Conversational technology in HR can improve productivity

While voice assistants like Alexa have changed the way consumers interact with devices, their potential in settings such as HR have yet to be fully realized. That could change in just a few years according to Steve Boese, a columnist for HR Executive.

One of the ways HR can benefit from conversational technology is by enabling employees to query information that may be stored in disparate systems and databases, Boese wrote in a recent article for HR Executive. These systems may also have different access protocols, which can make it increasingly more complex for employees to find the information they need. Employees spend a lot of time searching for information — statistics range from 1.8 hours to 2.5 hours per day, up to 30% of the workday — which can have a negative impact on productivity. Implementing a voice-enabled system would allow employees to find necessary information faster by removing some of those barriers to access.

Conversational technology can also take over some common HR requests, such as checking how much vacation time an employee has and requesting time off. A voice-enabled HR assistant can support complex requests such as adjustments to compensation, transfers and promotions because the underlying systems already exist, Boese wrote. The manager can then approve the request with a voice command or via chat. Some companies are already using HR chatbots like Benny – which integrates with Slack – to answer similar questions, but these tools can sometimes struggle with requests that have multiple questions. One solution is to manage employees’ expectations of what the chatbot is capable of.

As HR departments become more comfortable using conversational technology to retrieve information and process requests, the next step will be for the technology to make recommendations based on that data. Since the system will have greater insight into employees’ schedules, it can inform managers when they might need to reach out to contingency workers or contractors.

While conversational technology in HR is still nascent, it has the ability to improve efficiency and productivity by taking over some administrative tasks from human workers and allowing them to focus on higher-priority projects.


Organisational Learning and Development: Who Trains the Trainers?

People are the new competitive edge in business. Products or services can be duplicated and emulated by competitors but nobody can copy and paste the rich intangible assets of talented employees that perform in an exemplary manner.

Global leadership seems to have grasped this concept and are investing more in the learning and development of their people. And this investment isn’t just the money allocated to the training budget. Research shows that time set aside for learning and development has quadrupled in multinational companies.

Blended learning solutions have yielded a wide array of new learning approaches and tools, including online learning, social learning and a renewed focus on workplace (or on-the-job) learning.

Individual leaders and experts from across organisational functions are significantly increasing their investment of time, effort and expertise in learning and development interventions.

With all this investment in organisational learning and development, leaders from all occupational areas and functional fields are being called on to step up their L&D game. Learning and development of people in the workplace requires a highly specialised and experienced skill set, which few L&D people even get to master during their career.

Who trains the trainers?
Who provides the learning and development required to drive occupational learning to the ever-increasing role-players in learning and development?

For a country plagued by poor education systems yet insistent on driving occupational learning, there are remarkably few accredited, quality tertiary level programmes that upskill people in the field of L&D. Most skilled, senior L&D professionals have done their time in organisations, complementing their basic HR diplomas with experiential learning.

Programmes are available that equip participants to facilitate, assess, moderate, and so forth but finding a programme that upskills professionals (whether leaders, technical experts or L&D practitioners) in the professional execution and management of organisational people development is a mission that not even all-knowing Google can accomplish easily!

The Wits Plus Organisational Learning and Development short course can be completed online through Wits DigitalCampus or part-time through evening classes.

The course offers the following benefits for organisational L&D stakeholders:

The ability to analyse, plan, source and deliver quality L&D solutions in organisations.
The ability to connect and engage adult learners, strengthening commitment to learning and the overall learning relationship.
The ability to meet professional requirements for learning and development, improving the credibility of L&D and the overall involvement and collaboration of cross-functional leadership in driving a culture of learning.
You cannot teach a person anything; you can only make them want to learn. Make sure your L&D professionals and leaders know how to make people want to learn. Invest in the people who invest in people – the return on investment will be people who want to drive learning and people who want to learn.


Why Mapping the Employee Lifecycle of Millennials is the Holy Grail of Talent Management

According to a Gallup data study, millennials are by far the biggest generation to job hop – costing the economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually. The same study cites that 60% of millennials say they are open to a new job opportunity. Which means chances are, your 20 or 30-something millennial worker will eventually move on. The best strategy to avoid short-term turnover is to craft your Ideal Employee Target (IET) and subsequently decide what their life cycle will look like prior to hiring.

Below are a few ways to maintain longer employee retention, improve your company’s reputation and ensure hiring costs don’t skyrocket.

