Over the last year, we’ve had many great conversations about the Future of Work and Learning with our community partners. We’ve been taking note of the themes emerging from these conversations – including continuous learning, non-traditional ways of working and the evolving workplace. Employers are looking for ways to retain and attract talent by providing new workspaces, growth opportunities and improving work-life balance. At Communitech, we are always looking for ways to improve our own employee experience. But to build the best experience, we need a baseline of what our team experience is today.

Driving this internal look at our employee experience is one of our trusted contractors, Sarah McKenzie. McKenzie, a University of Waterloo graduate in systems design engineering, has been a part of the tech ecosystem here in Waterloo Region since 2016 when she worked as an innovation specialist with the General Motors Innovation Lab in the Communitech Hub. Since then, she’s worked as an independent innovation consultant with the Communitech Corporate Innovation team and also helped launch the Leaders Prize, Canada’s largest AI competition.


Having fun while learning about what makes
Communitech tick.

“Before we can redesign the Communitech employee experience, we needed to better understand our current employees. What do they care about? Do they have any pain points when it comes to their work or careers?” said McKenzie.

Her first step was to interview some of our current employees to build out a set of user personas. “We interviewed 16 people about what their career paths have been, what they look for in a job – both in a role and the organization – and what motivates them when it comes to work.” Our research is first focusing on full-time employees followed by our contractors.

After the interviews were completed, McKenzie and her team found trends that evolved into three employee personas differentiated by their respective goals, pain points and influencers in their work.

User personas aren’t a tool used by every team at Communitech, so it was important for McKenzie to frame the conversation for the workshop attendees. “When we presented the personas, we explained their use as a way for us to highlight insights specific to different groups of people to help better understand people’s needs, behaviours, experiences and goals,” said McKenzie.

The next step was bringing the larger Communitech team in for a series of workshops to present the personas and have staff self-select what personas represented them. These smaller group conversations were also a great opportunity for staff who don’t normally work together to have a conversation and explore their employee experiences. “These workshops needed to be an open and honest discussion about the Communitech employee experience,” added McKenzie.

We facilitate workshops for customers throughout the year, so it’s always exciting to get an opportunity to run one for our own team so we can experience what our customers do. For the employee experience workshop, the process started with employees self-selecting into which user persona they felt best represented them.

Next, we split the participants into groups based on their user personas. In these groups, our employees were given the space to have an open and honest discussion about their individual experiences. Ashley Campbell, Operations Team Lead here at Communitech, found some common ground she didn’t know she had with others. “I was surprised at how many people have the same feelings as I do,” said Campbell.

During these group discussions, we captured insights from our team about their key motivators and frustrations, how they view the work-life balance offered by working at Communitech and what their ideal employee experience would look like. In addition to these questions, we also focused on how learning fits into the employee experience at Communitech. Continuous learning is one of the key themes that have surfaced in our Future of Work and Learning conversations. We offer traditional professional development opportunities, but as our workforce changes, we want to make sure we’re providing the right learning paths that match our employees’ career goals.

The groups were also tasked with brainstorming creative solutions to some of their frustrations. For Stephanie Martin, a newer addition to the Communitech team, the workshop conversations were a great way to connect with Communitechers she hadn’t had the chance to work with yet. “I loved the workshop. I think these should be done at all workplaces,” said Martin. “It gave tremendous insight to our employers and to each other.”

The insights we captured are all potential ways to improve the employee experience at Communitech. “We were able to capture opportunities and solutions from these great conversations,” said McKenzie. “Now we have some ideas that we can implement easily to start to improve our employee experience.”

Our next step is to present the results from the workshops back to our leadership team. We’ll share some solutions we can implement in the short term – the low-hanging fruit, as well as some larger opportunities for us to explore further. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Communitech is a healthy, adaptive workplace which puts its employees at the centre of everything we do.

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Join us on November 20 for our Communitech Breakfast Series event "Taste the Future" with Linda Nazareth from the Globe and Mail. The world is changing and so is the very notion of ‘work’. For years we have been told that our aging workforce will mean a shortage of workers in many industries. More recently, the narrative has changed to one where robots do everyone’s work and there are not enough jobs to go around. Which view of the future is correct? More importantly, how will our lives and organizations change as we navigate the changing realities? From looking at the way global change, demographics, and technology are coming together to reshape the work world through to examining the challenges for business, in this presentation, Linda Nazareth sketches a world that is both unsettling and exciting.