Engagement and Feedback and People Science, Oh My!

The world of work isn’t exactly the Land of Oz, but it can be a scary place. These days, we’re surrounded by uncertainty. Leaders must find the courage to face the unknown and act on whatever they encounter along the way. It isn’t easy. But it’s a path that leads to a stronger work culture, a more enriching employee experience, and sustainable change.

After all, management is a journey. It’s a process. At its best, it’s a virtuous cycle, fueled by feedback that reveals important truths about the human realities of work. Often, we uncover this intelligence through tools based on the principles of people science. But which tools really help? Let’s dig deeper…

So Many Tools, So Little Time

This is the perfect season to assess your organization’s existing feedback capabilities and identify future needs. I’m sure that’s what many employers are doing after seeing what’s new at the annual HR Tech Conference earlier this month. But innovation isn’t the only thing driving their choices.

Just think about the complex issues weighing on leaders’ minds:

  • Employee engagement and retention continue to slide. Still, productivity and performance expectations remain high.
  • Many organizations are still trying to reconcile return-to-office policies with flexible work preferences. This means they must prioritize workforce wellbeing, inclusion, and trust — all of which depend on strong communication.
  • In the face of ongoing economic headwinds, employers are hesitant to move forward with expansion plans. Some are even cutting staff. Yet, finding and keeping highly qualified talent for in-demand positions remains an uphill climb.
  • AI is rapidly reaching critical mass. On the heels of the recent surge in generative AI, other forms of automation now touch every corner of our work lives. And momentum is expected to accelerate.

With all these factors in play, it may seem tempting to turn to technology for solutions. But that could make the situation even worse. Why?

Tech stacks are already suffering from post-pandemic bloat. After years of investing in tools to support changing workforce dynamics, too many organizations are still not making the most of their incremental tech investments or managing them strategically.

The story is all too familiar, isn’t it? No matter how many tools we acquire, if the right people can’t, don’t, or won’t apply them effectively, what’s the point? After all, technology is only as powerful as the people who use it to connect, communicate, collaborate, discover, grow, and perform each day.

On the other hand, the right tools in the right context can make a huge difference — if the right people put them to good use. Sounds like a people science challenge to me.

How People Science Helps

This reminds me of a conversation I had about a year ago on a #WorkTrends podcast with people science expert, Kevin Campbell. Over the years, Kevin has worked with some of the most prestigious firms in workforce strategy, including Culture Amp, Deloitte, Gallup, and now Qualtrics.

How does people science add value, in Kevin’s opinion? Check these snippets from our discussion:

Kevin, what exactly do you do?

People science requires expertise in multiple disciplines. Think of a Venn diagram with three intersecting circles:

One is people analytics, another is organizational psychology, and the other is applied practice. An employee experience scientist sits in the intersection of those three areas.

What does the term “employee engagement” mean to you?

It’s important to talk about what it is not, as well as what it is.

It’s not a survey. Often, we lose sight of the fact that engagement is an emotional and psychological state. A survey is just a tool that helps us measure that state.

Engagement really starts with emotional commitment. I emphasize the emotional aspect because it’s about the desire to stay with an organization and help fulfill its objectives — not because you’re obligated or you feel forced to do it, but because you want to.

What is the most critical challenge you’re seeing right now?

Organizations often overemphasize understanding and underemphasize improvement in action.

For example, according to 2021 data, nearly 90% of companies measure engagement or have some type of employee feedback program, but only 7% of employees say their company acts on feedback in a highly effective way.

How can employers address this problem? 

It’s important to recognize that the engagement survey or data isn’t the end. It’s really just the beginning.

To improve, you’ll want to translate results into actions that can have outsized impact on your company culture. And the key is simple coaching skills.

