The EX Files

A year in the life of employee experience at Allstate

Allstate has been providing insurance protection in America for over 90 years. Formed in 1931, the company continues to grow its products to provide the widest possible reassurance for customers as their demands and needs change, such as peer-to-peer car sharing, or identity protection. With a long and proud history, and over 55,000 people employed across five countries, Allstate were facing a period of change post-pandemic and a growing recognition that employee experience was going to play a key role in addressing the needs of the employees, and therefore the business as a whole.

From the seeds of that idea and the events which led to the formation of an employee experience team, the first twelve months of Allstate’s journey illustrate the steps they have taken, the timing of their delivery and how that will influence where they will be in the future. It’s by no means a blueprint, but it is an interesting first year in the life of employee experience at a large company.
Pre-April 2022

The seeds for employee experience

When Allstate were considering bringing people back to the office, a staff survey found that 95% of people wanted to continue working remotely in some form or another. With such an overwhelming response, Allstate recognised that remote working would require a whole new approach to digital experiences.

Employee experience hadn’t yet had a lot of development at Allstate; one Senior Manager was hired in December 2021 who was responsible for employee experience, but she was sitting under the culture team in human resources. That said, there was a growing recognition that employee experience was going to help Allstate stand out in the market.
“People are reevaluating their careers and what’s important to them, and we have to figure out how we can help nurture that. Being satisfied with the type of work experiences that you have could be a competitive advantage to attracting and retaining talent across the organisation.”
Creonn Harper, Director – EX Team
And with a new Chief Human Resources Officer coming into post, they saw a need for a greater commitment in employee experience, and so a dedicated team was proposed as part of a restructure.
April 2022

Employee Experience launches

The restructure happened in April 2022, bringing together a dedicated team of seven people from other departments including Learning and Development and Human Resources to focus on employee experience.

There was a challenge in terms of changing the mindset, even within the Employee Experience Team. There was a sort of ‘operational mindset’ which would often manifest in HR making it easy on HR, in essence passing on some of the complexities to the employee. So some of the first steps towards design thinking were to recognise the actual experience of the person on the other end of the HR process, and to share out the burden. To sometimes absorb more of the work in HR, to save the end user time or to make it more accessible.

The key to changing the mindsets was going to be changing the approach, from designing for them to designing with them. The team made these changes incrementally in two ways; working with a wide group to create a series of “design principles”, and then a smaller series of “design sprints” which introduced elements of design thinking gradually to the team at Allstate.
The design principles were created in a series of workshops involving a cross section of people across HR, as well as people from their colleagues, customer experience and brand communications teams. The principles act as a sort of priority list, which guide how HR should ideally interact with employees when designing new products or experiences.

Although the principles are designed to change over time, the team admits it would have been better to have included a wider input of perspectives earlier – for example from User Experience and Business Operations teams too – as these have since had key influences on their work.
“The principles are the foundation and the anchor for our thinking, and they hold us accountable too. For example, they ask us: Are we creating seamless experiences? Are we talking to employees?”
Christina Chateauvert, Senior Manager – EX Team
The smaller “design sprints” were more short-term ways of introducing design thinking into smaller groups or teams where it may not have been present before. For example, when they were designing their listening strategy, the Employee Experience Team included a four-week programme of “design sprints”, which included employee interviews.

The design sprints were intended as quick wins, which could get smaller pockets of HR to see the value of designing with the employee in mind – it saved time in the long run and actually provided better results.
“Our job wasn’t to create this extra project, it was to ask ‘what are you focussed on’ in whatever department, and to tell them how employee experience design will help accelerate and improve what they’re trying to achieve.”
Creonn Harper, Director – EX Team
October 2022 (6 months in)

The EX Lab launches

The lab was an idea which pre-dated the Employee Experience Team, but with the disruption of the restructure, new leaders coming in and the need to set some of the groundwork, it had been left on the sidelines. However, once the dust had settled the Employee Experience Lab was identified as a key priority. Why? Because it very clearly put employees at the centre of design.
“What’s been really inspirational about the Employee Experience Lab, is they’re empowering and giving a voice to employee needs in a very direct and grassroots kind of way.”
EX Lab participant
It also offered a key testbed for HR to get out to employees and test products before launch. Where previously a lot of insular decision making had been happening, and when consultation did happen, it was often with a smaller sample with limited perspective. The lab would provide a wider sample, with a cross section of employees and experiences, to provide a much better measure of success before launch.

