Managing remote work like a product employees buy – Insights from Dart Lindsley, Strategic Advisor, People Experience at Google

In this article

Dart Lindsey, the Strategic Advisor People Strategy at Google, began his session by posing a thought-provoking question: “What job do you hire your job to do for you?” This led to a lively discussion among attendees about the personal and professional needs that their jobs fulfill. Dart highlighted that people hire their jobs for various reasons, such as fulfillment, learning, solving problems, and achieving financial independence. These examples demonstrated the point that we come to work with a purpose that is outside of work, so why not make sure that the work we’re doing truly accomplishes those goals?

The Traditional Model vs. The New Model

Dart contrasted the traditional model of employee management, which views employees as inputs to production, with a new model that treats employees as customers of their work. In the traditional model, companies aim for uniformity and control, seeing employees as resources to be optimized. In contrast, the new model focuses on designing work as a product tailored to meet the diverse needs of employees.

“Companies have come to think of employees as an input to production… We need to think of employees as customers of the work product.” — Dart Lindsley

Applying Design Principles to Work

By treating work as a product, organizations can apply design principles to create better work experiences. This involves understanding the unique needs of employees and creating a work environment that supports their growth and satisfaction. Dart emphasized the importance of enabling personal leadership and agency, allowing employees to shape their work experience.

Dart shared several practical insights and examples to illustrate his points:

  • Two-Sided Business Model: Dart explained how successful businesses like the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and modern multi-sided platforms bring together different customers to create value. Similarly, companies should see employees and the organization as mutual customers, each benefiting from a well-designed work experience.
  • Work as a Product: Dart illustrated how work should be viewed as a product, not just a task. This perspective allows companies to tailor work experiences to meet the varied needs of employees, similar to how products are designed to meet customer needs.

Overcoming Challenges in Remote Work

Dart discussed the challenges of managing remote work, particularly the instinct to strive for uniformity and control. He advocated for a more flexible approach that recognizes the diverse needs of employees and supports them in achieving their goals. This includes creating opportunities for personal and professional growth, fostering a sense of community, and providing tools that enable effective remote work.

Give the people what they want

Dart emphasized the transformative potential of treating work as a product that employees buy. By shifting from a control-oriented model to one that prioritizes employee needs and experiences, organizations can create a more engaging and productive remote work environment. 

If work is a product, we can use design principles to design it better.

Let us know your takeaways from this session in the comments section below!

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