For more insights, listen to the full podcast episode here…

5 Feedback Strategies People Science Experts Use

So, if you want to gather ongoing insight to improve the employee experience, where do you start? We didn’t discuss that in our podcast interview, but Kevin did share helpful ideas in a LinkedIn article, “The Truth About ‘Always On’ Employee Listening.” Here’s a summary of his recommendations:

“Always on” means different things to different people. So I would start by asking stakeholders to define “always on.” Some surveying solutions work better than others at improving the employee experience and increasing employee engagement. Here are five use cases and considerations for each:

1. Digital Suggestion Boxes

Some organizations add intercepts on their intranet home page asking things like: “What feedback do you have?” Also, they post QR codes in break areas or add links to surveys in leaders’ email signatures. Digital suggestion boxes can build trust in other ways, as well. For example, you could gather ideas for peer recognition or business improvements.


It’s important to continuously monitor employee input and ensure that leaders reply. At small companies, it can be highly effective when the CEO responds directly. However, input volume can quickly become unmanageable. You could streamline the review cycle by establishing a process to filter and delegate suggestions as they are received.

2. Daily Surveys

Increasingly, we see daily surveys with a handful of simple questions about how employees feel. This kind of on-demand, anonymous channel for employees to raise issues, share feedback, and offer insights helps capture a real-time snapshot of staff morale and satisfaction.


As with digital suggestion boxes, volume can become overwhelming. However, this method can be beneficial if employees realize they can use it to gauge their own experiences without expecting others to act on all input. For instance, you could invite people to assess their own activities and emotions with a daily wellbeing check, so they can understand where they’re focusing time and attention, and how they feel about it.

3. Surveys to Optimize Specific Work Experiences

This involves in-the-moment feedback in the flow of work. For example, you can survey employees during and after each support instance, including live help desk, online chat, and self-service. Digital intercepts can capture feedback whenever people complete key milestones or engage with online properties like company intranets and HRIS systems.


It’s important to close the loop on these touchpoints with dashboards and alerts that notify experience “owners” and “designers,” so they can act quickly on the issues raised. This is also a great integration point for pulse surveys. For example, say a pulse survey identifies equipment ordering as a workplace issue. You can add an intercept on your intranet where people order equipment.

4. Lifecycle Surveys

You may not think of lifecycle surveys as “always on.” However, people are constantly being onboarded, leaving the company, and returning from leave. Each of these events is an opportunity to collect a stream of valuable feedback for leaders to consider.


This is also an integration point for pulse surveys. For instance, pulse questions that tie back to goal alignment, expectations, or enablement could indicate that onboarding surveys would be useful. Or if employees express concern about training and development, you could create an event-triggered survey about learning experiences.

5. Frontline Customer Feedback

You might think of this as a customer experience use case, but enabling frontline employees to make suggestions on behalf of their customers is another “always on” strategy that can elevate both CX and EX.


This makes the most sense when customer-facing employee roles aren’t already empowered to make changes, or they don’t have other ways to frequently share ideas and feedback with leaders.

What Would a People Science Expert Do?

Clearly, effective feedback isn’t just about the ability to gather input. Although it’s essential to welcome ideas and measure staff sentiment, that’s not enough to make the right kind of impact on workforce commitment, engagement, or performance. In fact, too much of a good thing doesn’t serve anyone well.

What really matters is whether leaders take timely, appropriate action to address whatever the feedback process uncovers.

Knowing this, the challenge in the year ahead is probably not where to find money for new or better feedback tools. The question is, whenever employees let you know the truth about their experience, do you pay attention? And are you willing to do what’s necessary to drive change and keep the conversation going?

That takes more than a big budget or fancy tools. It takes courage.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Find more helpful insights for business and HR leaders who care about people and the future of work. Check our growing collection of #WorkTrends podcasts and subscribe!

HR Trends That Matter in 2023: An Insider’s Guide

People often ask me which HR trends should be on their radar. It’s a fair question, because I organize two of the HR profession’s most popular conferences, UNLEASH America and UNLEASH World. During the programming process, I work closely with hundreds of human resources leaders and industry influencers, as well as HR technology and services providers. Spotting key trends is easy, because patterns appear as I reflect on the topics speakers pitch, along with themes that emerge among exhibitors, attendees, and startup competitions.

