Updates from our 2022 People Analytics Tech Study

Posted on Wednesday, January 26th, 2022 at 6:25 PM    

We recently kicked off our People Analytics Technology (PAT) study. For those unfamiliar with it, this is an annual study that we conduct to provide our readers with a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of the people analytics technology market and vendor landscape. It is one of the biggest studies that we undertake, mainly because we conduct over 45 vendor briefings, each 60-75 minutes long, within a span of 1 month (yes, you read that right), in addition to collecting data from 3 different surveys.

There are a few reasons why we're particularly excited about this study this year.

  • If our previous reports are any indicator (you can check them out hereand here), we expect the market to have grown significantly. Our vendor outreach list is already longer than it was last year (from 45 to 65 vendors), and we know that investments in work tech grew significantly in 2021.
  • With the pandemic continuing to impact work in new and different ways, we expect to see people analytics solutions applied to new use cases and vendors be more thoughtful about how the technology can be best applied to solve for current and new challenges.
  • Finally, we are revamping our PAT Tool to make it more robust. Not only will it have a new look and feel, but we will also update it on a more regular basis throughout the year so that our members will always have access to the most up-to-date information on different vendors. This includes:
    –  Solution capabilities
    –  Solution strengths and challenges solved
    –  Talent areas of focus
    –  Industries served
    –  Customer size served
    –  Customer feedback
    –  Company information

We are excited to track the new developments in this space and share our findings with you all soon! Watch this space for updates.

Our Takeaways from the Discourse on Stakeholder Capitalism

Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 at 6:35 PM    

Many of you know how much we, the RedThread organization, care about purpose and stakeholder capitalism. We published a research report on it, did a podcast season on it, and will be delivering a keynote on it at the upcoming Spring HR Tech show.

Well, purpose also happens to be in the news A LOT right now—or maybe, I have confirmation bias because I’m prepping for my session—and there are a few must-read items we want to put on our radar (below).

TL;DR: There remains a real need for orgs to serve a broader purpose in society (as shown in the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer), but some investors and business leaders are starting to push back on that notion.

My takeaway is that many leaders are uncomfortable with the idea of the purpose being their North Star (and letting everything else follow), because purpose can be somewhat squishy and hard to define. In contrast, the shareholder value is focused, clearly defined, and historically “safe.” No CEO ever got fired for chasing the shareholder value. Yet, an argument could be made that in the future, they might be, if the shareholder value is all theypursue. Therefore, a narrow focus on the shareholder value may not be as “safe” as some leaders assume. 

All of this pushback doesn’t mean business leaders should shy away from leading with purpose. It means we should instead:

  • Clarify what purpose means in our orgs and connect it to individuals more effectively.
  • Identify better metrics for measuring and communicating purpose.
  • Develop leaders to better understand and lead through purpose.

How do we do that? Well, the report and the podcast season mentioned above have some good insights—and we will be adding to those in that Spring HR Tech keynote in March.

In the meantime, these resources will help keep you keep updated:

  • 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer: This got published yesterday—and, to be honest, it is a bit of a depressing read this year. Yet, the headline is that business is still the most trusted institution, underscoring the broader importance of businesses having and delivering a clear purpose to their stakeholders.
  • Larry Fink’s 2022 Letter to CEOs: Fink is the CEO of the investment firm, Blackrock, and as such, has a strong influence on investors and the business world, more broadly. He has also been a proponent of stakeholder capitalism for years. This letter, which is still very bullish on pursuing the organizational purpose, seeks to tamp down some of the dissension surrounding stakeholder capitalism.
    Specifically, he calls out, “Stakeholder capitalism is not about politics. It is not a social or ideological agenda. It is not “woke.” It is capitalism, driven by mutually beneficial relationships between you and the employees, customers, suppliers, and communities your company relies on to prosper. This is the power of capitalism.” 
  • Unilever Should Know That Purpose Isn’t Strategy: An investor named Terry Smith, who owns about 7% of Unilever, is going after the company for its focus on purpose. He likely isn’t going to succeed in dissuading CEO, Alan Jope, from the focus on the purpose, but Smith’s tirade is likely indicative of a greater undercurrent of questioning orgs having a focus on purpose. This is a good reminder of the need for balance when talking about purpose.
  • C.E.O.s Were Our Heroes, at Least According to Them: If you want a cynical take on organizational purpose, here it is. This essay is adapted from a new book, “Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World,” by Peter S. Goodman. In his view, stakeholder capitalism is merely “a means of preempting government regulation.” It’s an interesting perspective, to say the least, and reminds us to check our assumptions.

If you come across any other good articles/perspectives on organizational purpose and leadership, send them my way.