Millennials crave a job with a purpose, not a paycheck
Empowering your employees with a purpose at work helps them envision a long-term future with your company. Social media has bred a culture of an endless search for happiness. If an organization is unable to map out a plan for employee advancement, or clearly highlight how they are a making positive change – younger workers will not see a clear reason to stay. Millennials need a strategic cocktail of altruism, direction, and meaning. Airbnb is a great example. The company’s rapid rise to fame was largely made possible by proliferating its brand purpose throughout all of its behavior. Which included embedding that mission into employee roles.

Strong motivation is the linchpin of engagement
Finding, hiring, and onboarding an employee’s replacement is time intensive and costly. To avoid this, plan well in advance for the person’s eventual exit by making sure you outline the employee’s life cycle, annual review and raise timeline early on. Millennials are motivated by consistently being recognized as valuable to their employer. Make sure their starting salary includes room for regular raises so they stay motivated. Similarly, budget your operations to invest in training, office perks and bonus incentives to maintain engagement.

The gig economy is alive and well – which means the competition to keep employees is higher than ever
Different from previous generations, millennials are largely attracted to positions that offer flexibility and don’t tie them down to one skillset. Part-time positions, side hustles, and temporary gigs provide that flexibility – which means achieving millennial job satisfaction is harder than ever before. According to a study done by Upwork listed in Forbes, it’s predicted that the majority of U.S. workers will be freelancing by 2027. A testament to the younger workforce opting for independence, wider choice, and an improved work/life balance. In order to stay relevant and retain top talent, embed the need for creativity within a role, foster flexible working hours and encourage the desire to build new skill sets.

It’s impossible to build a business without the right people working for you. To make sure you attract and retain the best talent – compensate correctly from the start, build a strong promotion and raise timeline and cultivate a challenging but supportive culture. Maintaining a successful talent management program is always a delicate balance but establishing a thoughtful strategy from day one will help you maximize each individual’s tenure with your company.


What is Employee Engagement? Definition, Drivers, Strategies, Measures and Technologies

The focus on employee engagement is on the rise globally. And it is not an issue relegated only to the HR team of an organization. It is a business concern that requires serious consideration. In this piece, we discuss what employee engagement means, why it is critical to the bottom line of an organization, and effective technology-enabled employee engagement strategies.

Table of Contents
Section I: An Introduction to Employee Engagement

I. What is Employee Engagement?
II. Why is Employee Engagement Important for Business?
III. Who Is Responsible for Employee Engagement?
IV. At What Point Does Employee Engagement Begin?

Section II: What Are the Drivers of Employee Engagement?

I. Seamless Onboarding
II. Positive Work Culture
III. Productivity and Time Management Tools
IV. Learning and Development Opportunities
V. Leadership and Succession Planning
VI. Workplace Wellness Initiatives
VII. Flexibility

Section III: How is Employee Engagement Measured?

I. Pulse Surveys
II. Sentiment Analysis
III. Employee Net Promoter Score(eNPS)
IV. One-on-one Meetings (monthly)
V. Stay/Exit Interviews

Section IV: What is the Future of Employee Engagement?

Section I: An Introduction to Employee Engagement
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, describes employee engagement in the simplest of terms: “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

I. What is Employee Engagement?

The concept of employee engagement was first introduced in 1990 by Dr. William Kahn. He suggested that people are involved in their work at three levels – physically, cognitively, and emotionally. However, employees may be engaged at fewer levels, or even disengaged or actively disengaged.

We spoke to Jim McCoy, Chief Revenue Officer and General Manager at Scout Exchange, who shared some of the character traits engaged employees exhibit: “Highly engaged employees are typically high energy people that have close relationships with their colleagues, including their direct manager or supervisor. They have a clear sense of commitment to their organization. They are excited to take on new challenges, embrace change, and welcome solving tough problems. They also tend to be curious by nature, continually learning, and regularly seeking new ways to broaden their existing skill sets. They effectively are ambassadors for the organization, continually looking for ways to promote the organization and further the organizational mission.”

As opposed to engaged employees, disengaged employees simply put in their specified hours at work and leave. They do not involve themselves in activities beyond their standard jobs, and they value the job just enough to ensure that they get their paycheck at the end of the month.

A level above disengaged employees are actively disengaged, employees. Such employees are not only unproductive, they also undermine the work engaged employees do. Their negative attitude may create a toxic workplace and they essentially become a burden on the business.