Early success was in the adoption of the initial cohort. 500 invitations were sent randomly to a wide range of potential participants and the team would have been happy with a 10% response rate, but were overwhelmed to receive 170 acceptances. Of those 170 participants, reaction has continued to be positive and even 100% of the HR leads who used the EX Lab to test a prototype indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall experience.
“It empowers me to not only speak and share my own thoughts and my own needs, but to represent my teammates and ensure that they’re being heard and considered”
EX Lab participant
The rebrand of the company’s orientation page delivered a tangible impact for the EX Lab. In the pipeline for three years, it was presented to the EX Lab before launch to hone the final product. Within two days the designers were able to turn feedback into action, for example changing the layout and colours to make it easier for employees to navigate.
“People were able to see right away that we take feedback seriously. Just to show them within two days what we were able to do, based off of feedback from them, made them excited to provide more feedback and be like, ‘Oh, they actually are making changes, and we’re being heard.”
Molly Pettiti, EX Team member
April 2023 (12 months in)

Research and the future

Early on, the team knew that they wanted to be able to tell if they were making a positive impact. But this requires data and a way of measuring the changes in that data in a meaningful way. With a relatively new team, working in a relatively new discipline of EX, they had to figure out how to quantify the impact employee experience was having, which has meant partnering with a variety of groups across the organisation who share a passion for employee experience. 
"There’s been a lot of momentum about how we can actually show that great employee experience equates to a positive customer experience."
Creon Harper, Director - EX Team
Over the year, the team have partnered with Market Research to conduct focus groups to understand the key experiences across the employee lifecycle, and then partnered with People Analytics to get a baseline of the type of experiences are employees are having, and which matter most to them. This baseline of twelve months data will help develop a measure for success which will both help steer the future HR strategy, but also give the Employee Experience Team the influence it needs to expand its funding and scope.

The first cohort of EX Lab has also come to an end, and a new cohort is currently being recruited. The successes of the EX Lab are being communicated across the business in internal communications, and the invite list has been expanded to a list of 1000 people. And as the team look to future rounds, the hope is to expand the EX Lab to deliver testing capabilities for departments outside of HR and into other departments.

Key Learning

“To be successful, the Employee Experience strategy needs to be aligned with the HR priorities and business strategy of the organisation. Employee Experience, with this view, serves as an enabler for business and talent outcomes, while building credibility with stakeholders, executives, and employees.”

FACT BOX

What is a Design Sprint?
What is the EX Lab?

What is a Design Sprint?

It is a structured process for developing and testing solutions to workplace challenges, typically involving workshops of small teams of employees and stakeholders. They are designed to be agile, user-centred and data-driven – encouraging experimentation and collaboration among the team members.

Design sprints are used by organisations to rapidly develop and test new ideas in a way that minimises risks and costs, but can deliver ‘quick wins’ in improving the overall employee experience.

What is the EX Lab?

Launched in October by the Employee Experience team at Allstate, it is a group of 170 staff members who help in the design process of HR products before they are launched to the wider company. It performs similarly to how a focus group might in customer experience, but is much more participatory in the design process. Input is representative across gender and racial background, and includes representatives from America, Canada, India and Northern Ireland.

Based on the principles of design thinking, the aim is to ensure that the people that are being designed for (and not just what they are designing) are kept at the centre of decisions. They take the form of 90-minute virtual sessions which are held four times a month. HR team members will present a product and ask participants what they think, including how they’d use it. They will then collate this feedback and present the changes back to participants for further testing and evaluation.
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