Meanwhile, stay (or get!) healthy, and take care of yourself as you begin navigating this new year.

Amid 'The Great Resignation' Panic, Remember the People

Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022 at 6:38 PM    

We’re in the midst of what analysts and writers are referring to as The Great Resignation, Migration, Shuffle, Reset, Contemplation, whatever. It has caused a lot of panic and uncertainty about what we do next. Personally, it’s caused me to reflect on the times in my life when I decided to change directions. One of those times sticks out.

I started my career at Ford Motor Company, doing program management. Ours was the group that coordinated with all of the other groups to make sure that everyone played nice and an SUV actually got created. If you have ever owned a 2007 Ford Escape, you’re welcome.

I really liked my job. So I was surprised when the chief engineer, Kumar, came to my desk one day and struck up a conversation that went something like this:

Kumar: “Do you plan on making a career out of Ford?”
Me: “I don’t know. I like it but I don’t know.”
Kumar: “When I was at the same place in my career, I didn’t know either.
Then someone gave me more opportunities, and here I am. Chief
Me: “Interesting.”
Kumar: “This is my way of telling you that you’re on the same path. So if
you don’t want a career at Ford, now is the time to leave. We’re going to
offer you more opportunities and more money; and soon, it’ll be too
painful to leave. Get out now if you’re going to.”

Within 3 months, I was happily running a research project for the University of Michigan, which changed the course of my career.

As the people people in the organizations we serve, there are lots of things we need to be concerned about right now. Key roles in the org may be vacant; we may be losing critical skills we don’t want to lose; and it’s probably incredibly disruptive to offboard, and subsequently onboard, so many employees.

But in the panic, we need to remember the people. Employees are trying to be their best selves, and some have likely realized that their best selves can be realized better in a different org.

And while we’re seeing record numbers right now, the average time in companies has been decreasing for years. Maybe, it’s time to rethink how HR does its job. Maybe, we need to get better at things like upskilling and onboarding quickly. Maybe, we should be providing more opportunities for growth and development through mobility. Maybe, we should be in the business of helping employees and our orgs get the best out of each other while we’re together. Maybe, retention isn’t the right metric, or at least, not the only metric.

I’m sure my leaving Ford was disruptive, but not disastrous. They figured it out. And the fact that Kumar went against his own best interest to have a frank discussion with me about what I wanted, and encouraged me to make the best decision for my future will keep me a Ford fan for life. That and the Cobra Mustang.

3 Ideas to Learn and Grow in 2022

Posted on Wednesday, January 5th, 2022 at 6:41 PM    

Before things ramp up in 2022, I’d like to throw into the mix one more reflective, new years-y post. Looking back at 2021, I noticed 3 ideas that helped me learn and grow, and I share them with the hope that they’ll be as relevant and helpful to you as they’ve been to me.

3 Ideas to Learn and Grow in 2022 

1. Know your intrinsic value. The CEO of a startup recently told me about the time a trusted colleague of his said, “You rely too much on external validation. You need to fix that, or this startup will fail. You’ll burn out.” It was the kick in the pants he needed to make serious changes in his thinking. He shared this story with me not only because it was life-changing for him, but also because I—like him and many others—struggle with the same.
His advice: Find your internal source of value and strength. He’s religious, so he reminds himself that he’s a child of God. I’m not, so I’ve adopted a riff on Brene Brown’s phrase: “I am enough, because I am.” Focusing on my intrinsic value helps me prioritize what matters and say “no” to things that don’t.

2. (Re)connect with your “why.” My son is learning to ski. Until recently, he didn’t want to ski by himself. He wanted me to hold him between my legs (he’s 3) while skiing—it was easier and more fun. This past Sunday, though, it clicked for him that if he wants to go down the steep hills, he first has to learn to stop and turn. So, he started practicing—two whole runs down a long bunny slope, stopping every 10 feet or so, all by himself. I was amazed at his motivation and dedication when he understood that these fundamentals will lead him to his “why”—his ultimate goal of skiing fast down steep slopes.
This is a simple example, of course. At work, we’ll likely connect with higher purposes and larger goals. But I think the story illustrates the importance of knowing your “why.” If you want to dive deeper, there’s a ton of research (including from RedThread) on individual and collective purpose.

3. Set up systems to support you. There’s a book (whose title I cannot recall) that likens people to water: we take the path of least resistance. We might try to climb up a mountain for some time, but eventually, we’ll go downhill again. The book suggests that if we want to truly change our behavior long-term, we have to shape our environment such that the path of least resistance takes us where we want to go.
Thinking about new year resolutions and goals for 2022, I find it helpful to not only set goals but also build systems and processes for myself to make it easier and more likely to meet them. Maybe you will find this helpful too.

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