Recap: #WorkHuman 2018

Posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2018 at 12:14 PM    

WorkHuman is everything I love about HR and conferences. Thoughtful and inspiring keynotes. Positive, collective experiences. And conference amenities (free headshot photos!) and food (hello yummy food trucks!) that make me feel human. This year, though, Globoforce upped its game. The company decided to put the #MeToo movement front and center, because, as CEO Eric Mosely said, “If we can’t have a safe work environment free of sexual harassment, we can’t do any of the other things we want to do regarding recognition, trust, and openness.” Yes and yes.

Key Takeaways

Huge appetite exists for a more human workplace.

As you can tell from the above, I am really positive about WorkHuman – I’ve attended three of the four conferences. Lots of others are really enthusiastic too, as WorkHuman has doubled in size since last year and 500% since the first conference in 2015. So, what is Globoforce doing so well with this event? It is incredibly relevant and real. For example, on the #MeToo panel (Tarana Burke, Ronan Farrow, and Ashley Judd, and moderated by Adam Grant), all presenters drove home the message that our society – and HR leaders in particular – have a responsibility to address the sexual harassment and violence epidemic in this country, and not to “waste” the moment talking about things like if it was okay to give someone a hug. Shawn Achor talked about the need for and how to create community and happiness in a time when levels of loneliness and depression are at their highest in decades (and anyone who thinks that isn’t affecting the workplace is not paying attention). Brené Brown talked about vulnerability and courage when apathy – especially among our youngest population, Millennials – is rampant. The speakers talked about real things that matter – both for each of us as humans and as HR leaders who can influence change.

New WorkHuman Cloud brings together software that enables “moments that matter” for employees.

But of course, this is still a conference put on by a software vendor, so we need to talk some about Globoforce’s product launch, the WorkHuman Cloud. In the opening keynote, Globoforce CEO Eric Mosely made a big distinction between software products that track people and those that enable them. He pointed out that the WorkHuman Cloud is designed to do the latter, and combines some of Globoforce’s historical products (Social Recognition, Conversations (performance management product, launched last year), and Service Milestones) with some newer products, which focus on Life Events (e.g., new baby, marriage) and Community Celebrations. I like this way of talking about the products, and think that as leaders increasingly think about putting employees in the center of the work experience, creating software that focuses on the moments that influence them the most as humans (not just employees) makes sense.

Globoforce embracing new data analysis techniques and tools.

Globoforce, like many other HR technology vendors, is beginning to use natural language processing (NLP), social network analysis, and advanced algorithms to help organizations make better decisions, based on the data within their system. Globoforce runs a “shark tank” session every year at WorkHuman, where it presents product feature ideas to customers and allows them to vote on which one they should use. Almost all of this year’s ideas included these new tools.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) an increasing priority for Globoforce.

I was pleased to see Eric Mosely call out that there can be unconscious bias in recognition (who gets recognized, how frequently, etc.) and that Globoforce is starting to give leaders tools to identify this. Given the depth of Globoforce’s data (recognition plus performance management), I imagine that the tools shown at this conference are only the tip of the iceberg of what Globoforce can offer.

Conversations product less visible than last year.

At last year’s WorkHuman, Globoforce announced its Conversations performance management product, which then properly launched to customers last October. This year, I found there to be less discussion of performance management in the overall conference, which was a bit surprising. This may be because the product is still in that phase between launch and having customers on it long enough to say something new about it. It also may be because the #MeToo topic took up more space.

What changed me

Two speakers, in particular, shifted my mindset. First, Shawn Achor talked about happiness, potential, and the criticality of community in achieving both. He used the metaphor of lightning bugs lighting up together (versus individually) as a way to illustrate the power of us all coming together to achieve our potential. I suggest you check out his book: Big Potential (I have bought it but not read it).

Second, Brené Brown underscored that we can’t be brave without being vulnerable. And being vulnerable means that there has to be real risk and uncertainty. She also talked about how you have to understand and live your values to be authentic. I am about 2/3rds through her latest book, Braving the Wilderness, and strongly recommend it.