This year, 7 closely related HR issues and opportunities are trending:

  1. Asynchronous work
  2. Distributed, remote and hybrid work
  3. Upskilling and reskilling
  4. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
  5. People analytics
  6. Employee experience
  7. AI and automation

These HR trends probably sound familiar, but they continue to define the future of work. That’s why they’ll take center stage at our conferences in the year ahead. For details on what I’m seeing and hearing about these hot topics, read on…

7 HR Trends That Matter Now

1. Asynchronous Work

Asynchronous work is the future of work. It’s an environment where people collaborate and complete tasks without real-time presence or communication.

Some industries have relied on asynchronous work for decades. For example, in the software sector, developers often work from wherever it’s convenient. They rely on a blend of standards, practices, and tools that support distributed project management, team problem solving, and interactions. This improves productivity in various ways — especially by reducing interruptions when people want to focus on their primary tasks.

Asynchronous work also improves the accuracy of strategic planning and decision making. Without accuracy, running a business is very difficult.

Many companies are still striving to enable asynchronous work. This includes connecting systems of record so relevant data is secure but also highly available. The goal is to ensure that information isn’t scattered, so people don’t need to call or message others whenever a question arises. Speed bumps like these can create huge volumes of reactive work.

An asynchronous work infrastructure is the foundation of another key HR trend: distributed, remote and hybrid work…

2. Distributed, Remote, and Hybrid Work Models

The pandemic was like a time machine. It instantly catapulted much of the world into a variety of work models that many of us discussed for decades, but hadn’t implemented. Now, these work models are here to stay.

For example, consider one of our biggest clients. At the start of 2020, this company was planning an 18-month global roll out of Microsoft Teams. But when the pandemic struck, they actually rolled-out Teams within only a few days!

This wasn’t an isolated incident. Organizations of all types suddenly had to embrace flexible work  arrangements. Now, although some teams are returning to the office, remote work structures remain. This is driving demand for hybrid work, where people can engage remotely at least one day a week.

Another HR trend emerging from the pandemic is the four-day work week. Previously, this was also widely discussed but not widely implemented. Then, during quarantine, flexible work arrangements became a necessity. This paved the way for ongoing adoption of the four-day work week and other innovative scheduling models.

Pandemic-era flexible work arrangements also helped many employees improve work/life balance. This is yet another HR trend that received attention in the past, but was rarely achieved.

Flexible work models aren’t perfect. But I doubt we’ll ever return to a world where people go to the office and work from 9-5 all week. We’ve seen flexible work succeed, even under the most difficult circumstances. We now know it doesn’t make sense to endure long, expensive commutes and childcare struggles. And why limit creativity and productivity to a prescribed time and place?

3. Upskilling and Reskilling

Although tech industry layoffs are rampant and a recession is looming, the war for talent continues to escalate. But this isn’t really news. It’s been building for years. So, what is the HR trend to watch here?

Many workers who perform repetitive tasks increasingly feel frustrated by a lack of career growth. For decades, we’ve discussed the gap between these jobs and knowledge work. But now, the gap is growing even wider, as technology continues to advance and employers invest more heavily in upskilling and reskilling knowledge workers.

To keep top talent onboard, employers are making learning and development a priority. Professional development is also a powerful way to attract new talent in an increasingly competitive hiring climate. But what does this mean for people with jobs that are likely to become obsolete or automated soon?

Professional growth is increasingly important to people in every line of work. So employers are investing in learning programs to help attract and retain a future-ready workforce. HR departments are finding that implementing and maintaining effective learning programs is much faster, cheaper, and easier now. That’s because learning systems are adding innovative tech like AI-driven capabilities, interactive video, and augmented reality to improve learning experiences. They also offer APIs to connect learning platforms with other HR and business systems, so employers can more easily assess employee skills, track development progress, and measure learning outcomes.

