Traditionally, user experience has been associated with designing apps and websites. But to me, it’s much more than that. The power of human-centered thinking can be applied to the organizational culture and learning. At Zillow, I partnered with the Design and Learning & Development teams to design classes and events supporting the learning and culture at Zillow.
Lack of design awareness is a problem that’s plagued many organizations. Now that design thinking has made its mark in society, organizations are seeing how important it is to building innovative products in a collaborative way.
We wanted to tackle this challenge: How can we encourage new hires to embrace the design thinking culture of Zillow and contribute to it too?
Since our audience were new hires, we wanted to introduce design thinking in a simple, fun, and interactive way. In developing our content, we knew we wanted to keep it high-level for our new hires, but also interweave the theme that even if they’re not creating graphics or coding websites, they can design with users in mind too. This would require engaging and inspiring content that shared how we designed with users in mind. We did this by:
In our delivery, we played upbeat music as new hires entered the class to create the fun and laid-back ambiance that represented the Design team. Throughout the presentation, we made it interactive by allowing the audience to ask questions after each section was presented, and letting them share their own personal stories of being a home shopper or seller on the site to connect with our personas.
Like any design project, we aimed to iterate on the content through user feedback. For initial feedback, we did trial runs with the greater design team and a small group of new hires. From there we iterated on our content and delivery. Throughout our first four classes, we continued getting feedback by conducting a survey after each class. Our new hires gave our class an average satisfaction rating of 4 out 5, with 5 being excellent.
Developing this class showed us that you can combine human-centered thinking, user research, and program development to create a compelling and personalized learning experience.
The best learning comes from experience, but I’d say the second best way is to learn from the experiences of others. Most of the time you can learn about them in books. In collaboration with Learning & Development Program Manager Lauren Miller, we led the development of the Zillow Book club, a platform to better our culture and products by applying themes learned from books.
Using a series of books selected by our executives, we set-up quarterly book discussions around a selected book. Ranging from books such as Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, our discussions would touch upon themes and learnings that could be applied to Zillow to improve our culture and products. It was an open environment for learning and discussion for our employees.
I learned a lot from reading those books, but I also learned more from being a part of this learning platform. It shows that changing organizational culture should start from the bottom up, and empowering employees to think about ways we can constantly improve our workplace creates constant learning, better culture, and happier employees.
Giving back to the community is an important part of developing an authentic and empathetic culture in an organization.
I volunteer with College Access Now as a program coordinator for their Professional Mentorship Program, which pairs upcoming college grads with professionals in their field to help them prep for the working world. Our networking event gave students the opportunity to practice their networking skills and connect with professionals in the community.
I coordinated the event by gaining Zillow’s sponsorship and executing the logistics of the night. Zillow was kind enough to lend us the space for the event, as well as sponsor our catering.
Our students were able to building connections with the professionals they met while being exposed to an innovative work space.
As much as good user experience is important on websites, it is also important in education and organizations. At the end of the day, students and employees are your users and their experience of learning or working should also cater to their wants and needs.
In the 21st century, many organizations are recognizing the importance of this. I hope that as the importance continues to grow and be recognized, user experience professionals and designers will play a part in designing these offline, humanistic, and important experiences.