How Australia Post is innovating from the inside out

When organisations commit to innovation, the first place they typically think about innovating is for their customers. The obvious thought is around creating a shiny new product or service - because in so many organisations, innovation still equals a new product.

The most innovative companies don’t stop at the customer. Instead, they take a holistic approach to innovation. It isn’t just about the customer; it’s also about innovating the work environment so that staff are inspired to innovate and create.

After taking some of Inventium’s clients on a tour of Silicon Valley last year, it became clear that the world’s most innovative spend as much time obsessing about the internal employee experience as they do about the customer experience.

For example, many companies in Silicon Valley have implemented unlimited paid leave policies, on-site masseuses, and mobile laundry services – all aimed at making one’s experience at work a whole lot better.

So when Australia Post – one of Australia’s oldest organisations - called to invite me to tour their new Customer Experience Centre, I was initially sceptical as to what I would find. Let’s face it - Australia Post is an organisation that has not previously been synonymous with innovation.

My tour started with looking at some of the digital innovations the team at Post has been working on. The first product I was taken through was Change of Address Notification – designed to remove some of the frustration that comes with moving house and getting your mail redirected.

It’s been about four years since I last moved house, but I very clearly remember the annoyance of having to physically go to a post office to fill in a paper based form to get it all sorted. And then there was the time-consuming process of letting all of the institutions I had a relationship with know about my new address.

Thankfully, those “manual” days are over, and mail redirection will become as easy as hopping onto Post’s website, entering your details, and ticking all the organisations you want to notify of your new address. Almost makes me want to move house again. Well, almost.

During my visit I also met with Regis Bauchiere, who joined Post from French identity solutions provider Morpho. At Morpho, Bauchiere worked on an Indian biometric digital identity solution which is now used by over a billion people. Bauchiere took me through what the Post team has developed in the digital identity space, aimed at removing friction in current identity verification processes.

Digital iD is a platform that allows consumers to verify their identity once and use their digital id via their smart phone to prove who they are anytime, anywhere.

For me, I often avoid changing service providers because of the time-consuming process involved in proving to a new provider that I really am me. It just seems easier to stay put, even if the service is woeful.

Ultimately, with Digital iD, I’ll be able to use my digital identity with all sorts of organisations, making the process of proving who I am much easier than it is today.

I also met with Deanne Keetelaar, who joined from NAB to lead the payments and financial services area. Keetelaar is working on launching a range of new services to help Australian businesses grow their eCommerce business and access new opportunities. This will be achieved by helping to make it easier for businesses to keep up with customer expectations and trade internationally.

Keetelaar talked me through their extensive range of payment processing, cash disbursement and financial transaction services that enable Australia Post to offer consumers more convenient ways to make purchases, pay bills, or deposit and withdraw cash.

But in addition to Post’s customer-focused innovations, I was able to witness the work being done on innovating the employee experience. The “Our Place” program is a huge undertaking to transform the work environment at Australia Post.

Interior Designer Claudette Leeming was hired to lead the Our Place project, which removes the more rigid, cubicle and office driven environment of the past, to one that is all about collaboration and mobility. Rather than employees feeling fixed to their workspace, the program encourages a more mobile mindset to encourage staff to move to wherever they are needed to collaborate with others on solving problems.

Rather than just implement the change in one fell swoop, Leeming designed a six-week experiment, which involved transforming part of head office into an environment that encouraged this new way of working. Leeming and her team spent many hours observing behaviour and getting feedback from staff. The feedback was then applied to iterate the design several times. The final workspace design is now being rolled out throughout Australia Post’s head office.

Given the traditional role Australia Post has played in the community, it’s encouraging to see that the organisation is developing innovative solutions to help solve real customer problems. Post’s approach to innovation is not merely about the customer but about a whole new way of working that encourages and supports its staff to be innovative.

(This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Dr Amantha Imber in August 2017.)