We set out in January of 2018 with a lofty idea among our leadership team: to hold a Design Week at Workday! Our design community is a passionate and education-hungry bunch, attending conferences like SF Design Week, meetups, internal workshops and anything else we can get our hands on to enrich our design thinking, increase our skills and collaborate with others in the design community.
It got us thinking about how we could leverage the amazing talent and varied skills here within our own company. A daunting but exciting task emerged, and we jumped in with excitement. How might we pull this off at scale and welcome our global design community into an immersive 4 days of pure learning, collaboration and — because it wouldn’t be Workday without it — fun?
Foster Your Design Community
Workday is passionate about its people. Have you seen the accolades? We’re #4 on Fortune’s Best Places to Work. Our culture is built around our people, our passions and our creative and social interests. We have an amazing and talented global community of designers, content strategists, researchers, design technologists and design leadership right here, and we wanted to make sure we fostered that bond and culture as we grew.
We knew what we wanted to get out of this week: to bring creative people together in one place where they could discover and share about how to break the barriers and boundaries of design. We hoped to leave everyone full of inspiration and pride in the Workday design community.
Deciding on a Theme
As brainstorming commenced, some common themes emerged. With an understanding of what we wanted our design community to get out of Design Week, we realized the importance of our growth, global community and how that growth affects us culturally. So, the theme of scale was at the top of the list. How do we scale and maintain culture? How do we design at scale?
Scale is an interesting word that means different things to different people. What do we mean when we talk about design at scale or design organizations and communities that scale?
At Workday, scale is happening all around us. As a growing organization and company, we expand and have multiple locations and multi-local cultures. But with that, we recognize the importance of design as a shared discipline. We wanted our design community to visualize our global department, getting to see the magnitude of our teams and the qualities that we share.
Did we mention the scale and growth in our UX design organization? We have been steadily doubling the size of our product design department for the last two years at an amazing yet thoughtful rate. The growth of our own organization has made us consider how we can promote diversity and inclusive practices as we grow, and this led to another theme, inclusion.
Workday, like much of the design and tech industry, has recently focused on inclusion and diversity. We are working on changing the landscape of design and being more inclusive as a design organization.
With this theme, we challenged our organization to explore how we, as individuals, can have a direct impact on the way diversity and inclusion is implemented in design. As designers, we are inherently skilled at empathy and inclusion. We bring inclusiveness to the consciousness of stakeholders. Designers naturally include other perspectives in the design process and our design work. Designers are facilitators of ideas, not just of craft. Setting aside time to reflect on how we include was important for us as an organization. So when we talked about inclusion as a theme, it became a broader topic that sparked curiosity among our attendees and a unique set of speaking topics.
Out of those discussions emerged our themes: Scale + Inclusion. We weren’t prescriptive with our themes; we didn’t attempt to define them in a traditional sense and purposefully opened the topics to interpretation in order to be inclusive to diverse perspectives.
Power of the People
Our greatest asset is our people, and Design Week aimed to highlight the diverse skill set on the team. The people that we chat with in the coffee line? Now we know that he has a side gig as a children’s book creator, and that she has expertise in service design. The presentations they and other participants gave challenged perceived pillars. They shared everything from lessons learned while working with co-located teams to cross-product knowledge in the spirit of creating cohesive experiences.
We designed the event to represent a variety of perspectives. Leadership set the tone and guided high-level themes, while external speakers reminded us that the design community knows no bounds. Representatives across Workday shared processes and lessons learned in conference-style presentations. Workshops presented opportunities to practice skills, such as how to ask non-leading questions and how to maximize stakeholder meetings.
Time and opportunity for being together was one of the biggest wins. We like to work, but we also like to play. It was important to build in time to digest all of the amazing presentations and have deeper discussions with peers and presenters. We planned breaks, casual get-togethers, and a few parties and games throughout the week. Our community appreciated our thoughtful attention to their capacity to take in information in a jam-packed 4 days.
Last, we celebrated diversity during our design week. We embraced participation across multiple disciplines (content strategy, research, interaction design, design technologists and more), orgs (Marketing, UX) and locations (from Dublin, California to Dublin, Ireland).
It’s Just the Beginning
The impact that the event had on Workday’s growing design community was evident. Attendees left inspired and the positive feedback flooded in. These are just a few of the things that people loved:
“Team building and connecting with other designers I had only met virtually.”
“The constant surprise of how peers were awesome with their presentations. It really showed the talent of individuals and knowledge of what everyone is up to that could impact/inspire each of us in various ways.”
“Design week ignited a fire in me and I felt like I was truly part of a design community at Workday.”
Design is all about people — it’s what makes you connect with products and the world around you. So it’s a plus to have teams that exemplify the power of empathy and connecting to people. We strongly believe that the people that attended Design Week are the lifeblood of design here at Workday. And when it comes to scale, we took a huge jump forward by coming together as one design community.
As we gear up for Design Week 2019, we look back with fondness at the impact of our first ever Design Week at Workday. We loved that we were able to use this event to reinforce and strengthen the fact that our company is an electric and desirable place to belong to. Stay tuned for tips on planning your own design week.