The points above especially resonated with me for two reasons. First, having left my previous employer of eight years, in many ways I feel vulnerable and like I have lost my immediate community (with the exception of Dani, of course). I’m sure those of you who had long tenure at one company and then left know that feeling. Yet, the outpouring of support from the HR community – be it other analysts, HR leaders at corporations, or HR technology vendors – has been tremendous. I feel I am now engaging much more with a broader community, and that makes me feel a bit less vulnerable and alone. I could not be more grateful. Shawn and Brené gave me the language to articulate how this feels.

Something I will do differently as a result of the event

Start our Monday meetings with three things for which I am grateful.

People or organizations of particular note:

  • Brené Brown
  • Shawn Achor
  • Tarana Burke
  • Ashley Judd
  • Ronan Farrow
  • Adam Grant

What resonated with you from this post? I’d love to hear from you!

L&D Trends for 2019: The Agile Workforce

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2018 at 8:21 PM    

Simply put, L&D’s sole reason for existing is to ensure a skilled workforce. Hard stop.

In a world where businesses change so rapidly, employees move around frequently, and roles are constantly being adjusted, the job is now harder; but not impossible. New mindsets, technologies, and ways of working are creating opportunities for innovation in the employee development space.

Our learning and career research for the next six months will focus on creating an agile workforce. And as we set out to determine what exactly we should study, five fairly significant trends emerged.

  • The rise of reputation
  • Using tech to do completely different things
  • A more integrated breed of L&D function
  • Data as a development enabler
  • Learning organisms

Trend #1: The rise of reputation.

To this point in history, organizations generally determine who needs what training, or who gets what role based on a very one-dimensional view of the employee – generally what can be found on a resume or in an employee profile: level, education, role, tenure, or leadership responsibility. Learning and performance initiatives, not to mention readiness discussions about subsequent roles, are often triggered by one or more of these variables.

However, this is no longer adequate for two reasons. First, organizations are developing more open career models and encouraging movement outside of traditional career paths. Second, employees find development opportunities on their own – both inside and outside of the organization. As a result, most companies lack a good understanding of current skills and knowledge of employees, let alone the direction they’d like to take in their careers.

Organizations are beginning to augment information found on resumes or in employee profiles with other information that indicates the reputation employees have developed. For example, organizational network analysis, or ONA, provides information about an employee’s reach within the organization, which can indicate a person’s influence, the resources they have at their disposal, and what parts of the organization hold their interest. Several vendors, including DegreedPathgather, and Edcast, among others, build transparency about networks into their systems.

Other reputation markers or indicators, shared through other systems like LinkedInGithubYelp, or, if you’re in academia, RateMyProfessor, provide external data about how employees are perceived among their peers, or how they may need to develop to be more successful.

Trend #2: Using tech to do completely different things.

Most organizations use learning technology to automate things that they are already doing. A classic example of this is moving a course online rather than teaching it in the classroom. It’s both cheaper and more accessible, but chances are, there are few differences otherwise.

But we think there is more. In the past three months or so, we have seen organizations and tech vendors break out of traditional learning molds and begin to do completely different things through new technologies or combinations of technologies. While AI, VR, wearables, and the like, were considered too futuristic even a year ago, we are finding applications that help organizations personalize development experiences and build skills that they haven’t in the past.

Additionally, organizations are beginning to leverage technologies originally intended for other purposes for employee development. Slack and other messaging tools, business tools, like O365, (have you seen the resume helper that pops up when it thinks you’re drafting a resume?) are able to integrate opportunities for growth at the point of need. In fact, some of the biggest threats to the learning technology space will most likely come from the outside.

In the next few months, we’ll be talking about these technologies and their applications. Our goal is to help leaders categorize, understand, and make better decisions about the technology they use for development.

Trend #3: A more integrated breed of L&D function.

In the past, L&D functions have tended to be fairly siloed and often internally focused. Many have used vocabulary, metrics, and infrastructures that make sense only to them. This has made progress difficult for the L&D function, but has also hobbled the larger organization. Its tendency to remain separate has slowed down its ability to react to changes in the strategy and align to other business functions.

Lately, however, a new breed of L&D function has (finally) begun to emerge. Often led by leaders without an L&D pedigree, functions focus on alignment to the business strategy and external customer needs.

One way they do this is by integrating more tightly with other people practices. This integration enables systemic solutions – particularly those that result in a culture that supports the strategy. For example, if an organization competes on customer service, how employees are rewarded, trained, recruited, and led, should all be aligned to delivering great customer service.

