Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored guest blog post. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. I am not formally employed by Ultimate Software. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by Adam Rogers of Ultimate Software. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Image courtesy of Flickr.
Many Americans spend more time with their colleagues than they do with their families, so it’s not surprising that the strength of these relationships is important to job satisfaction. Trust, respect, and communication are vital aspects of a positive employee experience, but far too often, these critical factors are ignored or largely overlooked by organizations—perhaps partly due to the innate difficulty of tracking these metrics.
And how important is that trust, really?
Can I Trust You?
According to recent research, extremely. 9 out of 10 employees think trusting their direct managers is important to remaining satisfied at work, but less than half of employees actually do. An April SHRM study learned that respondents were not content with workplace trust levels, even when reporting high job satisfaction. And Rapt Media found more than a third of US employees feel like their companies don’t care about them at all—likely contributing to the 69% of respondents who said they’re either open to other opportunities or already seeking another job.
These statistics are concerning, raising red flags about productivity, retention, and everything in-between. Two-way trust is a crucial aspect of a stable, satisfying and successful work environment, but establishing and nurturing this within an organization can be difficult. Trust is certainly multi-faceted, at work as in life, but experts agree that communication is required, including transparency and responding to feedback. When implemented correctly, these communications tenets are valuable strategies.
In fact, 75% of workers said they would stay in an organization longer if their employer listened to—and addressed—their concerns. Can you imagine the financial impact of a 75% reduction in attrition?
Leveraging Technology to Cultivate Trust
To build a high-performing culture based on trust and communication, employers must effectively uncover their employees’ true feelings and respond appropriately. Many organizations currently rely on annual performance reviews, which can be quite valuable for assessing employee performance against pre-determined goals and objectives. But when it comes to obtaining quality feedback and insight into the employee experience, these infrequent evaluations almost always fall short.
Fortunately, technology has caught up with this significant need. Basic online templates evolved to sophisticated pulse surveys that can measure employee experience in real-time. In addition to yes/no queries and other quantitative tools, these innovative solutions can also decode open-ended surveys with exceptional accuracy. UltiPro Perception™, for example, uses advanced natural language processing and machine-learning algorithms to analyze text-based responses and identify key workplace themes, like trust, as well as the respondent’s underlying emotions.
This highly strategic tool can be effortlessly deployed at regular intervals to assess employee sentiment, either for the entire organization or filtered by location, position, manager, etc. Patterns emerge and business leaders receive real-time, actionable analysis and instant insights to improve trust, satisfaction, and retention within the organization.
These surveys allow leaders to measure how their employees feel about the hot-button topics frequently blamed for job dissatisfaction, such as family-friendly policies, growth opportunities, or job flexibility. Armed with data-based feedback about what matters most to their employees, executives have real power to evaluate and address pain points—building trust simultaneously.
For 46% of organizations surveyed in SHRM/Globoforce’s 2016 survey, employee retention was the #1 workforce management challenge. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By actively listening and responding to employees, it’s possible for organizations to solidify a culture of trust and communication—improving engagement, productivity, and retention in return.
Image courtesy of Ultimate Software.
Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. I am not formally employed by Ultimate Software. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
In the HR industry, we spend a lot of time talking about the best ways to engage the people that work tirelessly for us. The thing that we often overlook in the engagement conversation is: “communication.” While that may seem broad, let’s explore a bit. How likely do you think your employees are to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns at work? You may be thinking: “I have an open-door policy” or “we periodically send out employee surveys.” All of this is a great start, but I would argue that between your open-door policy, employee surveys, town halls, and overall company culture lays a tremendous gap between what you think you know and what your employees truly feel.
Why the gap?
Understanding employee voice requires that you understand the various inputs and ways in which employees communicate. Encouraging your employees to speak up is admirable, but not nearly enough. If asked, many employees will describe a sense of fear around offering up ideas, thoughts, and concerns, whether solicited or unsolicited. While this sentiment is often based on unfounded perceptions of the consequences of communicating freely, it is just as often rooted in experiences where feedback led to negative outcomes such as low performance ratings, indifferent behavior by management, isolation, and even termination as illustrated in an HBR article, “Can Your Employees Really Speak Freely.”
Case and point, employees are fearful of speaking up. In turn, that fear presents a challenge for organizations that are desperate to thwart turnover and other organizational maladies to better retain their workforce. According to a 2016 survey by Xerox, 53% of employers cite retention of top talent as an “organizational priority” for 2017. In order to retain your people, you need to have some insight into their ideas, intentions, and behaviors. The pathway to rounding-up that information isn’t exactly a simple science without some heavy lifting by technology. The reason for this is: Much of your intelligence around what motivates your employees is likely lying dormant as unstructured data fueled by performance evaluations, pulse surveys, exit interviews, internal communication tools, etc.
