Employee Experience: The Movie

One useful lens on employee experience is to think of it as a movie.

The shift to focusing on employee experience, is part of a broader economic shift, as summarised by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in their book The Experience Economy: “In a world saturated with largely undifferentiated goods and services the greatest opportunity for value creation resides in staging experiences.”

Pine and Gilmore are referring to customer experience, but employee experience is the other side of the same coin.  For organisations to attract, retain and engage critical talent, they need to shift from focusing on the traditional elements of the employment deal to a more holistic view of experience. This includes understanding employee journeys and optimising the moments that matter. Just as for customers, this involves a shift towards design thinking.  To quote Pine and Gilmore again: “Staging compelling experiences begins with embracing an experience-directed mindset.”

In The Experience Economy, Pine and Gilmore argue that “all work is theatre”.  As such, strategy provides the drama, business processes are the script, the work itself is the theatre, and the offering is the performance.  Performers (employees) are at their best when they are inspired to follow the principles of great acting, such as being “in the present” (engaged). And leaders are most effective when they behave like great directors, focusing on casting, working collaboratively, staying in the moment, and managing the tension between learning and creativity (Dunham and Freeman). The directing role requires organisational skills, interpretative skills and story-telling skills. During a performance, of course, the director is off-stage rather than the centre of attention, which is an important leadership lesson.

I would argue that employee experience is more like a movie (or a TV series or perhaps even a soap opera) than a play. This is because the end product comes from piecing together different scenes, episodes or moments into a consistent whole. The scenes occur at different times, in different places and with different people. From an employee experience perspective, this means understanding all the interactions employees have with the organisation, from before they join, through the hiring process and on-boarding, through all the moments that matter as an employee, and potentially on to those involved with leaving the company and even re-joining in the future.

The leader/director’s skill lies in aligning all the episodes delivered by multiple performers over time. And a key success factor is collaboration.  Movie production rarely begins with a finalised script.  Instead, the script is adjusted and revised collaboratively with performers.  And as you see in the end credits, a host of supporting roles have an impact on the final experience, from script writers to editors, CGI artists, technicians, costume designers, etc.

Employee experience management is similarly a process of collaboration between HR, IT, business analytics, marketing, leadership and front-line managers, etc. It is a joined-up approach to org. design and capabilities, jobs, teams, rewards and the way people work. It encompasses individual and team effectiveness, as well as the physical workspace and the digital tools that employees use. Thinking about employee experience management as movie-making, then:

  • Talent management is casting, ensuring you have the right people lined up for your key roles
  • Employee journey maps are story boards, helping you optimise the key moments that matter
  • A persona is a character analysis, allowing leaders to better understand key talent segments
  • Learning and development is the discipline and craft of rehearsing
  • Collaboration is editing and personalising key moments
  • And leadership is directing – creating the conditions for people to perform at their best

Pine and Gilmore wrote The Experience Economy in 1999. Today, increasingly, experiences are being co-created with customers and employees. Rather than just “personalised customisation” we are moving towards “collaborative customisation”. And the results are online, across social media, and they are transparent and public. One way to understand this is to look at your LinkedIn feed. If it’s like mine, it includes people editing their own movies as their jobs and careers evolve. For example, my feed includes people sharing pictures of their first day at work, showing their work space, equipment, new colleagues and welcome pack. It also includes people sharing news of a promotion or explaining the new role they’re taking on and why they’re excited about it. And it also includes farewells, often an image of a well-worn security pass and a commitment to stay in touch and to continue to be an advocate for that company’s services and people in the future.

In this sense, employee experience management is about creating the framework for people to produce and edit their own compelling movies online.  If you’re successful, then those stories will help to attract other talented people and reinforce the company’s culture, in turn driving more collaboration, commitment and advocacy.


B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, “The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage” (Harvard Business Press, 1999)

Laura Dunham and R. Edward Freeman, “There is Business Like Show Business: Leadership Lessons from the Theater”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 29 (2000)

Tags: #EmployeeExperience #Leadership

This article was first published on LinkedIn on June 13, 2017

People Analytics and Employee Experience

This week I attended the People Analytics World conference #PAWorld17. It’s my third year and attendance has gone from 100 to 350, which indicates a real growth in interest. It’s always an event I enjoy. There are great case studies and there’s a lot of enthusiasm among attendees. It’s also personally satisfying, as I have a career-long interest in helping organisations use data and insights to make better decisions about people.