Ultimately, this means employers are becoming better-equipped to help individuals grow in their careers, while helping their organizations succeed.

4. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Another key HR trend focuses on workforce diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). This isn’t just lip service. It has been a serious priority for years, and the commitment continues. Here’s why:

Studies show that diverse companies outperform others. That’s partially because they can tap into a broader range of employee perspectives — spanning age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and more.

In healthy cultures, all employees are paid equally for similar roles. But that’s not the only requirement. People also need to feel welcome, respected and included in relevant meetings and decisions. These pillars of DEIB are more important than ever in today’s dynamic work world, and they’re becoming even more integral to the fabric of vibrant organizations.

5. People Analytics

For decades, data analytics has played a central role across business disciplines — finance, logistics, e-commerce, sales, marketing, and information technology. Now it is becoming common for HR applications such as learning, recruitment, performance management, and employee experience platforms.

Going forward, HR teams will increasingly rely on people-oriented analytics systems to make evidence-based decisions. For example, when relocating an office, decision makers will want to assess talent, performance, and many other data points to determine who should staff that office.

Also, look for AI to play an increasingly important role in people analytics applications, so organizations can improve decision support, performance analysis, and predictive processes.

6. Employee Experience

Now more than ever, organizations are emphasizing employee experience — including onboarding, workflow, culture, career development, and other aspects of work life. This is because a positive work experience correlates with higher engagement, productivity, satisfaction, commitment, and retention.

Also, employee experience is gaining traction because analytics systems are becoming more prevalent. This means more organizations have the capacity to evaluate the impact of employee-focused initiatives. Measurement typically focuses on onboarding, training, and other career experiences such as project assignments and promotions.

Employee experience is derived from customer experience and personalization initiatives used in marketing to assess customer preferences and develop relationships based on those interests. Similarly, the more an HR organization learns about employees and their preferences, the more effectively it can design custom work experiences with a more positive impact on engagement, performance, morale, and commitment.

7. AI and Automation

I’ve mentioned AI previously, but AI and automation deserve a separate discussion. That’s because both are transforming HR processes by dramatically streamlining tasks and enabling HR teams to focus more on strategic priorities.

AI and automation are critical to people analytics and employee experience initiatives. For instance, they can help detect when an employee is unhappy and at risk of resigning. Then, they can recommend ways to correct the issue before it’s too late.

In addition, these tools can alert HR and business managers when employees aren’t receiving appropriate onboarding or learning support. They can also assess and recommend an employee’s unique training path based on the market’s changing demands and the organization’s talent realities.

AI and automation will increasingly permeate HR, reduce the burden of administrative tasks, and offer invaluable insights regarding employee growth, performance, engagement, satisfaction, and commitment.

Final Thoughts on Current HR Trends

The pandemic unleashed work changes no employer could predict. But that’s only the beginning. Now, changes that started several years ago are leading to even more challenges and opportunities ahead.

In today’s volatile talent market, workers continue to place new demands on employers. Meanwhile, HR tech innovation continues to accelerate, giving organizations even more powerful and effective tools to improve all facets of work. As employers rapidly adopt new tools and techniques to improve organizational impact, the future looks bright across the HR landscape.

Microsoft Reveals the Secret Sauce in the Digital Transformation of HR

people analytics MicrosoftWith unemployment at a historic low, companies are grappling for ways to attract and manage workers, and HR’s role has never been more important. People analytics could revolutionize the way HR thinks about talent and overcomes those people challenges. We asked someone who knows a lot about talent and technology how she’s using people analytics to drive better business outcomes. Dawn Klinghoffer is general manager of HR business insights at Microsoft, and she shared why data is so important to the HR function.

How Microsoft Uses People Data to Answer Questions

Klinghoffer has been working in people analytics at Microsoft for 15 years — she actually helped build the first people analytics function at the company — and she says using data to make decisions about employees can change the way HR works. “Making data-based decisions versus decisions based on your prior experience or your gut — that’s the secret sauce to the HR digital transformation,” she says. HR spends a lot of money on employee programs, but if it has better insights into the impact of every decision, leaders will know where to direct those funds for maximum impact.