While all of this information is lying dormant, organizations are left vulnerable and in a state of inaction. Without visibility for situations and actions brewing under your nose, many organizations will continue to wonder why they can’t get ahead where employee engagement and retention is concerned.
Luckily for the HR industry, one of my favorite HR Technology companies, Ultimate Software, has gotten into the data game specifically to assist companies illuminating the true feelings and emotions behind employee responses.
Ultimate Software has a new solution called UltiPro Perception™. They were kind enough to allow me to ask them some questions about their solution and how it can help you. Here’s the scoop:
Help me understand how UltiPro Perception captures employee sentiment.
UltiPro Perception uses advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to analyze open-ended responses within employee surveys. The solution’s sophisticated technology interprets text-based feedback to uncover the feelings and emotions behind employees’ responses. Leaders and managers can then assess the overall sentiment for individual employees, teams, or the organization as a whole. The solution also looks for repeated keywords to identify more than 70 workplace themes or topics, and over 100 emotions beneath the surface of employee answers.
Why is UltiPro Perception better than any other tool out there using sentiment analysis?
UltiPro Perception is uniquely built to analyze unstructured data and uncover not only what employees are saying, but also how they feel, about things like work environment, culture, and leadership. UltiPro provides managers with easy-to-understand, actionable insights that will have a true impact on improving employee retention and engagement.
Another key differentiator is that UltiPro Perception is part of UltiPro’s comprehensive HCM suite. Organizations can easily collect feedback from the right groups of employees based on location, supervisor, tenure, and more—essentially any data element within UltiPro. Most competitive tools have no or limited HRIS/HCM integration and lack enterprise-level requirements such as configurability options and proper role-based security. Other employee survey solutions typically require costly, manual processes or they rely solely on quantitative analytics, and therefore can’t give organizations a true understanding of employee sentiment before it’s too late to take meaningful action.
How does UltiPro Perception arm managers and organizations in being able to manage the Talent Management life cycle better (i.e. Recruitment through Succession)?
UltiPro Perception offers built-in survey templates to gather feedback throughout the employee lifecycle—from candidate, to new hire, engagement, post-learning, exit, and more. Surveys can be configured to automatically be sent once a specific work event occurs, such as a promotion or performance review.
Key driver analysis provides real-time, actionable metrics to help guide managers towards the most effective next steps. Combining these results with UltiPro’s predictive analytics tools and Leadership Actions, managers have powerful resources to support, coach, and retain their employees.
Regarding data and reporting, how simple is UltiPro Perception for HR practitioners new to sentiment analysis?
With UltiPro Perception, data collection, management, analysis, and the delivery of insights are all automated, with both standard and configurable reports available. Report-quality insights are delivered in plain English—no training required. UltiPro Perception’s easy-to-read, interactive reports are delivered immediately upon closing surveys, including the analysis of free-text responses. Reports are distributed based on the employee directory and can be tailored to individual managers or areas of the organization.
What are the long-term and short-term wins new customers can expect using this tool?
Short term—Organizations can immediately get a sense of how their employees currently feel about their work environment, leadership, and more. UltiPro Perception can uncover the organization’s strengths and key areas for improvement.
Long term—Organizations can utilize UltiPro’s workforce intelligence solutions, including UltiPro Perception, to uncover people challenges, predict outcomes, and recommend actions to drive better business results. Additionally, leaders can use historical benchmarking to assess how engagement scores are changing over time, in order to identify trends or patterns and determine long-term strategies to improve workplace culture and make better business and people decisions.
When will UltiPro Perception be available?
UltiPro Perception is currently available for purchase.
What is the approximate cost of the product?
UltiPro solutions are priced on a per employee, per month basis and costs various depending on a variety of factors, including company size.
Is there training or train-the-trainer opportunities available for organizations that need more?
Ultimate’s activation team guides all new customers through setup and configuration and Ultimate’s experts will also guide customers through executing and analyzing their first survey. UltiPro Perception is simple to configure and use, but if customers would like additional assistance Ultimate’s Services team will provide additional support to ensure customers are getting the most out of UltiPro Perception’s powerful survey and analytics capabilities. Ultimate also offers free learning resources for all organizations and their employees, including on-demand online training, webcasts, and more. Through Ultimate’s unique “People First” approach to customer service, all Ultimate’s customers have instant access to customer service experts, including a dedicated account manager and phone and online support.
You may be asking how you give a voice to the voiceless utilizing technology like UltiPro Perception. Here’s how you begin:
- Audit your company culture to uncover both intended and unintended practices that may deter employees from openly sharing their feelings and thoughts.