There was a lot of discussion this year on how the field should develop both inside organisations (how do you build an effective people analytics team?) and as a profession (including a call to establish a professional body). And I think this is a good discussion to be having as it feels like people analytics is not having as much impact as it could.

In fact, there’s evidence to show its impact is really quite limited. From an HR perspective, a 2016 report by the New Talent Management Network (NTMN) concluded that “Only basic people analytics are being performed by most organizations, undercutting the popular narrative that companies are rapidly advancing in this space.” The study also found that in those organisations which are doing people analytics, the most common focus areas by far are still turnover and acquisition. From an academic perspective, Janet Marler and John Boudreau conducted an evidence-based review of HR Analytics in 2016 and concluded that “despite evidence linking the adoption of HR Analytics to organizational performance, the adoption of HR Analytics is very low.” Even in the latest Deloitte Human Capital Trends report, people analytics is well down the priority list (a lowly 8th) and the authors note that “Readiness to capitalize on people analytics remains a challenge… Only 8 percent of organizations report they have usable data, while only 9 percent believe they have a good understanding of the talent factors that drive performance”. At PAW itself Alec Levenson, who kicked things off, talked about “amazing potential” but highlighted how “much analysis is disjointed and uncoordinated”.

This lack of impact is a problem, and it’s worth digging into in more detail.

Broadly, I think there are three domains within people analytics.

  1. The first is human capital measurement, workforce planning and reporting. In large organisations this is being automated by technologies whose analytical capabilities are increasingly impressive. They are able to provide leaders across an organisation with near-enough real-time updates on key measures. For a central team the manual workload is reduced and attention can shift to thinking about what information to highlight because of its impact on business strategy and performance. Smart algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence which are being embedded within these tools will simplify even this task and help drive further efficiency. The other role of the central team is to help leaders use this information to make better decisions regarding org. design and capabilities, which is often a storytelling and consulting role. In smaller organisations that cannot afford these smart systems, this whole area can remain a problem. In fact, the NTMN report revealed that many smaller companies still rely on Excel and have problems with basic data quality.
  2. The second domain is what you might call “classic” people analytics. Take a business and talent problem, such as “Why do so many of our engineers leave after three years?” Calculate the business cost (in terms of lost experience, cost to replace, etc.) and dig into the data to understand the drivers of turnover for that particular group and to identify possible fixes. These are often small projects dealing with specific “fires”. Sometimes the question might be broader, such as “Are our assessment tools actually predicting performance?” or “Does our performance management process reward collaboration and innovation?” I’ve called this domain “classic” because it’s been around for a long time. For example, in 1999 we produced a service-profit-chain analysis for a major retail bank. It was based on structural equation modelling and several years of data and it showed the business impact in terms of sales (penetration) of improving the onboarding of new staff. It led to a revised induction and training programme, which helped to improve performance. I felt I could have presented that client story at this year’s PAW and not felt too out of place. There have been advances in using more creative statistics (e.g. machine learning, cluster, segmentation, survival analyses), there have been improvements in data visualisation, and there has been a notable advance in qualitative data analysis, but these feel like refinements rather than major shifts.
  3. The third domain is “big data science” and it is the least defined and the most hyped. Data science outside of people analytics has grown quickly due to easy access to massive, open data sets which can be explored and tested. When you have a huge amount of data you can take a different approach to analytics, namely using lots of computing power to explore, test and refine different kinds of models to see what’s out there that might be useful to know. The challenge here for people analytics is really a data challenge. For obvious reasons, companies are reluctant to provide access to integrated data at an individual level. This is why approaches are often conducted at a very aggregate level on external data (e.g. tools like Joberate) or very specifically on topics like workspace and collaboration (e.g. tools like Humanyze). At PAW Randy Knaflic described how Jawbone, who you would expect to be ahead in this, has used biometric data to help some of its teams improve. With these kinds of data the focus for the people analytics profession is to build trust in and to demonstrate value through these kinds of approaches. I think the real future for big data science in people analytics is when large organisations fully embrace social platforms like Workplace (i.e. Facebook at work) and whatever MS/Yammer/LinkedIn evolves into, and when employees are producing data that social media-style analytics can explore (more on this below).

