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Culture Cure

Your Future of Work Lies here

Talent Intelligence – the art of taking workforce data and turning it into meaningful employee insights – will be...

6 Minutes Read

Talent Intelligence – the art of taking workforce data and turning it into meaningful employee insights – will be the cornerstone of the Future of Work. Why? Because through gathering employee insights we define how workers get to work. As organizations continue to evaluate and quantify the impact of their current, sometimes century-old working model on productivity, health and happiness, they will be forced to rapidly reimagine the way they manage, motivate and retain top talent.

That’s why we’ve spent the last year researching and writing on the topic of Talent Intelligence and how it will change the worker’s world for the better.

With that in mind it was my pleasure to attend the People Analytics & Future of Work (PAFOW) conference in San Francisco last week as the overarching focus of the conference this year was on people analytics for the employee. The theme was ‘People Data for Good’. The conference gave due recognition to the shifting balance of power between employee and employer, and the impetus that is being put on employers to redefine work. This was exciting – not least because it was the motivation behind my aforementioned study on Talent Intelligence. It was also a noticeable shift from last year’s (equally thought-provoking) PAFOW where the focus was people analytics for the organisation. (Read my write up from PAFOW 2018 here.)

So how is Talent Intelligence reshaping work? Here are three key takeaways from the conference:

1. It’s not about the perks, it’s about the work.

Research from Josh Bersin confirmed that the most important part of a job is the work itself. And no this isn’t some flippant comment either. When asked, ‘what is the #1 thing that inspires you and makes you happy and want to work harder’, the answer was not free yoga classes or freshly ground coffee, but ‘the nature of the work itself’ (26%).

In addition, Talent Intelligence will allow businesses to embrace the ‘fluid career’ instead of fear it, helping employees to find the work that most inspires them. The big trick that organisations are still missing is retaining employees through data-driven internal mobility efforts. By effectively mapping skills across the organisation – and crucially asking employees what they want – organisations will often find, with the help of predictive analytics, that the right job for their latest flight risk was inside the organisation all along.

Heather Whiteman at GE Digital described their data-driven Career Discovery tool for associates. As well as capturing employee skills within their pre-defined capability matrix, the system allows employees to input their passions and interests as well, and then recommends internal opportunities based on this holistic view.

THE HEADLINE: Let talent intelligence redefine the notion of career and find work that will delight your employees.

2. AI-driven automated feedback

While human feedback loops (between manager and direct reports, for example) are often infrequent, generalized and subject to human bias, feedback from employee data can be precise, detailed and real-time. This opens up the opportunity for technology to promote positive employee behaviour through nudging. Perhaps a 10-minute break is automatically scheduled after a meeting with a challenging customer, or hot desks are assigned based on projects or tasks, automatically bringing individuals together to foster collaboration. Imagine the impact not just on productivity but also on well-being:

  • Desks that promote healthier habits by adapting into standing desks on a regular basis.
  • Schedules that alternate demanding tasks with energizing breaks.
  • Insights from employee data on employees at risk of excessive stress or burn-out.

This is the “third-stage” in employee engagement powered by people analytics. Solutions are cropping up in this space - take Lazlo Bock’s Humu as a prime example.

Dawn Klinghoffer from Microsoft talked us through how their MyAnalytics platform provides real-time feedback to employees about their email behaviour and nudges them to work in a way that has a better impact on themselves and their colleagues. Dawn, for example, had a tendency to send emails late on a Friday night. That was until MyAnalytics educated her to the impact this had on the stress levels of her direct reports, nudging her to hold off hitting send until Monday morning.

THE HEADLINE: Get ready for AI to augment the manager’s role by coaching employees into better working habits.

3. The Culture Cure

Talent Intelligence has the power to transform the employee experience, but only when there is the fertile ground of a great culture in which to grow. For example, it goes without saying that in order to succeed with Talent Intelligence, you have to beware of the “creep factor”: the feeling of an employee that their employer is snooping on them. This needs to be the core consideration when undertaking a Talent Intelligence program as it can have a profoundly negative impact on the culture of an organization if it’s done incorrectly.

The good news is that Talent Intelligence, if done correctly, can help an organization achieve and maintain a good culture.

For example, David White from LinkedIn spoke about the surprise at their decision to measure culture. Usually you measure something because you look to change it, or it needs improvement, but LinkedIn’s culture has a fantastic reputation, so why would they measure it? As David explained, you have to measure the culture to sustain it. How do they do it? By measuring the behaviours as a result of culture, instead of grappling with intangible metrics surrounding culture itself.

THE HEADLINE: It’s cyclical: Talent Intelligence will help you nail your organisational culture. Without a great culture, talent intelligence won’t work. Get it right!

A revamp of our relationship with work and with our employers is long overdue. Talent Intelligence will be one of the leading catalysts in the work revolution, aspects of which I will continue to unpick in my 2019 research agenda. Stay tuned!

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