Trystin is the Director of Employee Experience at Huge INC and shared some amazing insights with us on how to build an employee experience that will make your employees feel like you care about them.

Included in this episode are themes around Employee empowerment, building a level of community and collaboration that strengthens every other business aspect, and taking risks in the corporate arena to be authentic and real. He makes the point that you are nothing without a cohesive team and encourages all managers to focus on the whole of a person and not just the work they produce.

We hope you enjoy this episode of Forging Employee Experience.


Josh Drean: Welcome again everybody to another episode of Forging Employee Experience. My name is Josh Drean joined here with my co-host Alexander Noren.

Alexander Noren: Big welcome everybody. Thank you so much for being here with us today.

Josh Drean: We have Trystin Bailey on the show. How are you?

Trystin Bailey: Hey, I’m doing great. Tired but ready to play.

Josh Drean: There you go.

Alexander Noren: Good. If you’re not to tired, you’re not living life right. I think, you know, you’re going to be a little tired at least.

Trystin Bailey: At least a little bit tired, preferably exhausted.

Josh Drean: Tell us a little bit of who you are. Know that there are a lot to impact here not just Employee Engagement and Experience but tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do.

Trystin Bailey: In the Employee Engagement, I’ve been working at Huge for the past six and a half years and just doing my best to evolve with the organization and the industry in general. Outside of that, I’m just one of those run in the mill theater dorks. I do plays, I’ve written some books and play life’s creative game.

Alexander Noren: That’s awesome. I can barely get by being myself. I don’t know how you pretend to be other people in disguise. That’s an incredible talent to have.

Trystin Bailey: It’s easy, it’s just a good escape. Like a cocoon or nutshell.

Josh Drean: Like part of escapism.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, just like escapism.

Josh Drean: Well, it’s interesting because I think your role as the Employee Experience Manager you deal a lot with the people side of things in the business. I think that is one of the reasons at the conference is to learn a little bit more about how to be a better manager yourself. So tell us a little bit about what your role and tell us why you like it.

Trystin Bailey: Sure. I often joke but it’s not a joke it’s serious. I tell people, “What do you do” and I say I’m like Kool-Aid Jar. Basically, what I love to do is be in this really cool and unique position to look at employees as people and get paid to do that. There’s data, numbers and all that stuff that comes along with Employee Engagement but it’s my job to see people, meet people, see them as their holistic self and not just people producing something for requirements so on and so forth and making sure that they feel like they belong here. Make sure that they feel like they– not only a place where they can play and have fun but a place where they can easily make a difference and make this culture work best for them.

Alexander Noren: Are you guys hiring? Sounds like a fun thing to do. Holy smokes. When Josh told me he was bringing you on the show one of the things that really caught my attention was you title actually. It’s not Employee Engagement, it’s Employee Experience. To me that signifies to the future where this space is going, I feel like we’ve been doing engagement for a long time and it hasn’t really worked. Now we are moving to this idea of experience. How is that true in your role? Do you see that as a big difference between this idea of engagement as an idea of experience at your organization?

Trystin Bailey: I think the lense of experience is important. It’s one of those psychological things, right? Like it’s a simple psychological thing, you use the work like engagement and immediately you’re thinking research, data and numbers which again is foundational and a great way to measure success. But at the end of the day, this is an experience. I’m kind of annoyed by the idea of work, life, balance. As if work isn’t apart of life, as if like one thing happens in this area that it’s great or sucks it doesn’t make that other area a little bit worse or better.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: I think that employee experience does a really great job kind of nailing that idea. Sure, someone’s coming to work to do something verify specific for the business but they are bringing every Netflix show they binged, every breakup they have been apart of, everywhere they have lived before, what they ate in the morning, like in with them. That is a part of the human experience.

Alexander Noren: You can’t parse them out.

Trystin Bailey: Exactly. Employee Experience at Huge, I try my best that we are approaching the holistic human. We’ve got other people here. Learning developments and other initiatives that are sort of Employee Experienced adjacent. They handle the heavy lifting around on growing the skills. Where as Employee Experience is kind of here for the rest of it. You know, really making sure that people around here feel like they belong here. Every single part of them has a place here.

Josh Drean: One thing that really attracts us about Huge is that I feel you are on like the cutting edge of this. You’re not just experienced design company, you’re not just doing digital marketing. By the way, you doing amazing work there. It’s like you recognize that its not just about work, life, balance but work, life, integration that we can have fun at work or we can realize that engagement is more that just metrics, its about creating that experience so that people want to stay there, they want to work there. Let’s be honest, you been at the company for over six years and that is great tenures especially today’s world where retention is struggling.