- Continue to find ways to include employees and their input in all aspects of your company’s operations
- Ensure that there are simple and varied ways for your employees to connect and communicate with you.
- Utilize sentiment analysis and machine learning technologies like UltiPro Perception to help you properly synthesize the valuable feedback you collect from your employees on a regular basis.
- Make sure you are prepared to act upon the information you receive and make sure all levels of management do the same. It isn’t just about acquiring a solution like UltiPro Perception to help uncover this information. You actually have to be willing to make the necessary changes as needed to ensure your employees feel heard.
Organizations can no longer afford to ignore all of the data points available to them. Employees are communicating in a myriad of ways all the time. It’s time we start to listen to them.
Get a sneak peek of Perception via UltiPro’s product tour .
Also, Ultimate Software will be hosting a free webcast on April 25th for you to learn more about this product. To register, click here.
I completely get that there are many businesses that continue to feel the pinch financially. With that “pinch” it requires cutbacks in certain areas and in some cases across the board. One of the areas I am seeing some less than reasonable cuts in is: supplies and tools. You may be thinking that this is extremely reasonable to do in a time of strained budgets, but it really isn’t.
Please know when I say “supplies and tools”, I’m not talking about the kind of cutbacks that result in getting rid of the colored post-it notes to go with the budget yellow ones. I’m talking about cuts to supplies to the extent of employees not having enough resources to do their jobs.
Still in the dark? Here’s an example.
A world-renowned law enforcement agency with millions of dollars earmarked annually for its operation has a printing paper deficit. In many of its departments it is a requirement to print various pieces of information to complete several of their processes. The printing paper deficit has gotten so bad that employees hoard reams of paper when they are ever lucky to receive a shipment. The hoarding of paper means that many employees are left without any paper which then causes them to beg and barter among themselves for company resources to get their jobs done.
To make matters worse, there are two said printers in some of the departments with high-volume printing work, which means there are constant interruptions to the flow of work to wait for other printing jobs to finish before retrieving their own work.
One day, there was very little paper, computers were having a moment, and one of the printers was out. Keep in mind that there is also a quota looming over these workers heads for having to have a certain number of queries done on new hires per day. With no letting up on the queries despite the severe deficit in office supplies to get the job done, the employees are left thinking: ” What do you want me to do?”.
Let’s talk systems and tools.
How do you have employees show up and expect them to work without access to the very systems they need to get the work done? In a recent instance, an employee went almost four months without having properly assigned codes and access to the systems they needed to get their job done. Instead, they had to use the usernames and passwords of a co-worker to complete work. During this time of sharing usernames and passwords, the co-worker changed codes frequently without sharing this with the new employee – so you can imagine there were several lockout instances.
Again, I can’t understand how we can talk about employees being unproductive, yet not give them the resources or tools necessary to get the job done.
If your budget is scant or you have fallen into this rut without realizing it – let me be your light and guide to proper onboarding and productivity measures:
1) No one should be transferring or hired into your company without being allocated the pertinent tools, resources and/or access to systems. You want productivity on day one and your employees want to be productive. Create a simple system for onboarding new people so that their access to things doesn’t fall through the cracks. It is not your employees’ responsibility to onboard themselves and properly assimilate. We must do better!
2) Purchasing office supplies is not your employees responsibility. Now, I’m not saying if your employee enjoys a certain expensive pen or supply that they shouldn’t be responsible to purchase it on their own dime. I am saying that if you cannot afford printer paper, you have a bigger cash flow or budget problem on your hand that needs to be addressed. Outside of maybe teachers and healthcare professionals purchasing applicable uniforms, there is no good reason in my head why an employee should have to purchase supplies out of their own money to complete your work.
3) Less is only more when employers are saving dollars. Sometimes you have to invest. If the expectation is for a high-volume of work to be churned out, you need to speak to your staff regularly to keep a pulse on how the technologies, tools, processes and resources available to them are working out. Often times, we see the work getting done and assume all is well on that front. The reality is your employees – in many cases are moving mountains, dealing with your cutbacks and creating workarounds to get your work done. The least you can do is check-in with them and make the investment when it is clear it is time for an upgrade.
When it comes to work, we are only as productive as our environment and resources will allow. Work ethic matters as well, but for the sake of the article we will assume most people come to work with an intention to do their best. Give your employees the support, resources and tools they need and watch them thrive.
Image courtesy of Flickr.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Human Capital Institute on the HCI Podcast. The focus for our discussion was: The Future of Predictive Analytics in Talent Management. It’s interesting to think about the future of this union- yet it would seem that we are getting ahead of ourselves to be so forward-thinking. One of the things I hope came across in this podcast was that the adoption of predictive analytics, big data and the like doesn’t need to be complicated.