These L&D functions are also aligning more closely to the rest of the business by viewing learning as something that happens inside the context of the work itself. Using the work for development simplifies the learning process (because context is built right in) and allows the organization to develop individuals at the same time it is improving the work, which leads to a more agile workforce.

Trend #4: Data as a development enabler.

While we’re at the beginning of this movement, we are seeing organizations start to use data to personalize development. Latent data collected from existing work tools – such as email, cloud storage, and calendars provides rich and useful information.

External vendor partners, such as Cultivate AI and Keen Corp are leveraging natural language processing (NLP) to turn latent data into data that can be analyzed. Analysis can determine politeness, engagement between individuals, and even bias. This information allows the system to provide in-the-moment feedback that helps them correct work at the same time employees are being made aware of language choices or biases that may hold them back.

This type of data can be a game changer for L&D. It moves them beyond smile sheets and completion data and helps them create systems that deliver business results, not just fulfill learning objectives. We’ll most likely be talking about this quite a bit in the following months.

Trend #5: The learning organism.

In more evolved organizations, learning has pretty much taken on a life of its own; they have in essence become organisms. that learn, grow, and develop based on their habitat and the ability to make use of it. The more in sync these organisms are with their habitat, the more quickly they are able to react to change, take calculated risks, and evolve as necessary.

We’ve noticed that more evolved organizations view the habitat in at least four buckets: the company’s attitude toward learning in all of its forms, the ability to use work and tasks as the main conduit for development, the infrastructure and technology in place, and the actual, physical and virtual environments. Evolved organizations emphasize alignment of these four areas and make them into a cohesive environment that encourages the organism to find what it needs, when it needs it.

In the coming months, we’ll be exploring this idea further, providing case studies, insights, and best practices for building the right habitat for development.

Do these ideas resonate? Did we miss something big?

Talent Management Trends for 2018: Accelerating Toward a More Responsive Organization

Posted on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018 at 4:06 PM    

With the currently extremely low unemployment numbers, many organizations are searching for a way to respond better to their employees' needs and are increasingly investing in this space. This is important, as this acceleration is driving several other substantial trends. Below are the top five on our radar right now.

  • Converging people practices – but they need to create business results (not just a common employee experience)
  • Designed networks – seeing the world and creating it as we want it to be
  • Diversity and inclusion – now core HR responsibilities
  • A new era in people data – with great power comes great responsibility
  • Leading in a time of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies – developing new leadership muscles and reflexes

Trend #1: Converging people practices that create business results

Many organizations are trying to be more responsive to employees’ needs. However, if talent organizations operate in silos (e.g., separate performance management, learning, leadership, and other talent management activities), it is difficult to adequately understand employees’ needs and respond appropriately. Understanding this, many leaders are talking about “talent management and learning converging” and creating a “consistent employee experience.”

There is a lot good about this approach. Many organizations are trying to holistically understand employees’ experiences and bring together their talent practices in more integrated ways. Companies are using a variety of tactics, such as design thinking and agile development methods, as well as new tools, such as employee listening and pulse survey technologies (vendors include Glint, TinyPulse, and Waggl, among others), to create programs and experiences that are much more holistic, consistent, and responsive to employees. This is good.

This approach can use some refinement, however, when it comes to why organizations are creating a “consistent employee experience.” The purpose cannot be just to “treat employees like customers” or to increase engagement scores or happiness (not that we have anything against engagement or happiness). Rather, the purpose of an employee experience should be to reinforce the organizational activities and behaviors necessary to drive business results. For example, if an organization needs to focus on innovation, then its “consistent employee experience” should focus on driving innovative behaviors. The organization should recruit, develop, assess, promote, and reward for the characteristics that drive innovation. A consistent employee experience should exist to keep the business laser-focused on success.

Trend #2: Designed networks – seeing the world and creating it as we want it to be.

A lot has been written about the importance of networks in organizations, but leaders are beginning to design for them more intentionally. For example, Cisco implemented Team Space to help leaders better understand their teams and how to work with them more effectively. Vendors have also taken up the charge, with organizations such as Polinode, Syndio Solutions, Swoop Analytics and TrustSphere, and consultants such as Rob Cross, offering solutions that help companies understand the networks in their organizations and how to design them intentionally. Some learning vendors, such as Degreed, EdCast, and Pathgather, as well as performance vendors such as Zugata, are also beginning to integrate network data into their solutions to make them more responsive and personalized.