All three domains face challenges then. But I think there is also an overall problem for people analytics, in that it is missing a clear “hook” (or perhaps several good hooks). By this, I mean a way of communicating to business leaders and others what it is all about – not so much a unifying theme, but a clear message or set of messages (in marketing terms a hook is a simple way of creating interest). And I would suggest that one very good “hook” is “Employee Experience”.

Employee Experience is a term that is being used more and more. Sometimes it is used in a narrow sense to describe the user experience of the digital tools that employees have access to. But others define it more broadly, which I think is better, such as: “The intersection between employee expectations, needs, and wants and the organizational design of those expectations, needs and wants” (Jacob Morgan) and “The sum of perceptions employees have about their interactions with the organization in which they work” (Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride). In this sense, it’s a nod to the field of Customer Experience and reflects an overall trend towards approaching employees in the same way as you would consumers and customers. The big driver of this change in perspective is the digital transformation of business and the trends associated with the future of work, such as a more flexible workforce, greater numbers of contingent workers, more diverse teams, dependence on social media, a focus on projects rather than jobs, etc. (I have written more about this here).

Personally, I really like Maylett and Wride’s description of thinking of employee experience as “creating an operating environment that inspires your people to do great things”. To my mind this means identifying the key interactions that employees have with the organisation throughout the life cycle and then applying design thinking to improve performance. It is a joined-up approach to org. design and capabilities, jobs, teams, rewards and the way people work. It includes understanding employee journeys and maximising the value of key episodes. It also means improving the digital tools employees use and reviewing the physical workspace in order to increase collaboration and productivity. A key focus is “inspiring people to do great things” – it’s about removing obstacles, simplifying processes, building trust and allowing people to do their best work and to contribute to the organisation’s mission and purpose.

Each of the domains of people analytics has a role in improving employee experience. “Classic” people analytics can highlight which aspects require optimising and for whom. One key contribution here is to break employee experience down into actionable parts through approaches such as micro-segmentation, personas, journeys, episodes, moments, networks, etc. As more data are integrated at the individual level, it’s possible to tell a far more holistic story about the “operating environment”. In terms of reporting, once you have identified the elements of employee experience that are key to your business strategy, it’s vital to help leaders review the progress that’s being made. One way that we are already doing this for our clients is through Employee Experience Scorecards, which pull in data and insights from a variety of HR, business and external sources. And data science perhaps offers some of the most exciting opportunities for improving employee experience through social media analytics. This can take the form of using design thinking to create shared digital experiences, testing different approaches through analysing real-time feedback, learning about your workforce based on their online behaviours and adjusting your plans as a result. The future of “business-to-employee marketing” is this direction.

To return to the start of this piece then, one of the things that strikes me attending PAW is the passion that people have to use data and analytics to make a positive difference. That’s why the feedback about limited impact is a bit disheartening. As well as debating the need for a professional body, I wonder if the lack of impact is partly because there’s a need for a better “hook” in order to tell a more complete story about the contribution the specific domains of people analytics make. If that’s the case, then Employee Experience is one possible hook and a powerful and positive one as we consider the trends associated with the future of work.


  • New Talent Management Network “Still Under Construction: The State of HR Analytics 2016”
  • Janet H. Marler & John W. Boudreau (2016) “An evidence-based review of HR Analytics” in The International Journal of Human Resource Management
  • Tracy Maylett and Matthew Wride “The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results” (Wiley, 2017)
  • Jacob Morgan “The Employee Experience Advantage” (Wiley, 2017)
  • Willis Towers Watson “Under pressure to remain relevant, employers look to modernize the employee value proposition” (2016)

Tags: #PeopleAnalytics #EmployeeExperience #FutureOfWork

This article was first published on LinkedIn on April 26, 2017

Leadership and culture in the future of work

My news feed is full of articles on the Future of Work (“FoW”). A number of trends are converging so that it feels like we are on the cusp of big changes in the workplace. Some of those trends include:

  • Increasing use of contingent workers and talent exchanges like Work Market.
  • A more diverse workforce, meaning, for example, that teams comprise people with widely different experiences.
  • Employees who have grown up with social media and who have consumer-type expectations of their experience at work.
  • A workforce that is geographically dispersed and reliant on social media rather than face-to-face interaction.
  • Jobs that are far more technology-dependent, with routine tasks automated by artificial intelligence or robots.
  • Demand for new skills, such as those required to make sense of the huge volume of data that our on-line participation leaves behind.