“When I started in data analytics 15 years ago, there were very few companies collecting data about their employees, but now companies have data warehouses,” Klinghoffer says. She says Microsoft uses its people data to answer several questions:

  • What are the most engaged teams doing differently?
  • How can we create a more positive onboarding experience for new employees?
  • How is information flowing across the company?
  • How do people communicate with each other and get work done?
  • How successful are our diversity and inclusion efforts, and how does that influence our day-to-day work environment?

“Data plays a crucial role in the cultural transformation that we’ve been driving, and provides insights into different behaviors that are driving the positive outcomes that we’re looking for,” Klinghoffer says.

Rethinking Recruitment Decisions

At Microsoft, HR uses data and insights to drive recruiting decisions. “We’re screening in people, as opposed to screening out people, and that means we’re really taking a broader look at the talent that’s out there in the talent pool instead of having a preconceived notion about what we need,” Klinghoffer says.

For example, the company has a “quality of hire” definition that includes different talent pools and hiring strategies. Microsoft has been able to look at different universities to see how their graduates compare with each other. “For instance, over a two-year period, we’ll look at employees who have stayed with the company and been successful or left.”

“For example, our data has debunked the assumption that the best candidates only come from top ranked universities. In some cases, retention is even higher for employees who attended other universities. We’ve been able to use that data to drive different recruiting strategies,” Klinghoffer says.

Improving the Employee Experience

Microsoft wants its employees to feel connected and productive on day one, and this led to the creation of an onboarding survey that asks employees for their perceptions about the onboarding process during the first week, plus a follow-up that includes questions about support they’ve received from their manager during the first 90 days. “The queries revealed it is the little things that matter most – like simply having a computer on day one or having 1:1 time your manager the first week,” she says.

Microsoft also used Workplace Analytics to understand how employees connect with one another — for example, through email or calendar tools. “We were taking all of that data in the Office graph and turning it into insights by validating some of the new workers’ perceptions.”

The data was also used to show how meeting with a manager the first week produced positive results. “New employees want to feel like they’re part of the team, they belong there and can grow their network — and there’s so much goodness that comes out of having a large network at the company that you work for — but it’s the manager that facilitates the process of growing that network,” Klinghoffer says.

Customizing People Analytics for Your Organization

It’s tempting to mimic what you see successful companies doing, but Klinghoffer notes that every organization needs to find its own path. “While I can tell you what works at Microsoft, every company is unique and has a unique culture that it’s trying to drive,” Klinghoffer says. She suggests using your own data and analytics to identify what will work at your company.

For organizations that aren’t sure where to start, she recommends starting small. “You don’t have to do everything all at once. Look at your priorities, whether they’re the priorities for the HR function or business priorities,” she says. “Start with the strategy of your organization — choose one business problem that you think you have sufficient data for.”

Klinghoffer says she can offer suggestions, like perhaps starting with attrition, but that might not be what’s really important for your company. “I think now is the perfect time for people to embrace people analytics and figure out what is it and what business challenge can they solve with it,” she says.

#WorkTrends: The Power of People Data

“People analytics” is a term that gets a lot of people (myself included!) very excited. But the idea of people analytics isn’t exactly new anymore. So the question now is, how are we using people data to uncover important insights and then actually act on them?

This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to a people-analytics pro, Kate Hastings, senior director of insights at LinkedIn, about how HR is using people data to eliminate bias, close the gender gap and drive better outcomes.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.


Welcoming the Age of People Analytics

Hastings says that just seeing job descriptions about people analytics is exciting. Her background is in management consulting, and she remembers the first time she saw the term, in a job description at Gartner. “Not many people get inspired by job descriptions, but it talked about using an organization’s data to make better people decisions and how important that was to the overall corporate strategy and bottom line,” she says.