This focus on designed networks will likely accelerate, as new data make clear the impact of individuals’ context on their performance and how changes to networks and teams can drive impact for the organizations. Yet, a focus on networks and teams will force a re-thinking of talent management activities. For example, how should an organization approach learning, succession management or performance management, when the focus is first on the network, not the individual?

Trend #3: Diversity and inclusion – now core HR responsibilities.

Recent social movements, epitomized by the #MeToo movement, have highlighted that many HR departments have not responded adequately to issues of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in their organization. As employees expect their organizations to be more responsive, this will include D&I. Expect to see D&I more integrated into sourcing, talent selection, performance management, learning, leadership development, succession management, and other practices. Given the positive impact of creating an inclusive culture on business outcomes, this pressure to integrate is good. Also, we are at the beginning of a rush of technologies that will help leaders understand opportunities to behave in different ways, not just count representation numbers (for example, ADP, Cultivate AI, Entelo, Limeade, SAP SuccessFactors, Syndio Solutions, and Zugata all have solutions focused in this space).

Trend #4: A new era in people data – with great power comes great responsibility.

People have been shouting about Big Data from the mountaintops so long that it is hard to hear the messages about it anymore. That said, technology solutions are beginning to capture pre-existing data that could not be analyzed before – and organizations are starting to take action on those insights. As mentioned above, there are a host of vendors focused on organizational network analysis. Other vendors are translating text into data, offering natural language processing (such as Fama, Cultivate AI, Glint, and IBM), which can help identify trends in text feedback.

But, as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. While there is a rise in powerful tools to analyze new data types, there is also a lot of discussion about data privacy and ethics. This is even more so the case now, with the recent Cambridge Analytica story — and that company's ability to predict behaviors by combining personality, relational, and activity data — coming to light. Europe is much further ahead of the United States when it comes to data and privacy rules, with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect this May. This topic of data ethics and transparency will likely accelerate dramatically across the next year.

Trend #5: Leading in a time of AI and other technologies

As others have written, rapid changes in technology, as exemplified by artificial intelligence, automation, and cognitive computing, represent large-scale opportunities and disruptions for organizations. Much less discussed is how leaders’ behaviors need to change to be more responsive to employees' needs.

There are at least three questions to examine here. First, how can these advanced technologies enable leaders to be more effective and responsive than before? For example, technology at Cultivate AI and Keen Corporation analyzes sentiment, tone, and response time in email and chat interactions, enabling leaders to understand when there has been a change from historical levels. Other technology, such as that from Bunch AI, allows organizations to analyze historical and current communications in Slack, and compare them to common cultural models and norms. The technology then provides suggestions on how to evolve culture and tools to monitor on a continuous basis. While these tools (and lots of other not-mentioned tools) are potentially powerful, leaders need to understand how and when to use them effectively. Unfortunately, there is currently little information on this topic.

Second, how do these advanced technologies change the experience of leaders’ “followers”? Historically, at least some portions of leaders’ power came from information asymmetry – leaders had information that their followers did not. However, information is increasingly ubiquitous, and with the rise of technologies such as those cited in the paragraph above, information and insights may become known to followers before or at the same time as to leaders. Further, as exemplified by “fake news,” the information followers receive may not be accurate, but followers may not understand this. Finally, with the increasingly sophisticated analysis and communication tools available, followers may create insights or find someone who has knowledge that exceeds that of their leaders.

Third, given these changes, how do leaders need to behave differently? We posit that a big part of the shift will come from leaders diminishing or relinquishing a “command and control” approach in favor of a “curate and coach” approach to leadership. While information is critical, understanding context, mapping potential actions and their consequences, determining appropriate communication approaches, and connecting followers to others within their network, will become increasingly critical to leaders. Doing this effectively will require leaders to develop new muscles and reflexes that many lack today.

This represents our initial thinking on what’s changing with talent management today. What do you think? Is there anything you especially agree – or disagree – with from this list? Are you a vendor offering solutions in this space (if so, let me know!)? What other suggestions do you have? We’ve put together this conjoint analysis survey, where you can vote on the top trends for talent management, make suggestions of others to add to the list, and see what others think. You can also feel free to email me at stacia at or make a comment in the comment field below.

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