Within this shifting mix, many people are wondering what it all means. In practice, “disruption” is an over-used term and transformation will be incremental. But it’s clear that there are new challenges and also opportunities for those companies that are able to seize them.

One area I am interested in is what the future of work means for leadership and culture. This can sometimes be low down on the to-do list in FoW articles, as it relates to something that is generally hard, ongoing, sustained effort. Some writers have even speculated that in the future there should be less focus on culture as attention shifts to the work itself. But I believe the leadership challenge is to glue together the shifting workforce into a community of shared interests and this is as important as ever because people want meaning from their work.

Some of the emerging priorities for this are already clear and are being explored by my clients:

  1. Focus on employee experience. This means identifying the key interactions that employees have with the organisation and then applying design thinking to improve engagement and performance. It is a joined-up approach to jobs, teams, rewards and the way people work. It includes understanding employee journeys and maximising the value of key episodes. It also means improving the digital tools employees use and reviewing the physical workspace in order to increase collaboration and productivity.
  2. Adopt a comprehensive listening strategy. This means deploying a mix of consumer-style approaches, including pulse surveys and social media analytics. An important part of the mix is also supporting managers to have dialogue and conversation, rather than only managing from their desktop “cockpit”.1 It also means shaping the physical workspace so that it is easy for face-to-face conversation to occur.
  3. Create a strong identity through shared experiences. Although artefacts and rituals are changing (workspaces, flex working, mobile tools, dress code, etc.), the fundamentals of culture building remain the same: role modelling, strong values, clear purpose. Increasingly, shared experiences are digital. These provide the opportunity to engage a broad group at the same point in time. However, breaches of trust are also more public, which highlights the importance of authenticity and consistency.
  4. Reinforce meaning and purpose through feedback. Technology makes it far easier to provide useful, regular feedback, not only from colleagues, but also from customers and partners. In fact, it is vital to provide customer feedback and to align employee and customer experiences. The critical “cog” in using feedback remains the team leader. So selecting and developing front-line managers who are able to build line of sight and help people understand the contribution they make is key.

Because change is incremental, the FoW is not as far off as it might feel, so it’s important to build preparedness now. But there is an additional challenge, namely who will be your most effective leaders in the future of work? In our recent Global Workforce Study only 39% of people said their organisation is doing a good job of developing future leaders.2 It’s quite likely that your current definition of leadership reflects your old hierarchy and old ways of working. Leading people in a flatter, networked organisation requires a different set of skills.3 Understanding the behaviours needed for your future success, and incorporating those into your assessment and development programmes now, is one of the most critical components to get right.


  1. Sherry Turkle “Reclaiming Conversation” (Penguin Books, 2015)
  2. Willis Towers Watson “Employers look to modernize the employee value proposition” (2016)
  3. Ravin Jesuthasan and Marie S. Holmstrom “As Work Changes, Leadership Development Has to Keep Up” (HBR, 2016)

Tags: #Leadership #Culture #FutureOfWork

This article was first published on LinkedIn on April 20, 2017

Resilience, agility and change leadership

Resilience is a key concern for business leaders in these uncertain times. As well as political shocks like Brexit, economic and technological pressures mean that many businesses face a range of challenges. As a result, the ability to adapt to the fast-changing environment is critical to success. “Resilience” here means the ability to adjust to challenging conditions so that the organisation emerges stronger (Sutcliffe and Vogus). Resilience is partly structural (organisational design and systems) and partly cultural (agility and change leadership). In our research into high performance cultures we can see keys to both successful agility and change leadership.

