62 minutes | Sep 5, 2019

26. Jesse Zolna of ADP

In this episode of Dollars to Donuts I talk to Jesse Zolna, who leads the User Experience Research Team at ADP’s Innovation Lab. We talk about driving change as an experiment, exposing the organization to how customers solve problems, and engineering psychology. One of the challenges we face is getting “credit” for the work that we’ve done. A lot of what we do is help people understand the problem space better and understand these things that their users aren’t able to do, or want to do, or whatever. And oftentimes it’s not going to be brand new. Rarely do you come up with something that nobody’s ever thought of before. A lot of times we help solidify or better articulate those problems, which then you can attack much better. – Jesse Zolna Show Links Northern Soul The Day Mick Jagger and Keith Richards Met Again ‘Friends’ Will Be There For You At Beijing’s Central Perk Lowrider Culture Spreads to Brazil and Beyond Russian Doll Ronald does the wai McDonald’s to Offer International Menu Items Including (Yes!) the Stroopwafel McFlurry Jesse on LinkedIn Jesse on Twitter ADP ADP’s Innovation Lab Drives New Ideas And Cultural Change Within The Company Barnes & Noble Nook Stephen Gates on Design Thinking 5 Whys Tufts Department of Psychology Adlerian psychotherapy Georgia Tech Engineering Psychology Airtable OKR DJ Anne Frankenstein Follow Dollars to Donuts on Twitter and help other people find the podcast by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Transcript Steve Portigal: Welcome to Dollars to Donuts, the podcast where I talk with the people who lead user research in their organization. Northern Soul was a musical and cultural movement in the UK in the late sixties and early seventies. It was all about obscure soul music from America. The movement really was a scene, with clothing and dance styles, and clubs hosting dance parties, but let’s just focus on the music. For people in the UK in the 60s it wasn’t easy to get music from the US. In fact, this difficulty figures into the origin story of the Rolling Stones, where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards reconnect during a chance meeting on a train platform, and one notices the other has possession of some rare and desirable albums from the US. Anyway, Northern Soul started in that context initially, the difficulty of getting any of this music and then went on to specifically emphasize the rarities. Remember that there was no consumer music duplication technology – you had to have the 45. Many of the songs that became Northern Soul legends were commercial failures, failed artists, failed labels. And yet, these 45s, these songs found a second life, across a time, across an ocean, across cultures. Decades later, we have the Internet, and we have globalization, and we embrace consumer enthusiasm. So there’s a cafe in Beijing modeled after Central Perk, from the TV show “Friends.” Mexican-American lowrider culture has been taken up in Brazil and New Zealand. I find these examples fascinating, and given the frequency that these stories appear, I’m not the only one. Given the work that I do, my interest is specifically because these stories typically involve people going around the brand. The producer makes certain products and provides them to a certain audience in a certain marketplace. Sure, it’s a statement of identity to watch “Russian Doll” on Netflix, but your effort to both discover and consume is minimal. But to buy authentic parts for a product that isn’t made any more, from another country, for example, takes a lot more effort. Even with the Internet. This kind of lead user consumption is interesting. So that’s the consumer side, going around the default path laid out by the company. And on the producer side, larger companies seem pretty intent on managing both globalization and localization. You can go to a McDonald’s in 101 different countries, but the menu will be different. Outside McDonald’s in Thailand, Ronald is posed giving the “wai”, the traditional Thai greeting of a slight bow with hands pressed together in front of the chest. Even though the McDonald’s brand spans cultures, the Thai experience is specific and self-contained within its own environment. McDonald’s redefines itself within the boundaries of the national border and even though we know Ronald can be found everywhere, this Ronald reminds a Thai customer that he is specifically in Thailand. Ronald is trying hard not to be the tourist who awkwardly adopts the local customs in order to seem “down” but actually someone who has moved in and become part of the scenery. Of course, brands, their symbols and indeed their products change meaning when they move from one culture to another, but we can consider the bare minimum meaning, just the fact of its existence in any particular culture. Earlier this year, McDonald’s in the US