Alexander Noren: That’s a nice word, struggle.

Josh Drean: They stay for two years and they move on. Obviously, Huge is doing something right in order for you to stay on for six years and I’m assuming that there are other tenured people there as well. Tell us a little bit of some your efforts to make sure as to retain your top talents.

Trystin Bailey: Sure. To start broad, I start being a Liaison between the employees and the culture really making them feel like they are shaping it and have ownership. I and Huge in general have put a lot of stress on the idea of employee empowerment. Someone coming in here, making a decision, having a meet, having a desire and us doing the best we can within the confines of business to facilitate that. It manifests itself in many ways I’d say one of the lighter fun but hard hitting ways is an initiative we have here called Cube Social. This has been going on since I started and what Cube Social is that people here have interests more broad than the work we do. Every year they can apply for social groups and that’s anything from Dungeons and Dragons, there’s people who like dogs, who brew a beer. Basically, we create this mini communities around those interests. We give them a budget and allow them to create and evolve those groups throughout the year as they see fit.

Josh Drean: Wow.

Alexander Noren: That is brilliant.

Trystin Bailey: Their bringing there passions. Bringing and finding people that share on this passions. You’re not just entering a culture, you are crafting it.

Josh Drean: That is amazing. All of a sudden it’s not just, “Oh, I’ve got to put my interest and my passions on hold while I go do this job, hanging on everybody.” But you’re like truly work, life, integration where they get to bring their passion to work and even though it might not be in line with what they’re doing as part of their job, you are still facilitating their ability to work on that and be passionate about it.

Trystin Bailey: Right. Totally. Another thing we do, its called Off Topic. Since its the age of social media just being able to share, talk and engaged people with your voice, your thoughts and ideas. We have what is effectively a built Show and Tell. People can sign up, everyone gets in a room and anyone gets two to five minutes to just share something that they’re passionate about. 100% of the time, people will come up to them afterwards and say, “Hey, let’s talk about this” like “Hey, someone actually gave a talk last year they were Birder.” They love bird watching that was their thing. What that turned into completely off the Huge books. I was actually a part of this, we went to a prospect park in Brooklyn. We met 6:30 in the morning one Saturday and he showed us this park through his bird watcher’s eyes. We spent 3 hours in the park with binoculars going for it.

Alexander Noren: No way. That’s awesome.

Trystin Bailey: People come here doing this like bird watching or Dungeons and Dragons and at face value this is a thing that they’re doing that has nothing to do with the business

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: But dig a little bit deeper and what your building is a level of community and collaboration that does nothing if not strengthens every single other business related that we do here. That includes forging these relationships with people that outside of project work you would have never the opportunity to meet, to know, to be friend.

Josh Drean: How big is that? When you really look at it, one thing that is a basic need for all employee is this concept of relatedness.

Alexander Noren: Right. 100%.

Josh Drean: You need to connect with your co-workers, you need to understand where they are coming from and as we create those ties then we can grow closer together and now when there’s conflict you build up those assets so its not just, “Okay, I’m going to withdraw from this emotional bank account by yelling at you telling to get your work done. Oh, we built up this relationship so now I can ask you for something and you understand.

Alexander Noren: Trystin, do you feel like one of the elements to being successful is– it seems that Huge does a really good job trying to build a positive relationship with their employees that goes beyond a “We hired you to do something” which I think is very pervasive in the market at it stands right now most people hate. We are you, you do something but it seems like over at Huge’s they have this idea that we are in a relationship, would you think that is fair to say?

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, a 100%. Collaboration is a part of our DNA and I know those words get thrown around and loses its meaning but we are nothing without cohesive teamwork down to our core. That sort of interplay of challenging each other to do better, to be at our best. Like you said, the more ways we connect outside of that specific work ecosystem the stronger that gets.

Alexander Noren: Yeah, absolutely. There has been a lot of research around specifically have this idea of connectedness. If an employee that would be considered as a best friend at work they are far more likely to stay from those who don’t feel connected to that sense of community. That’s terrific. A business related question for you, do you think that you see perhaps outside the strict HR space here. A big problem a lot of organization have is silos between departments and between teams. Sounds like this is probably not a problem Huge has to deal with.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah. I mean, we are in a project based client world.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: It manifests itself in that way a little bit more. I could confidently say that does not much of an issue at Huge as it is or other places. We got the things I’ve mentioned and many more.