According to Aaron De Smet, “Agility is the ability of an organisation to renew itself, adapt, change quickly, and succeed in a rapidly changing, ambiguous, turbulent environment.” Our research has identified five key characteristics of agile organisations:

  1. A relentless focus on customers, including new product or service development and quality
  2. Leadership direction and open dialogue
  3. Clear performance expectations and effective rewards
  4. Effective talent management, including recognising high performers
  5. A focus on wellness so individuals can sustain their energy and performance over time

Through all these elements runs the ability to work simply and to make decisions quickly, which in turn depends on collaboration, trust and effective change leadership. Change leadership means getting away from viewing large-scale change through a project lens, towards ongoing transformation and renewal instead. And effective change leaders do four things particularly well:

  1. Inform the organisation about the future vision, including as many specifics as possible and the top priorities
  2. Engage stakeholders by building confidence and highlighting opportunities
  3. Enable people to succeed by equipping them with the right tools and by removing obstacles
  4. Build trust by understanding the impact of their own actions and behaviour on others

One common challenge is training leaders. In a recent study we found that although 90% of companies do change management training, only a quarter say that training helps their leaders to communicate change effectively. But the performance premium for resilience is significant. Our research has shown that companies that get change leadership right outperform their sector in terms of revenue growth, return on equity, return on assets, and return on capital. As a result, and given the unrelenting pace of disruption, being able to realise resilience through agility and change leadership will continue to be high on most execs’ agendas for a long time to come.


Kathleen Sutcliffe and Timothy Vogus (2003) “Organizing for Resilience” in Positive Organizational Scholarship by Cameron, Dutton and Quinn

Aaron De Smet in “The Keys to Organizational Agility” McKinsey Quarterly (December 2015)

Willis Towers Watson Change Leadership (2015)

Willis Towers Watson How Does Change Affect Employee Engagement? (2015)

Tags: #OrganisationalAgility #Resilience #Engagement

This article was first published on LinkedIn on March 15, 2017

Employee experience: analytics and design thinking

Back in 1998 Joseph Pine and James Gilmore described the rise of the experience economy. They highlighted how successful companies stage engaging experiences through mass customisation.  One of the key points they made was that while services provide a value, experiences are memorable.  With the shift to digital, companies have put a focus on designing customer experiences and using customer insights effectively.

Many organisations are realising that they also need to focus on employee experience. In part, this is being forced on them.  As traditional elements of the employment deal have fallen away, organisations are looking for other ways to differentiate themselves, so they can attract and engage the best people.  What’s left are the more experiential elements, such as values, culture, the physical environment and the work itself. At the same time, research has shown that these factors, along with purpose, are vital for motivating people to perform at their best.  It’s also the case that the digital natives companies want to retain have very different expectations as consumers than previous cohorts.  As a result, many organisations are having to play catch up.

All this is leading to a growing interest in measuring and managing employee experience.  This takes a number of different threads:

  1. First, there is an emphasis on integrated people analytics.  The aim is to link together all the touch points that impact employees and to identify the key moments that matter.  In customer terms this is akin to understanding customer journeys (indeed, employee journeys can be one output).  Or in technology terms, this is like shaping user experience.  There is also a focus on micro-segmentation.  This means getting far more specific in how you identify employee groups.  This might include critical roles and talent, or life-stage and values-based clusters.  By digging into micro-segments, and playing back the findings through tools like employee personas, you can help design meaningful strategies for communication and engagement.
  2. Second, there are capabilities that require attention.  For example, it becomes important to have an overall listening strategy, which deploys a range of tools and approaches.  And these insights need to be collected in a way that means they can all be connected to tell a holistic story.  Manager capability is another crucial area.  It goes without saying that managers have an impact on a lot of the touch points that impact employees.  The requirement for managers to deliver the value proposition well makes their selection and learning especially important.  In addition, it’s vital to personalise communications through social technology and portals.  And the physical work space must allow collaboration and conversation.
  3. Third, some organisations are establishing an oversight role, a Director of Employee Experience.  This role can encompass insights, employer branding, people analytics and aspects of learning, capability and rewards.  And sometimes they are filled by people with a background in customer experience rather than HR.  This reflects the fact that employee experience is a business (and customer) priority.  Another success factor is the ability to apply design thinking in this role.  This means developing models to make sense of connections, valuing emotional as well as practical concerns, and finding solutions through experiments and pilots.

What’s the impact of all these elements?  Our research indicates there is a performance premium for companies that get it right.  They have higher levels of employee engagement.  They find it easier to attract key talent. They face fewer regrettable losses. And they report stronger business performance.  This is especially the case when a focus on employee experience is part of a broader modernisation agenda.


