Road Report: Perceptyx Insights 2023

April 12th, 2023

Last week, I attended the first day of Perceptyx’s Insights conference in Carlsbad, California (just north of San Diego). If you want the play-by-play, the Twitter hashtag was #Insights2023. You can see last year’s blog on their event here.

My key takeaways include:

  • The world has changed – so, too, must your people strategies
  • Perceptyx has a clear and modern vision of how its core product and acquisitions fit together
  • The new People Insights Platform gives customers a way to access all of those capabilities in one place

The world has changed – so, too, must your people strategies

In his keynote presentation, John Borland, CEO of Perceptyx, laid out an argument that the world has changed in a number of ways, such as:

  • 40% of the workforce is now at risk of turning over within the next 3-6 months
  • The US Jobless rate now at its lowest level since 1969
  • Political and social upheaval are impacting employees significantly

He called out that Perceptyx’s customers are saying they are:

  • Struggling with the pace of change;
  • Being asked to do more with less; and,
  • Trying to address well-being and burnout.

While this is all true, it was a similar talk track to what I have heard at other events this spring.

However, Steve Cadigan’s closing keynote for the day gave me a fresher take on the current state. Cadigan, who was the first CHRO for LinkedIn and is the author of “WorkQuake,” argued that this is not just a hard time, but that it is a fundamentally different time than before the pandemic.

His specific argument was that:

  • Employee tenure has declined, yet no one expects it to rebound. Therefore, why are we all spending time focused on tenure? Instead, we should be focused on the diversity of skill sets and experiences in the organization, and building relationships with employees for however long they are with us, not just to keep them with us.
  • We have a broken model of work. Most organizations are over-emphasizing automation and AI, and under-emphasizing the value employees will get from working at a company. Further, many leaders are over-focused on attracting new talent (instead of fairly increasing the wages of the talent working within the organization) and on full-time workers (to the detriment of other models such as part-time or contractors). There are other ways to engage, hire, and motivate workers beyond our traditional model, yet most organizations are failing to do enough here.
  • The best way to adapt is to experiment. This means new models of attraction, learning, career development, alumni strategies, etc. He gave an example of the airline industry (see Figures 1 and 2 below) to illustrate his point.

Figure 1: Airline Industry Case Study, Challenges | Source: Steve Cadigan, 2023.

Figure 2: Airline Industry Case Study, Response | Source: Steve Cadigan, 2023.

Steve then summarized this with his pillars of a new talent agenda, laid out in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Pillars of a New Talent Agenda | Source: Steve Cadigan, 2023.

My take:

The world of work has fundamentally changed. It will take a combination of measurement and insight about the current state AND a re-imagination of the future to respond appropriately. Most organizations are focused on the first point rather than on the second. For example, on a recent webinar, when we asked leaders the extent to which they are managing folks differently today compared to 2019, most of them said their approach was the same.

Yet, we are in a fundamentally different place. Different economic environment. Altered social and political environment. And, increasingly, a different technical environment.

Right now, it feels to me like we are in this purgatory of still using old mental models and approaches in a fundamentally different operating environment. Steve’s pillars are as good of a starting place as any for beginning to think through how to adapt to this new world we are all living in. To do this effectively, organizations will need to understand the existing workforce and envision a new way of working – at the same time. Perceptyx is focused on the first point.

Perceptyx’s clear and modern vision

One of the most important messages Perceptyx needed to get across at this event is how its different recent acquisitions (notably Waggl and Cultivate) would fit together with its core product to create a holistic solution for customers.

Their answer is in Figure 4. The first two columns represent their legacy product, with Dialogue being the product formerly known as Waggl, and Cultivate being, well the old Cultivate. 😊

Figure 4: Perceptyx’s product set | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

Borland articulated that Perceptyx wants to move customers along a curve of continuous listening to continuous conversations to continuous actioning. They stated that when organizations have continuous conversations, they have better outcomes (see Figure 5). I’m not sure about the outcomes for continuous actioning – we didn’t see a slide on that.

Figure 5: The 4 Components of Continuous Conversations and the Outcomes Associated | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

Perceptyx then positioned this evolution as a maturity model. Figure 6 describes the stages of maturity more, and Figure 7 shows how they see organizations moving up the maturity curve.

Figure 6: Maturity Stage Definitions | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

Figure 7: Details on Moving up the Maturity Curve | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

Therefore, Perceptyx’s vision is to be a holistic listening and actioning platform that can help orgs move up this maturity curve.

My take:

I really like Perceptyx’s vision of being a holistic listening and actioning platform. Their leaders’ story around how these different acquisitions fit together works for me, and I think they are right to be offering a range of different capabilities for customers, who have different needs. I have known many devoted, yes DEVOTED, Waggl customers over the years, and the fact that these folks can now combine that capability with an engagement or lifecycle survey is really powerful. Further, Cultivate brings an impressive AI engine, PLUS the capabilities of providing real-time coaching, feedback, and learning to address specific gaps for employees. All in all, this vision works.

