Does Workplace Personalization Mean Especially for Me?

I had a funny conversation last week with co-workers about the redesign of a newsletter. We were looking for a good tagline to promote what we offer, and the one I liked the best included the description, “content curated especially for you.” 

I told them I liked the message of personalization, even if that message was, in truth, a charade. My co-worker said she didn’t think it was dishonest to refer to “personalization” because we were “personalizing” the content to the needs and interests of the particular group of health-care professionals we publish our magazine for. I noted to her then that the way we were using “personalization” was an oxymoron—“personalized” for a group. By definition, “personalized” means just the opposite. It means especially for each person. 

When I came across an article on personalization in the workplace in Yahoo Finance!, I questioned what personalized would mean for each employee in a “personalized” office. Would it mean personalized for my work group, for my class of employees (i.e., all in the same job function or the same level in the company hierarchy), or personalized for my demographics—for whom the company believes I am based on my personal statistics—age, gender, race, marital status, stated life interests, job role, etc. I suspect it might be illegal to personalize in the workplace based on demographic profiles, but maybe it isn’t if the demographic profiles were put together by the employees themselves. Then, the self-selections would give the company the ability to group employees into categories that personalization would be based on. So employees who are of a certain age, gender, married/single, at a particular level in the company, and who do a particular kind of work get a particular homepage in the company’s intranet, while those who are of a different age, gender, marital status, and level, and doing a different kind of work get a different intranet homepage.

To me, personalization is all about comfort—comfort in an employee’s surroundings in the office and comfort in how employees get their work done. That means, in my case, a mechanism that would enable me to answer calls to my office phone on my Bose headphones through which I am listening to music from my personal smartphone. It also would mean a doorbell at the edge of my workstation that people could press to get my attention by interrupting the music playing on my headphones to let me know someone was standing nearby wanting to talk. 

While a colleague might require an intranet with heavy collaboration abilities and advanced online meeting technology, mine would be have the ability to connect to an internal wiki with the expertise of everyone in the company listed, so I would know exactly who to reach out to about every question. It also would be helpful if I could type a question into a search box and have the search function find me the employee(s) who could answer my question. 

The Yahoo Finance! article notes that companies also want to know how much employees like the personalized workplace that has been created for them: “In addition to personalization, enterprises are interested in measuring employee experience…Because workplace technology is directly tied to how employees work, there is a growing interest in being able to measure the effectiveness of technology enablement and how much it enhances user experience.”

I’ve often wondered why at the end of each day, or at least at the end of every week, a text couldn’t be sent to employees asking for feedback. It would work the same as it does when you purchase from some companies. You get a text message or e-mail asking you for feedback. I was just telling a co-worker last week that I was eagerly awaiting an employee engagement survey from our company because I have a wealth of suggestions to offer. I’d like a text sent to me by my company at 4 p.m. every day asking if I would like to share an observation about my experience that day at work. Many days, I would take a pass with nothing worthwhile to share, but other days, I would have something. It might be something like, “There was only toilet paper in one of the women’s room stalls.” Or something like, “The group of employees sitting in my area of the office should be placed elsewhere due to noise level. You should organize the office according to job function so that all employees who are more collaborative and outward in their work are not sitting side by side with people whose primary job function is writing and editing (people who like a lot of quiet).” Or maybe I would note a frustration trying to book business travel using the company’s Concur travel page: “Finalizing the purchase at the end was confusing, and the alert that came up asking me to justify not selecting the cheapest option was silly, as the cheapest option required a change of planes for what otherwise would be a two-hour flight.” My daily gripes, and those of my co-workers, would provide a roadmap for the kind of improvements that create a much better workplace. 

Personalization isn’t as important as the quality of the workplace. I don’t need everything tailored especially for me, but an office that allows me to work comfortably and efficiently would be valuable. 

How much importance does your company place on “personalizing” the workplace for each employee? What does personalization mean? What is most important: personalization or simply having a workplace that works?

 

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