Tags: #EmployeeExperience #EmployeeSurveys #PeopleAnalytics

This article was first published on LinkedIn on September 26, 2016.

Mercer Sirota marks the end of an era

Sirota joining Mercer is an end-of-an-era moment. Sirota is the last of a golden generation of employee survey firms to join a big consultancy and the move takes place as technology re-writes the rules for employee research and people analytics. As someone who has worked in the industry, it’s a moment that I feel is worth noting.

Sirota was founded by David Sirota in New York in 1972. It was the first of a group of firms focused on running employee surveys that emerged in the USA in the 1970s and 1980s. International Survey Research (ISR) was founded in 1974 in Chicago by Jack and Gay Stanek, Valtera was established by Bill Macey (also in Chicago) in 1977, and Gantz-Wiley was founded by Jack Wiley and Gail Gantz in Minneapolis in 1986.

These firms had their origins in industrial psychology and sociology. They hired PhDs as project directors and applied scientific principles to the study of employee satisfaction, commitment and (latterly) engagement. Informed by management thinkers like Peter Drucker, Frederick Herzberg and Edward Deming, they tackled issues to do with deteriorating industrial relations, work quality, organisational change and globalisation.

These companies made a great contribution by introducing a discipline for listening to employees in many large organisations. The primary tool was surveys. Often, they were long surveys, sometimes over 100 questions in length. In the early days these were administered on paper, which required a supply chain to oversee printing, distribution and data entry. They built relational databases and developed their own benchmarks (in competition to consortium approaches). The growth of this group of firms was largely driven by geographical expansion. The founders travelled the world with briefcases full of example surveys and a well-honed pitch.

The Internet provided the first great disruption. The firms moved into online surveys and electronic results reports. (When I joined ISR in 1999, results reports were still printed and bound, boxed up and shipped on a pallet to the client. It’s the kind of thing I tell my kids to amaze them). Online technology opened up new opportunities for different kinds of research and there was a blurring of the lines as the survey firms aligned themselves with partners to measure culture, to move into customer satisfaction and to run assessments, and (after Gallup’s bestseller Break All The Rules) employee engagement.

By the 2000s, the firms had ageing owners, they faced new competitors and they required significant investment in technology in order to deliver an engaging online user experience. Gantz-Wiley was acquired by one of those new competitors (Kenexa) in 2006. (Kenexa itself became part of IBM in 2012). Valtera was acquired by CEB in 2006. ISR was acquired by Towers Perrin in 2007. And finally now, after an earlier management buy-out, Sirota is part of Mercer.

As I have written elsewhere, we are in the middle of a period of huge creativity in employee research. Surveys may still be part of the tool kit, but in order to measure and improve culture and engagement, surveys provide data for integrated people analytics. The focus has shifted to ongoing, continuous listening and to using insights to shape employee experience. There has never been a better time to do great employee research.

I am not a historian of the employee survey industry. (And let me apologise now for any inaccuracies above). But it does feel like an apt case study of an industry which has faced a period of creative destruction. And I am excited to see what will follow this golden generation of firms.

Tags: #EmployeeSurveys #EmployeeEngagement

This article was first published on LinkedIn on December 9, 2016

Simplifying the work

In many companies people are frustrated. They feel they’re running hard and putting in a lot of effort, but they’re not making much of an impact, and this is often due to the difficulty of getting work done.

Yves Morieux has pointed out that the twin problems of stagnant productivity and low employee engagement share the same root cause, the increasing complicatedness of work and the growth of bureaucracy. Fighting complexity, according to Morieux, is the number one battle for all business leaders.

Yves is not alone in worrying about this. Gary Hamel is appalled at the damage being done to the global economy by bureaucratisation. He argues there is a 3 trillion dollar wealth-creating opportunity in tackling bureaucracy, and pleads with business leaders to get to grips with it.

These are some of the issues Hamel identifies:

  • Policies and processes sapping individual initiative
  • Sign-offs slowing decision making
  • Boundaries creating silos, matrix structures blurring accountability
  • Time and energy consumed by unhelpful reporting and pointless meetings

In my experience, the single most effective way of tackling these challenges is to involve employees in simplifying the work. This is what we do when we run employee surveys. We provide a critical feedback loop and involve people in the solutions. Key topics we explore are things like: Does everyone have a clear line of sight to the customer? What’s stopping more effective cooperation? When people believe something can be done better and differently, do they speak up about it? Are people able to sustain the level of personal energy they need in order to have an impact?