“I was so inspired, because I felt like this was an underused opportunity for analytics.” She knew she could bring her analytical mindset to make an impact on issues she cared about — making work a great experience, helping people be more productive and making organizations more successful through people.

But she admits that she hadn’t often thought about “data” and “HR” in the same sentence: “When I had worked with HR in the past, that hadn’t been the most data-driven part of the organization, and I felt like there was really an opportunity to bring that data mindset and make better decisions for everyone.”

The real draw of people analytics is making more fair, consistent decisions about people at work, she says: “It feels like we’re all on the same page.” In other words, math evens the playing field.

Using Data to Address Big Challenges

Big challenges like diversity, the gender gap and bias in hiring are on leaders’ minds, and Hastings says people analytics can help. “In a recent LinkedIn survey, we asked recruiting leaders about the trends they’re most interested in, and diversity was number one. People are really thinking about how we can make our organizations stronger.”

She says the first step is quantifying the problem. For example, she says, “we’ve always known there was an issue in terms of the gender gap in leadership, and the big step forward is that we’re able to quantify it. That’s allowing us to do all kinds of things toward solving it. We’re nowhere near solving it yet, but we have a sense of how large the problem is and we understand some of the opportunities.” She points to metrics about what happens when an organization has more gender balance and diversity: There’s a positive correlation to better performance. Once we can quantify both the problem and the potential outcome of making major change, we can start to build programs to get us there.

The Next Phase: Breaking Down Silos

Hastings has seen a change happening in HR over the past 15 years. HR has followed the lead of other functions, like marketing, to pay closer attention to collecting and studying data and making more informed decisions.

But we still have a long way to go. She points to a recent Deloitte study that shows only 8 percent of companies feel like they have usable data about talent.

“I think the next frontier is breaking down silos,” she says. Instead of thinking about a very compartmentalized set of activities (“First we recruit you, then we onboard you, then we make sure your rewards are what they should be and then we train you”), she hopes HR can think about the entire end-to-end journey.

Part of breaking down those silos is working across functions. “McKinsey has been talking about how the CHRO and the CFO and the CEO need to work together as a group of three to really think about how to implement change in their organizations, and I love the idea of people-first organizations working in that way,” she says.

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

3 HR Tech Trends to Watch

If you work in HR, you know that the HR tech marketplace is absolutely exploding. Your inbox is probably overflowing with marketing emails from vendors that want to help you improve every part of the talent lifecycle, from sourcing to hiring to onboarding to engagement. With all of the (very exciting!) noise and activity in HR tech, which trends are worth watching? We flagged three HR tech developments we’re keeping an eye on.

Better People Analytics

“The continued evolution of HR technology is introducing more granular access to data that shapes decision-making in real time,” says Tom Hammond, vice president of corporate strategy and product management for Paychex. He cites a recent Paychex Pulse of HR Survey that found 86 percent of HR leaders said analytics allow them to be more informed and objective.

“Those who are using analytics are doing so to target HR communications more effectively (64 percent), but analytics are also often used to identify high-potential employees (61 percent) and what they’d like more of from their employer.”

When HR is integrated with technology and analytics, Hammond says, there’s also less room for manual errors and siloed data.

Employee Self-Service (ESS)

The Paychex survey also revealed that 73 percent of employees expect a high level of self-service so they can complete an assortment of HR tasks on their own, and 80 percent would prefer to use a desktop or mobile device instead of paper. However, Hammond says nearly half of business owners don’t offer a paperless self-service option for basic HR-related functions like updating an address or filling out a tax form, even though it would reduce HR’s workload and allow departments to focus on more strategic responsibilities.

“Current trends and consumer behaviors show we’re in the beginning stages of a mobile-strategy shift,” says Kevin Andrews, chief technology officer at benefits-tech company Hodges-Mace. “HR understands that, in order to keep up with employees’ fast-paced, easy-access lifestyles, employers must connect via their mobile devices.” Andrews predicts that more companies will look for mobile-accessible HR solutions as they hear increased demand from employees.

