Lab on their prototype:
- Increased confidence that the program/product will be well received by employees
- Amplified the voice of our employees
- Enhanced the effectiveness of the experiences
Similar to the feedback from the cohort, the HR leads would also like more time to go deeper into the discussion.
In January, the halfway mark for the first cohort, a survey was distributed to participants to ask about their experience in more detail – what changes would they like to see, what value are they getting from the lab, and how do they want to stay engaged after their cohort concludes. Once those results are fully synthesized, they will directly impact the changes made for the second EX Lab cohort’s experience.
Reflecting on the PX Lab experience, the lessons learned would be to have more a pipeline of employee-facing program, process, or product scheduled so we do not have to seek them out monthly. In February, we shared testimonial videos from HR leads who have used it to test their prototypes, highlighting the value to the business and employee experience. We are also collaborating with our communications partners to showcase how the lab ties into the employee-centric transformation taking place, as reflected in the 2023 HR priorities.
Going forward, we anticipate a second cohort kicking off in May for six months. We will continue to experiment with the length of the testing sessions as well as with the technology that we are leveraging during them. We will also strengthen the mindsets of design thinking to include curiosity, inspired action, and experimentation through developing further capability building opportunities (design thinking bootcamp, just-in-time consulting on design thinking practices, and preparation for testing prototypes in the EX Lab) for the HR community. Ultimately, by inviting employees into the design, we are co-creating experiences that employee love.