introduced a limited-time “International Menu” featuring Stroopwafel McFlurry, the Grand McExtreme Bacon Burger, the Tomato Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich and Cheesy Bacon Fries from respectively Netherlands, Spain, Canada and Australia. Linda VanGosen, McDonald’s vice president of menu innovation said in a statement that “We know our US customers are curious about McDonald’s international menu items.” It doesn’t matter if these are any good. And these aren’t intended to be authentic representations of the cuisine of these other countries; they are presented as authentic exemplars of McDonald’s in these other countries. The point here, the fascinating thing to me, is that McDonald’s is acknowledging, at least to its American market, that seams exist, that the way you experience the brand is limited by your geography, and another variation of McDonald’s – a non-American version – is out there. This is a very contained action by McDonald’s but the way it breaks the frame by pointing to something outside what they so carefully control and design is huge. The homework for all of us is to keep our eyes open for how and when producers acknowledge in any way what lies outside the set of things they are providing to us. I believe this will continue to change. And for those of us who are in the business of producing things to be consumed, McDonald’s is signaling here that we have more choices than we might have previously thought possible. This is an important aspect of the work that I do, helping companies to unpack these shifts in culture and consider the ways they might respond, in terms of what is appealing to the marketplace and what is authentic to the company itself. My clients have a lot of deep knowledge of what they have been doing, but they often need help getting outside that, and I help teams to build a new shared perspective and a plan to move forward. And so, the best way to support this podcast is to support my business. Hire me to help you bring a nuanced external perspective to how you understand your current and future markets. Get in touch and let’s discuss what we might do together. I’d also love to hear how this podcast is helping you in your work. Email me at DONUTS AT PORTIGAL DOT COM or find me on Twitter at Dollars To Donuts, that’s d o l l R s T O D o n u t s. Let’s get to the interview with Jesse Zolna. He leads the User Experience Research Team at ADP’s Innovation Lab. Jesse, welcome to the podcast. Jesse Zolna: Thank you, Steve. Thanks for having me. Steve: Let’s start by having you say a little bit about who you are and what you do and we’ll go from there. Jesse: Okay. So, I lead the User Experience Research Team at ADP’s Innovation Lab, is one of the ways I put it. ADP has a sort of complex arrangement of business units and I fall within what we call shared products. It’s the stuff that runs behind all the different business units. I end up interacting with a lot of the different front end products that ADP makes. And so, just as a short term I say the innovation lab. I started here about 5 years ago when we opened the Innovation Lab. So, ADP made the decision to invest in UX and agile and design thinking, sort of all at the same time. I think I was hired #18 or 19 in the group. So, I’m leading the UX research team here in the lab. Steve: What are some of the business units that – your lab works across these different – for those of us outside of the organization, what things could we learn about that ADP makes that you’re kind of working to inform the design of? Jesse: At the simplest level, ADP has sort of three business units – small, medium and large businesses. And we make essentially payroll products for those businesses. That’s our core product and then on top of that we layer what we call HCM products, so anything that’s related to HR really. And then a lot of that will feed into payroll. We have what we call core HR which is all about people’s data, about who they are, where they live, and that stuff impacts the taxes that we take out of your paycheck. We have time products within each of these business units. You’ve got to record your time and obviously that calculates your pay. We have retirement services products, so like 401(k) stuff. Medical benefits, that kind of stuff. So, if you think about the paycheck as sort of the center of our business and then all the sort of – we have lots of different products that sort of feed into that center of business. Steve: What does HCM stand for? Jesse: Human Capital Management. It’s the newer term for HR. Steve: I’m old enough to remember when it was called personnel and then that got outmoded by HR and now I’m going to be a dinosaur if I say HR. Jesse: So, back then HR were bean counters and the just a cost center – the people were just a cost center. Now, today, people and tale
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