In 2016 I had a lot of great conversations with a wide variety of senior leaders. Last week I took a look back on the 2016 podcast interviews and discussed six lessons I learned from my guests last year. This week I wanted to let the guests speak for themselves, so I gathered up some highlight clips from last year’s podcast interviews and put them into one podcast mashup.The subjects range from how innovation is changing to automation and AI to the six reasons why we work.
The first interview I looked back on was the one with Jeff Wong, the Global Chief Innovation Officer at EY. In our discussion we talked about innovation during a disruptive era and one of the main points was about how innovation is changing. Wong said he believes that innovation is changing a lot and it is really driving companies to think about themselves differently. Companies are now forced to pay attention to things like training, environmental and community impact and inclusive capitalism in order to be successful. Wong says companies need to think about whether they are “training a workforce for the future, or are you training a workforce to do the function of today”. He believes that his job as a Chief Innovation Officer requires him to “do old things in new ways”.
One of the fascinating topics I touched on with a few guests last year, was the subject of People Analytics and how it is revolutionizing the way we think about employee experience. Ben Waber, the President and CEO of Humanyze, talked to me about what makes up people analytics. He said that while survey data is useful, “it is not data about behavior, it is data about perception”. Because you cannot survey people every single day, you lose the ability to accurately get a picture of the day to day workings of your office. With People Analytics you are able to get real world data in real time which allows you to fix issues as you go instead of waiting for the end of the year.
Ellyn Shook, the Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer at Accenture, talked about the problem with annual employee reviews which points to why the topic of people analytics is so important for the success of a company. She says the problem with annual reviews is just that; they are only done once a year. She says “very little works in annual cycles anymore”. We are a society that is used to immediate feedback, so telling employees to wait a year to see how they are doing at work is not realistic. Shook says that her company realized that they were putting a lot of time and effort into their annual reviews, but they were receiving very little value from them because they “spent too much time talking about their people, instead of talking to the people”. In order to get the best results you need “forward looking, real time and on demand” data and feedback for your employees.
Employee experience was another hot topic I discussed with several guests last year. Some of the guests who touched on the subject were Monika Fahlbusch, the Chief Employee Experience Officer at BMC Software, Francine Katsoudas, the Senior Vice President and Chief People
Officer at Cisco and Karyn Twaronite, the Global Diversity & Inclusiveness Officer at EY. In our discussions we defined what employee experience is, how large companies are able to scale employee experience across a wide range of languages, locations and cultures, and the importance of focusing on diversity and inclusiveness. Fahlbusch says that to create employee experience you first must listen to your employees. Your employees will help you find the overarching problems, or “pain points” if you learn how to listen to them. You also need to look at your individual company and figure out what experiences you should be focusing on. To do that you need to understand things about your company such as what are your values, what are you trying to celebrate, where are you trying to go in the future?
Katsoudas talked about scaling employee experience across hundreds of countries and thousands of employees. She says Cisco’s belief is “one size fits one”, meaning they understand that the ideal employee experience in India will not be the same as that in England or the US and that’s okay.
Twaronite gave an example of why it is so important for senior leaders of companies to not just list out the available benefits for employees, but they should also be role models who walk the walk. She shared a story about the EY Chairman and CEO, who was giving the keynote for a company wide event, and during his speech he apologized to everyone and explained that he would be leaving the event early in order to honor a commitment he made to his daughter. In doing this he was transparent, authentic and helped employees feel that the work flexibility benefit was not just a bunch of empty words.
One subject that I am always fascinated with is technology dealing with robots, AI and automation. Three guests I spoke with who got into this topic of discussion were Robin Hanson, Thomas Davenport and Mihir Shukla.
Robin Hanson, who is the author of “The Age of Em”, the Associate professor of Economics at George Mason University and the Research Associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University, spoke about the extremely futuristic topic of what an Em is. Hanson discusses the fact that there are two different scenarios that could happen to get us to a point where we have robots that are as smart as humans. One way would be to “slowly write and accumulate better software on faster and cheaper machines”. This is what we are doing now and if we continued on this path it would take several centuries to reach this point. Another way would be to port the “software” from our brains into an Em. If we find a way to do this, the Em age could happen within one century.
Thomas Davenport talks about how there are two camps of people today, those who are opposed to the move towards automation and those who are embracing it. The people who are opposed are scared about the implications of automating jobs. They feel that this shift in our economy will create chaos and wipe out jobs for humans. The camp of people who are embracing it feel that automating certain jobs could be a good thing and that we will always find a way to create new jobs for humans. Davenport believes that reality is somewhere in between the two camps.
Mihir Shukla talks about how software bots can complete mundane tasks, and also tackle more complicated problems as well. Many employers want their workers to complete today’s problems while thinking about tomorrow’s challenges using yesterdays technologies and approaches. Processing invoices, verifying documents, generating reports, data entry, and other mundane tasks still need to be completed, but by humans or bots? Introducing mundane and complex tasks to the digital workforce allows the human employees to think, create, discover, and innovate; basically doing things that humans do best.
Other subjects that are touched on in this episode include recruiting millennials, whether or not open workspaces are the next best thing, how to identify a Superboss, the six reasons why we work, how to drive behavior change and entrepreneurs vs. freelancers.
Looking back at the guests from this last year it is easy to see that there are a lot of changes happening in the workplace and I am excited to see where we go from here. I am working on lining up a great list of podcast guests for this year, so be sure to stay tuned and keep listening to the weekly future of work podcast!
My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here.