In recent weeks, I have discussed the perils of trying to keep up with every trend in business. The key to unlocking the potential of this perfect union between predictive analytics and talent management is starting with what you have – regardless of where you think you need to be on the data continuum. There’s no script anyone can write for how HR should be utilizing data. Every organization has to decide why the data they are collecting is important and how the answers they receive will help them improve something or reach an outcome.
It is my belief that talent management is one of the more useful places to start to use analytics. How many more times can your times can you meet to decide what referral sources garner your recruitment team the best candidates? This is a common discussion among recruitment teams that could be easily answered if you can get everyone to focus in on the data surrounding referral sources. If you know what’s working and what is not you can begin to document trends. When you start documenting trends, you can start being more predictive in modeling and forecasting your recruitment efforts against the data you have for referral sources. The same is true for using analytics for retention, development and succession planning.
Here’s a tip:
It doesn’t matter where you start looking within your talent management practices. Choose an area. Decide what you want to measure and then examine it consistently to discover trends. Those trends will help illuminate blindspots and areas of untapped opportunity. Once you know what those areas are, you start to take action. Additionally, your goal is to use the trends you find to forecast and model for the future – instead of operating and/or planning just-in-time.
Predictive Analytics isn’t about taking one giant leap or step. It is about the cascading of knowledge you derive from your data around talent management to make better decisions. Becoming data-driven requires an open mind, consistency, and action.
Listen to my podcast with HCI below to hear what else I had to say about this perfect union of predictive analytics and talent management.
Are you one of those companies that would rather preserve everyone than let them go? Right now, I know of at least one organization -where despite lackluster performance, poor behavior and the disbanding of their team of direct reports- a leader is being salvaged beyond their time because no one has the balls to let go of people who are detracting from the organization.
Let’s be honest employers…
With the exception of a select group of companies, it has been my experience that many of you see your workforces as being dispensable. If business is down over a period of time and tough decisions have to be made- you layoff people without blinking an eye. If one of your employees doesn’t exactly fit the mold or doesn’t flow with the way of the company- get rid of them is what you say. Oh, but there are a select “untouchable” few that get to stay for the ride. They have a certain pedigree these untouchables. If you went around and did a very unofficial survey of your workforce at the moment to find out who people believe are “untouchable” in your organization they would either be reluctant to answer and/or with some further assurance of no retailiation -they would give you at least one name. Note: silence is also an answer.
Sometimes these people are at the staff level. In the eyes of their peers, they are disruptive to an otherwise healthy work environment. They do very little or sometimes they do a lot. Whatever they do, they are not interested in assimilating and working cooperatively, because they don’t have to. Despite any complaints or even visual cues that they are contaminating your ecosystem- you, the employer continue to reward poor behavior by promotions that they aren’t worthy of. You offer these “untouchables” opportunities that your other employees would die for. In fact, they may be dying for said opportunities- as they continue to work painfully hard hoping that it will someday be recognized and rewarded.
What of the untouchable leader?
This is probably the most damaging of all of the untouchables. You all know at least one leader that you have encountered that shouldn’t be allowed to lead anyone- let alone be employed by a company in such a capacity. They are not always the vile characters we often think about. Sometimes they are just cunning, undercutting, always playing and dealing a card at the right time. Everyone on their staff sees them for who they are. Internal and external partners even see it. The trouble is when HR ignores the smoke and the C-Suite is blinded completely by charm and other artificially-sweetened personality trickery. There are usually attempts to dethrone this person, but they are usually thwarted by a lengthy list of reasons why the person cannot be fired.
You may be saying: “this is how it is”. If that is your stance, you should also be made aware of the damage these people cause.
Here are some reasons why you should stop salvaging bad employees now:
1) You are setting a precedent that good performance and showing up everyday in a positive manner has no bearing on an employee’s success in your company.
2) These people disrupt the office environment. People tip-toe around them, avoid them and are sickened by having to share in office events or the presentation of yet more accolades for someone who really isn’t deserving of any of it.
3) It causes a slow and painful deterioration to both employee loyalty and effort. Some will hang in there with you unwavered, but many will see your allegiance to an untouchable as a personal affront to their career aspirations. If the sentiment is the latter, you will either lose people or see people do less, because they will figure working hard isn’t a worthy approach in your company.
It’s important to be cognizant of the messages you send about what success looks like in your organization. It’s fairly easy to write down a mission and values statement, but what does that look like in practice? Be sure that the picture of success that you woo candidates with is the same view they have as they progress through your organization.
More insights on this topic will be on The Aristocracy of HR You Tube Channel tomorrow. Click here to tune in.