What doesn’t work for me, though, is the maturity model. Even though I created maturity models for 8 years at Bersin by Deloitte, I’m not a huge fan of them anymore generally, especially when it comes to people analytics. The reason for this is that you can have very different levels of capability throughout a given organization, and so they can be misleading if you are trying to categorize an entire organization as one level of maturity.

Further, with people analytics in particular, an organization can be doing multiple things at different levels. For example, in the maturity model Perceptyx presented, I think any organization would be remiss to wait until Stage 4 to “Act from the top-down and the bottom-up.” Further, in some situations, it may make sense to listen frequently and in multiple channels on some topics but may not in others. Similarly, sometimes it makes sense to do “topical listening” and other times to do “strategic listening.” This type of model forces a false dichotomy and I don’t think it serves practitioners particularly well. Feel free to disagree with me in the comments. 😊

The new People Insights Platform

Of course, the question then becomes, how does one use all these products? Perceptyx’s answer is the People Insights Platform, which is a single location to access all the different capabilities in one place. A screenshot of the homepage is shown in Figure 8. This is expected to be available in beta this summer.

Figure 8: Perceptyx’s People Insights Platform Homepage | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

The idea behind the People Insight Platform is it is where everything will come together seamlessly. As shown in Figure 9, it is where all the extracted data live, analysis (powered by Perceptyx’s AI engine) is completed and displayed, and the place from which those insights can be exported. Further, it is where people can also access learning.

Importantly, Perceptyx noted some improved data management capabilities. Extraction can now happen via API and RaaS connections from Oracle, SAP SuccessFactors, and Workday. Further, with the coming release of the People Insight Platform, Perceptyx will be providing APIs to move data into Microsoft PowerBI, Workday Prism, Visier, and other locations (like a company’s data lake).

The People Insights Platform can be used by a variety of personas, including HR leaders, managers, and employees. Each of these personas has a set of actions and capabilities designed for them, to enable them to get relevant insights, conduct action planning, and access learning aligned to their needs. These insights and actions can also be pushed directly to Slack or Teams, to allow users to access them where ever they are working.

Figure 9: Perceptyx’s People Insights Platform Architecture | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

Perceptyx shared a number of video demos during the keynote, which displayed some of the AI-powered insights now available. Of particular note, given all the buzz around #ChatGPT and #LLMs, was the new comment analysis capabilities announced at the showJoe Freed, VP of Product (and former CEO of Cultivate), revealed how the comment analysis can be much more nuanced and can drill down to specific comments with much more specificity. For example, one could select a theme of “compensation” and a subtheme of “management” – these are capabilities that are commonly available.

The advancement in Perceptyx’s capabilities, though, comes with the addition of an intent sentiment. According to Perceptyx, “intent detection illuminates attitudes and intentions expressed in comments. It identifies five distinct intents:

  • Angry & Unfair
  • Praise & Approval
  • Wants & Preferences
  • Needs & Concerns
  • Shoulds & Suggestions”

So, to continue the example from above, in addition to selecting the two themes of “compensation” and “management,” a user could also then select an intent, such as “unfair.” This will then reveal just those comments where folks thought that the compensation is unfair. Users can then analyze specific comments within that theme, allowing them to understand the specific concerns within those comments and, eventually, to take appropriate action (see Figure 10).

Figure 10: Example of Comments and Sentiment Analysis on Perceptyx’s Platform | Source: Perceptyx, 2023.

My take:

Perceptyx absolutely needed a single place to bring all of these capabilities together, and the People Insights Platform appears to do that beautifully. I like that all the information is in one place and is connected on an infrastructure level (meaning these aren’t just widgets sitting on a home page, where they pipe off to other locations – instead, the data are interconnected). That said, all of the previous capabilities are still available within the Insights Platform, so users aren’t missing out on anything.

I’m especially excited about the advancements that Cultivate’s AI engine is giving to Perceptyx. There is evidence of it in all sorts of places in the platform, from the extraction and export capabilities to the insight recommendations to the comments analysis capabilities. Like everyone else, I was assured that Perceptyx is working to figure out how to use the power of GPT-4 in the near future. Given Cultivate’s early strength in this space, I am excited to see how Perceptyx will integrate this new tech into its offerings.

Misc. and wrapping up

A few extra notes that don’t deserve headline status, but might be of interest:

  • There were about 300 people at this event, with this being their first post-COVID excursion for some folks I spoke with
  • There was a very heavy healthcare representation among customers, which I attribute to the fact that Perceptyx runs a pre-show Health Care Consortium the day before
  • Some of the panels were a bit uneven in terms of quality and insight
  • The companies that attended the “Stage 3 and Stage 4” (on the maturity model) breakouts truly were more forward-thinking, and I learned a lot from them
  • Though we didn’t get a formal update on customer growth in the session (different from last year), there seemed to be a healthy blend of customers and prospects

I look forward to seeing Perceptyx customers presenting how they’ve used the vendor’s holistic solution at next year’s conference. I am sure customers will have some powerful and inspiring stories on how they used the platform to reimagine the world of work.

#TC #Perceptyx #EmployeeEngagement #EmployeeExperience #HRTech #WorkTech #LearningTech #RoadReport

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst