HR Spark Episode 1 – Voice of the Employee

hello and welcome to the first episode
of HR spark igniting business conversations on HCM trends impacting
today’s workforce I’m your host Matt Mullan joining you
from the putting green at Ultimate Software’s headquarters. In today’s
episode, we’ll be talking all about the voice of the employee. You know we hear a
lot of noise in our daily lives and it’s all constantly fighting for our
attention but what should we really be tuned into as HR professionals and
business leaders? The answer is the voice of your employees, but what does that
mean exactly? hearing the voice of the employee means
truly listening to and understanding what your employees are saying it goes
beyond surface level feedback and gets into employees true feelings about their
work their leaders and the organization’s most importantly it’s
acting upon the valuable insight you’ve gained from really hearing your people
because as a recent study revealed three out of four employees say that the
number one action their employers could take to encourage them to stick with the
company is to listen to and address their concerns. Now tuning in to the
voice of the employee is no easy task but today we’re joined by experts who
can provide key strategies and guidance for effectively understanding your
employees sentiments they’ll discuss why it’s important to hear the voice of the
employee and introduce the advanced technology that empowers you to do just
that so let’s jump right into it here with me now via Skype to talk more
about this as Armen Berjikly, senior director of strategy for workforce
intelligence at Ultimate Software. Armen would be here with us, but he’s
celebrating the birth of his third child. so Armen, welcome to HR Spark and thank
you for joining us thanks for having me Matt. Tell us in your in your own words
what is the voice of the employee just the most important thing oh how I would
answer that is I’d build from the foundation if you look at a company
obviously employees are unequivocally the most valuable piece of that
organization they obviously create the end of the value but in some cases they
can also destroy the value of a company and not maliciously of course but
because of this potential or experience or lack of engagement and if you kind of
flip it around and you look at you know a company that has a product and imagine
that they had that product or service and they never took the pulse of it they
never tried to expand upon it or understand how it was playing
out with customers who wouldn’t even fathom that light in our current
economic environment that’s a terrible way to play but we absolutely see that
happen with employees we have taken for granted and particularly their
experience, and so the experience from the perspective of employees in their
own words with as little artificial structure as possible right like raw
pure employee thought that’s what I refer to as the voice of the employee
and you notice I very carefully talk about employee experience and not so
much the more typical terms they’re thrown around and voice of employee like
employee engagement because I believe employee engagement sorry the byproduct
of employee experience and the wrong thing to focus on initially and
ultimately that’s because the experience this is emotional as it is statistical
it’s as much IQ is EQ as much left brain right brain and that experience is the
root of all the sort of outcomes are going to happen to employee yet the
methods companies have typically used if they are listening to their employees
have totally ignored that fact that we are human we feel as well as think and
so that true sentiment end of the workforce including emotions loss that’s
that’s the voice of the employee Wow um and and so you mentioned some methods in
there what kind of methods are those to listen you know typically organizations
will deploy you know that’s like an annual survey it goes to
the entire workforce at once it’s long if boring it has a lot of
multiple-choice and sort of traditional questions we all know that experience
doesn’t really have to define it more than that if you can kind of feel
internal drone when you’re like oh gosh I got it for there fill out the annual
survey and part of that is because one it’s repetitive and we’re using sort of
artificial constructs like multiple-choice questions to really get
at what should be a simple question of what’s going on and so what happens is
people they get tired of filling them out so they go something like five by
five five five right I got to get back it’s you should and more importantly
you’re probably more worrisome employees don’t have faith that anything comes
an investment of time effort honesty etc and then the last thing to kind of put
the wedge and why I think the traditional employee survey is dead as a
means of getting to the voice of the employee is the length of time that it
takes to understand even this faulty information you know three months six
months sometimes even nine months to get sort of the the responses back to
managers in the format they can understand and theoretically start to
incorporate into their day-to-day management style so you know gets timed
out and sort of outdated by the time it gets to employees all this stuff adds up
to what needs to be a different world we’ll get into the voice and employ yeah
nine months is way too long I mean by that point you’re already at your next
annual survey so you’re really just spinning a wheel so it’s obvious that
these kinds of surveys they make it really tough to get a real sense of the
voice of the employee right absolutely you know when you deploy a survey like
this right like you have a few other issues that come out beyond just attack
it’s like what is it’s really not representative of the entire workforce
right just like some kids are better taking tests and others you know for the
SAT engage knowledge so people are just really good at taking multiple-choice
surveys or comfortable with that so we’re missing the chance to provide
people feedback in their own words or you’re already like sort of cutting out
a significant part of your workforce you know one study recently showed that
with 25 percent of respondents felt that the survey they use had any value really
your employees I mean like that’s like a horrible bar yeah I couldn’t agree more
and I really appreciate that insight um so now that we understand the challenge
is a question becomes what can we really do about it and to help answer that
let’s bring in our next guest joining Armen and me for today’s panel
discussion also via Skype is Janine Truitt chief innovations officer at
talent think innovations thank you for being here Janine thank you for having
me so to continue with some of the ideas that Armen was getting at here
we want to know how employees can go beyond traditional surveys and and
better grasp the voice of the employee what do you think about this Janine I
think part of what the issue is is there’s a lack of trust and there’s a
lot of fear on the part the employee so there’d been an HBR
article I think it came out a few years now about you know whether or not
employees can speak freely at work or whether or not they feel empowered to do
so and the consensus was that they really don’t there’s a lot of fear
around sharing one’s true feelings with leadership and so you oftentimes even
when you’re doing things like surveys oftentimes you’re not going to get
really to the root of what that sentiment is largely because people
don’t one want to be seen as being either a whistleblower or somebody who’s