Alexander Noren: Right.

Trystin Bailey: Opportunities to be together.

Alexander Noren: I’ll bring that up just because I know — when we talk about what I call the Non-adopters to the organizations that haven’t quite come on board with this idea of really embracing the employee experience.

Trystin Bailey: Right.

Alexander Noren: What’s in it for them. What would you say if you were talking to somebody that hasn’t adopted this concept of hey the employee experience matters. How would you convert that skeptic to the employee experience cause?

Trystin Bailey: Sure. I would say, “First and foremost, you’re gonna get better work.” I would say that there is– when you get a new project or your focused solely on that project, you gonna put a lot of time, effort and money into building this team. You’re going to focus on the tactical numbers on the playbook but without that human side, without the opportunity to connect ahead of time, without creating a culture in which who you are outside of that work is important. You’re coming in as a person who does work not a worker who just happens to be a person, your going to feel that from the start.

Josh Drean: Can we tweet that?

Alexander Noren: That was pretty profound. That was pretty profound. Holy smokes.

Josh Drean: See what a lack of sleep will do for you.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, right.

Alexander Noren: The philosopher over there.

Trystin Bailey: My dream state here has all the hits. I’m never sleeping again.

Josh Drean: You’re absolutely right. That sometimes we lose the vision of that fact that these are human beings. Yeah, they’re working to get results and get the job done but we can’t miss the facts that if we help them be better people and help them feel more fulfilled at work then the natural cause of that is going to be better work.

Trystin Bailey: Yeah, totally.

Alexander Noren: That’s fantastic. Lot of great stuff going on here, we’re wrapping up here. One other question for you as a take away, if you were able to sit down with just a regular employee somewhere else, what would you tell them that they could do today to start building on their own that Employee Experience culture, that culture were people are united together since its a community. How could one person start to make a difference in their own?

Trystin Bailey: Just one person — random person?

Alexander Noren: A regular guy in the organization, what could they do?

Trystin Bailey: I would honestly say to that one person to start a group like any group. It doesn’t matter, you know, in addition to our social groups we also have affinity groups, volunteer groups. I would say it’s as simple as getting on a slack or something like that just sharing your passion. I think that there’s nothing more attractive to just people creating connections, sharing your passion, putting yourself out there. I would say take a risk in a corporate setting to be authentic. Just share a part of yourself that exists outside of this work world, this environment because that will 100% if not bring someone to you that feels the same way, give someone else the confidence to put a little bit more of their self out there and do the same. That’s how real relationships are built.

Josh Drean: That’s amazing and we definitely think that the work you do and the work that Huge’s just doing to the world is absolutely essential. its cutting edge, we put out there with the [inaudible] and the Googles of the world who are not just creating the place for people to work but your creating an experience that they can enjoy and feel fulfilled.

Alexander Noren: We really appreciate feeling your passion, we’ve got a chance to chat here. You know, like you said it’s so wonderful connecting with people that are just as passionate about this idea. Work can be an awesome place to be, it can be this place of fulfillment. It can be this place of progress, growth and meaningful connections but I loved that advise, “Hey, you know, if you want that to be where  you are then a change we can make is sharing our passion and pushing that to the world and that’s wonderful. Is there anything else you want to add to our listeners out there? Any plugins, anything that you’d like to say to those who are interested in this Employee Engagement, Employee Experience space? It’s getting a little dangerous here, I’m giving an open floor.

Trystin Bailey: Bad idea, bad idea.

Alexander Noren: Careful.

Trystin Bailey: Personally, it’s important to me is for people especially for people who are in the Employee Engagement experience whatever, the internal space, I mentioned this a little bit before, doing those surveys, getting data, getting those numbers is great for measuring where you were and where you’ll be but anyone who is in the people focused area, there’s nothing better you can do than just leave your desk, run around like a maniac and get to know as many people as you can.

Alexander Noren: That’s the cool HR, right? That’s the cool HR doing it.

Trystin Bailey: Everybody should be doing that, I feel like if you are doing it right  you should never be surprised by a single survey result, I think that’s the measure.

Alexander Noren: I love that. That’s fantastic. We’ll everybody, we’re going to wrap it up there today. Trystin just a huge thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today and I got a lot from it Josh. What did you get?

Josh Drean: I’ve taken notes here,I just sent out 3 to 4 tweets today on the great content that you gave us.

Alexander Noren: Trystin Philosophy, holy smokes. Seriously, thank you so much for spending some time with us today.

Trystin Bailey: Thank you, this has been amazing.