Social Collaboration Tools

Research from Gallup reveals that companies with an engaged workforce perform better, and companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 percent. Hammond believes that integrating social collaboration tools such as chat rooms, instant messaging and video communication can help companies promote employee engagement.

“Similar to ESS mobile apps, social collaboration tools in the workplace offer a level of familiarity and resemblance to personal apps that helps engage employees from the start,” Hammond says. In private conversations or wider collaboration, social collaboration can improve internal connectivity. “For example, social collaboration allows for streamlined, personalized onboarding, offering employees access to the forms, information and people they need to start on the right foot.”

Realizing the importance of an engaged workforce, Thomas Bradbury, CEO of WorkplaceUX, also believes there will be in increase in solutions and platforms that are designed to increase employee engagement. “Businesses today want and need to keep employees connected so that the workplace is one that is mutually beneficial both to the organization (and its bottom line) as well as to employees, so that they feel valued, experience growth and have a sense of community.”

One element of employee engagement is self-determination, and HR tech will help workers take more control over their own success. “Employees feel more invested in their work and their company’s future when they have a greater sense of ownership in their success, and they see that their performance has a direct impact on the company’s overall goals and objectives,” says Rajeev Behera, founder of Reflektive. “Growth-minded companies are empowering their people with new tools to solicit and provide real-time feedback, build success recognition into the fabric of the culture and ensure that both managers and employees have the resources they need to innovate, grow and perform at their best,” Behera says.

#WorkTrends: Avoid the Company Culture Comparison Trap

Who’s at the top of this year’s Best Place to Work list?

According to Charlie Judy, it doesn’t matter — and you’d be better served taking a hard look at your own culture instead of everyone else’s.

This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to Charlie about how to understand your own unique culture, avoid the comparison trap and start building a better place to work.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

What Does ‘Best Place to Work’ Really Mean?

We have a core problem in the conversation about company culture, Charlie says. “We’ve been a little brainwashed to think that we can really define what a ‘best workplace’ is all about. What’s best for me is not necessarily what’s best for you. Yet, we say companies are a ‘best place to work.’ Best for who?”

He says he’s worked with plenty of organizations that made those lists, but they weren’t actually “best” for him.

That’s because culture isn’t actually about things you can see — perks like snacks or cool offices. Culture is about the way work gets done.

How to Define a Culture

So, even if we move past the binary idea of “good” and “bad” places to work, it’s still incredibly hard to describe a company’s culture in a few words. We use words like “fun” or “innovative” or “collaborative,” Charlie says, but those words mean something different to every single person.

“How can you help somebody understand what innovation really looks, feels and sounds like in your organization?” That kind of “cultural clarity” is the first step in really helping others envision how the culture plays out.

Charlie says the answer to defining a culture is all about data. “We have to stop making assumptions about who we are and how we work.” And instead of just measuring outcomes, like someone’s overall engagement score this year versus last year, we have to measure and understand the drivers that led to the outcome.

We also need to break down buzzwords like “collaboration,” Charlie says. “Collaboration can mean a lot of different things, but you have to be able to describe it at a behavioral level. Go out and measure the behaviors. What are the building blocks of collaboration?” For example, you’d want to understand whether “collaboration” means that you all sit in a room and stay there until you make a decision, or that you make sure that you transfer information quickly to the people who need it, or that you remove barriers so that anyone can work with whomever they need to, at any time.”

There’s No Right Answer

Once you start to define what your culture really includes at a behavioral level, you’ll start to see that there’s no one right answer to building culture or engaging employees. “There is no formula,” Charlie says. “It’s about understanding what your business needs to be successful and then creating the culture that reinforces and clarifies that at every turn.”

He says that successful organizations are dedicated to working on culture as a continuous project. “It’s an indefinite project. You have to say, ‘We will continually do this forever, because it is part of managing our business.’”