being you know negative Nellie if you will but the other piece of it too is
that there has been some research that’s shown that there are some negative
outcomes that come from employees actually speaking up and saying what
they truly feel such as either loss of promotions or being blacklisted or
transfers or other opportunities within the organization so we have to kind of
peel back the layers before we even start to talk about things like tech and
surveys and how we can do it better is really trying to foster a true sentiment
of trust within the organization and so that employees can feel empowered to
speak up when those questions are asked however they’re asked Norman do you have
anything to add to that as far as you know being in a safe place
absolutely I think that’s a huge important point it’s about trust and you
should be getting information from your employees to improve your company
tactically right it shouldn’t be for any vendetta or to come out and cull out
which employees are unhappy to then punish them and I think sort of the
overall approach that you take to your employees how you listen to them how
often you list of what investments you make into the tool so sense of what
outcomes happen from that I’ll feed it to the fact that you can create the
positive side of hearing you versus the sort of I only listen to you when I need
to or for some ulterior motive so I think I’m you know what what genius has
spot-on you need a holistic answer an approach and it can lead to a very very
healthy culture that’s that’s great guys there’s been a lot
changing in this realm lately to help businesses to accomplish this with their
employees and I’m curious you know what kind of technology that you guys know
that it’s available today the emergence of AI as you know something to apply in
the workplace is certainly something to look at and I think the whole concept of
bots being used particularly when it comes to pulse surveys can be something
impactful in the workplace so pulse surveys have kind of been something
emerging in the HR field in terms of just getting away from the traditional
long drawn-out survey and just having more kind of usable bits and bytes of
information that you’re constantly siphoning from your workforce having
some kind of think in a way that a human would think and execute getting those
that information in that data and then synthesizing that I think is huge for
the workplace and and could be impactful yeah
and a norm and would you have anything to add to that I mean I think if we come
back it’s a gold bar the bull bar is taking your employee up to coffee having
a really meaningful discussion fifteen minutes and reading between the lines of
that discussion about things that are work and maybe at home that all kind of
impact how this employees experiencing the company is able to contribute as
well as grow we can’t do that just as Jenny talking about some sort of a scale
issue right even when companies go to 20 people you start to run into those
barriers so we have to harness technology which is now advanced and
it’s brought in many things like machine learning natural language processing all
these things were feed into the idea of artificial intelligence that helped us
say okay if we want to hear people in their own words at scale like take
everyone to the copy how it’s kind of thing we finally have the technology
that kind of supports the ability to get the information out of that right and if
you couple it with the things we were talking about earlier in terms of the
mentality that’s changing of we should be treating their employees as our most
valuable customers right and not segregating them as somebody as a
population we take for granted so you know those technologies help us
understand what’s being said we’ll feel about it and then you know it
happens in this gorgeous way instantly right it can always get better and so
things like unconscious bias or just the latency of a person trying to go through
let’s say open-ended survey responses by hand all that stuff starts to be
eradicated and we get to a much more fluid and caring culture now you know
you guys we’ve really come a long way based on what you guys have said um so
I’m curious where do you see this tech going in future journey I’m excited for
the technology to work for us but then to give us back the role of putting the
human touch to it so that is the I is so smart in the machine learning piece you
know which is basically just admitted technology Linux accumulatively learn
and get better and better at siphoning the information and synthesizing it is
huge for HR department it means it takes a lot of the administrative bit it also
allows the HR practitioner to kind of look at the data and say okay I clear
trouble spots are being rather than I mean to what Armen said taking out the
whole team to coffee now I need to speak to Bob and Jake big because there’s some
things going on in their group a little bit more TLC than the rest of my groups
so I think there’s time save there’s efficiency saves on there’s productivity
saves and obviously the goal of it all is to empower a better culture as well
as people which is top of pretty much every c-suite person’s mind right now
so that’s great and in Armen anything that you’re looking forward to or
excited about in the coming coming years I think underlying everything we’ve been
talking about to start this new wave of HR analytics right and you know people
talk a lot about sort of money volleying and kind of bringing those things I
think that we’ve done in sales and ERP into HR
I think that misses the point right I think what we’re excited about is you
know this recognition that employees are people they have bought their fields
we’re going to be able to bring technology they can kind of bring those
back to frontline managers and sort of democratize the data it can be done in
real time and then it’s to Jenni’s point eight this is you know artificial
intelligence but it’s not to the extreme of like we want you know a joystick to
run HR with right people at the core of HR they go into HR to help people
learning up reach their potential and deliver on their promise and now these
tools are going to be there in a weird way like a butler to help you get
through the mass of data and the inside the data so that you can do your job
better and that’s what I’m super excited about is this sort of like like a people
first artificial intelligence coming to bear in human resources so basically
bringing the human back to human resources with AI yeah that’s a
interesting so well we’ve we’ve really learned a lot with you guys thank you to
our guest Arman and Jeanine for joining us and sharing your expertise on today’s
episode of HR spark and thanks to all of you for tuning into for this discussion
on the voice of the employee now we’d like to hear your voice what are some
challenges that you may have seen with employee sentiment analysis in your
workplace we invite you to send us your thoughts via email and even though we’ve
covered a lot in today’s episode there’s plenty more to learn on this
ever-evolving topic so we hope you’ll join us on Tuesday June 27th at 2:00
p.m. eastern standard time for live webcast titled conversations you should
be having with your high and low performers to register just click the
link shown here on the screen be sure to join us next month for a brand new
episode where we’ll be discussing workplace culture until then thanks for
tuning in I’m Matt Mullen and this has been HR
Spark we hope today’s episode has ignited some ideas for your people and
your business you

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