These are some important things to watch out for when simplifying work:

  • Managers need to know that one of their key tasks is to get stuff out of the way, so their teams can work effectively
  • Financial and operational information should be transparent and widely shared
  • Managers have a role in helping their teams understand how the business works and their contribution
  • Feedback is critical and this means listening to employees and encouraging dialogue
  • You need to reward people who do a good job of simplifying work and share their success stories widely

Hamel believes we need “a revolution of the mind” in order to go to war with bureaucracy. And in this there is also a critical role for people analytics. This is because, as new ways of working are tested and piloted, you need good people analytics to understand the impact of such “hacks” on engagement, productivity and other outcomes in order to build the business case and to direct the next iteration of changes.

It really bugs me when unnecessary things get in the way of my work, so this is one mission I am proud to play a part in.


Tags: #HighPerformance #OrganizationalEffectiveness #Bureaucracy

This article was first published on LinkedIn on April 25, 2016

Employee surveys and people analytics

Although there has been speculation about their demise, I see employee opinion surveys, and the insights you gain from them, as being at the intersection of two exciting trends:

  1. People analytics: HR and business leaders want to make evidence-based decisions about people. Data science and predictive modelling provide new options for understanding how people impact performance. And insights from employee surveys are a crucial part of the people analytics mix. You can use employee survey insights to help answer key business questions: How do we attract, retain and engage the digital talent we need to achieve our strategy? What are the barriers to more effective collaboration and how can we overcome them? How do we build a performance management system that encourages innovation? How do we create leadership roles that are of interest to our next generation of leaders?
  2. Treating employees like consumers: The consumer experience has changed radically over the last 5 – 10 years. Employees are increasingly sophisticated consumers of their company’s employee value proposition. Understanding and managing employee experience is becoming a core focus for HR. Employee surveys are again an important means for answering key questions, especially when you spotlight key talent segments: Is this a company where I feel I can make a difference? Is it somewhere where I believe I can have an impact? Do I feel supported by my manager and encouraged to try new things? Can I see a future for myself here? Do I feel recognised and rewarded?

Employee survey data are a critical part of the people analytics picture, especially as it comes to measuring the employee experience and understanding how people impact performance. In fact, there has never been a better time in which to conduct creative and value-add employee research, as new tools provide new ways of listening and making sense of data, including unstructured qualitative data.  It’s a good time to be doing more with employee surveys.

Tags: #EmployeeSurveys #PeopleAnlytics #EmployeeExperience

First published on LinkedIn on February 11, 2016

High performance, innovation and simplicity

We do a lot of research into high performance organisations and I am often asked what makes the best companies stand out. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed:

  • High performance companies work simply. That means doing things once and always with a very clear focus on the customer. In companies where people work simply, they’re trusted to make decisions and encouraged to speak up when they see things that can be improved. “Simple” also requires discipline, the ability to prioritise critical tasks and to cut out the rest.
  • Innovation fuels success. Innovation can sound soft, but it’s really about transformation. I like Adam Hartung’s approach to innovation – a constant battle against old ways of working that become “locked in”. So much energy is spent defending the status quo. Effective leaders give people permission to challenge the way things are done. The best leaders actually spend time plotting how to create disruptions.
  • I visit a lot of different work places and what makes an effective manager is nearly always the same. They’re good at getting to know the people in their team and to learn their strengths. They’re interested in developing people, they recognise when things go well and they help people understand how the business works and how they contribute through their job. High performance depends on having more effective managers.
  • In many companies leaders spend a lot of time looking back – reviewing last year’s numbers in order to determine next year’s plans. The insights we collect from employees through our surveys give leaders a chance to look forward, to identify future opportunities and to think about their future workforce. That kind of forward-looking exercise is another hallmark of success, especially as there is so much change happening in the workplace.

These are some of the key things that I have seen. What would be on your list?

Towers Watson, Tracking Trends in High Performance Companies (2014)
Adam Hartung, Create Marketplace Disruption (FT Press, 2008)

Tags: #Innovation #HighPerformance

This article was published on LinkedIn on  December 3, 2015.