The Future of People Analytics

Charlie is bullish on the power of people analytics, but he says we have to think differently about what we measure. “People analytics doesn’t mean your human-capital-management system. It doesn’t mean your HRIS. It’s about understanding how people work. That’s behavioral stuff, it’s deep, it’s emotional, it’s psychological. We’re talking about complex individuals.”

“We need to get better at anticipating what this organization needs three years from now, not yesterday,” he says. “We have to go deeper than what shows up on a dashboard.”

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

Five HR Analytics Terms You Need to Know

I love big data. I love it for many reasons, but, as I’ve said before, one of the main reasons is the way it’s “raised the profile” of HR and its importance. The sheer volume of information HR analytics can bring to the table has moved HR practitioners from an “out of sight out of mind” back room business function, to a major player when it comes to company goal setting and overall planning. Today we use HR analytics for everything from determining passive and active candidates; assisting with onboarding, training, and engagement; and predicting retention, attrition, and performance rates.

That said, the sheer volume of data available today for HR professionals to work with can feel overwhelming, and at times, paralyzing. Not only do we have mountains of data to interpret, but the data is constantly evolving, shifting, forming, and reforming as we learn about the newest technologies, which actively measure even more employment-related functions.

The key to getting your arms around big data and analytics is to do your research and start to understand it. And to do that you must become familiar with its “lingo”.

Five HR Analytics Terms You Need to Know

Before 2011, if you Googled “data scientists jobs” you would be lucky to find more than a handful of listings. That has changed, dramatically. In fact, by 2015 the demand for data scientists had surpassed the demand for statisticians. But if you’re not lucky enough to have a data scientist on your team, fear not. Knowing the following five terms will lead you one step closer toward all the benefits big data and analytics has to offer.

Data mining. Try and wrap your head around this number: Around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. Clearly, it can’t all be analyzed. There’s not enough manpower on earth to get that job done. And that’s where data mining comes in. Akin to “panning for gold,” data mining involves sifting through raw data, and finding where patterns emerge. Analysts convert those patterns into tangible information, which then allows for relatively accurate prediction making about real life behaviors or events.

Machine learning piggybacks nicely off of data mining, as it’s often used to make that mining job just a little easier. Just as it sounds, computers can “learn” from the data ingested, helping to translate the data into recognizable patterns. You will sometimes see the term Artificial Intelligence used instead of “machine learning,” as AI is what provides computers with the tools they need to absorb and sift through new information.

Hiring channel mix modeling. There are myriad channels available today for talent managers looking to recruit, including—but not limited to—advertising, employee references, recruitment consultants, and social media. Hiring channel mix modeling allows HR pros to make use of previous data on all of the hiring channels employed in the past, and clearly map out which ones were most useful, allowing for more efficient, streamlined human resources departments and optimized hiring expenditures.

Cost modeling. Cost modeling helps those in the C-Suite understand many HR-driven costs. These include hiring and onboarding costs, the time estimated for an employee to reach full productivity, salary and productivity ratios, overall productivity, and employee turnover costs.  Cost Modeling can provide a rich “dollar value” picture of hiring and retention plans for a given year, and allow you to quantify costs associated with certain activities and processes (like mistakes made in hiring, voluntary turnover, etc.) 

People analytics. Simply put, people analytics involves combining all of the employee data in your organization—and using that data to understand and help predict potential business problems, issues like sales productivity, retention, fraud, customer satisfaction, and more. It effectively helps measure the success of both human resources practices and learning and development programs, and eventually (as new apps are developed) will begin measuring the value of different roles, leaders, and other business investments.

While “gut instinct” is always a good thing to have, long gone are the days when that and a fancy resume were the only things helping HR practitioners make hiring and other decisions. Now, big data and analytics can help HR teams run in tandem with those from other key departments, as well as play a significant part in helping their organization achieve success when it comes to business goals and strategies.

What do you think? Are there other HR analytics terms that you’ve encountered? Has your company delved into big data and all its potential? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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