II. Why is Employee Engagement Important for Business?

A Gallup study states that “the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21% greater profitability.” In addition, employees appreciate a work culture that enables engagement. This means organizations that prioritize engagement are more likely to attract and retain talent.

III. Who Is Responsible for Employee Engagement?

The onus of planning engagement activities and executing them is not on HR alone anymore. HR plays an active role in executing employee engagement strategies, but the planning and execution requires involvement from leaders and managers in the organization as well. The success of an employee engagement program depends on employees’ receptivity to it. Employee engagement, then, is an organization-wide collaborative function.

IV. At What Point Does Employee Engagement Begin?

Engagement begins at the beginning of the employee lifecycle, from recruitment, and continues through onboarding, career planning, learning and development, leadership and succession, and retirement or exit from the organization.

However, it must be stated that employee engagement is a two-way street. Even if organizations follow the best practices in employee engagement, there is a certain personality that employees must either possess or inculcate in themselves to be a good cultural fit for the organization. Individuals who display optimism, hard work, and positivity are more likely to be engaged in their work than those who don’t.

Section II: What Are the Drivers of Employee Engagement?

Engagement initiatives in the following areas, spanning the entire employee lifecycle, can prevent the attrition of high-value and high-potential employees.

I. Seamless Onboarding

Employee engagement truly begins when the employee is recruited and begins the onboarding process. However, even before being hired, a candidate at the very least gets a glimpse of the communication culture of the organization. Once hired, the onboarding process gives employees an idea of whether they want to continue in the organization for the long term. One way to ensure employee engagement during onboarding is to give employees enough time to master their job before they hit the floor. This means that when they do, they will be ready to take on the job with confidence and build a lasting career in the organization.

In a unique initiative, in 2017, L’Oréal built an employee onboarding app that is only devoted to helping new recruits understand and embrace their company culture. By introducing gamification and delivering key information in small, retainable chunks, L’Oréal has made it clear that engagement begins at the start of the employee lifecycle.

Also Read: Why a Technology-Enabled Onboarding Process is Critical to Business Success

II. Positive Work Culture

Work culture is a broad term, but very specific factors contribute to keeping employees engaged.

1. Transparency: Engaged employees are employees who care about the organization. Employees tend to care when organizations:

Share company goals and values with employees.
Tell employees exactly what is expected of them and how to achieve it.
Give them regular updates about the progress of the company and where it stands in the global marketplace.
Communicate how employees’ effort benefits the organization and contributes to the bigger picture.

All these steps create a sense of belonging and naturally encourage employees to do more to drive better results.

2. Openness: An open work culture is important to make employees feel respected and cared for. In an open work culture, employees should be able to:

Receive important communication regularly through a unified channel from the organization, their managers, and colleagues.
Freely communicate with their managers about any task/issue.
Provide anonymous feedback about issues they are having with their managers.
Report workplace misconduct anonymously.

3. Autonomy: Micro-management is rarely well-received by employees. They need a certain degree of autonomy to be productive. An organization can ensure employees have a certain degree of autonomy by answering these questions:

Do employees have the freedom to decide how they go about their daily tasks?
Do they have the freedom to plan their career path in the organization?
Are they included in taking critical decisions that may affect them directly?

4. Respectful Treatment:Employees rate respectful treatment and empathy even higher than compensation when it comes to job satisfaction and engagement. When treated with the same level of respect as a company’s most loyal customers, employees will be more invested in achieving business outcomes.

Also Read: 5 Ways Technology Can Help Build a Strong Company Culture

III. Access to Productivity and Time Management Tools

A slew of unplanned activities, meetings, and workplace distractions can reduce the overall productive time in a day for an employee. Time management is an inherent skill, but in a dynamic work environment, even the most efficient employees need time management tools. Supporting time management can directly result in improved productivity.

Time management and collaboration tools such as Slack, Wunderlist, and Trello help break down and time deadline-oriented tasks. Even with frequent interruptions, to some extent, these tools can improve employee output.

IV. Learning and Development Opportunities

Organizations that provide structured learning and development opportunities to their employees notice higher levels of engagement. This visible interest in employee growth elicits a feeling of reciprocation from employees – they are more likely to be interested in the organization’s growth.

In a generation that is on the go, this learning is mainly delivered through learning experience platforms via mobile phone in easily consumable bites. Additionally, gamifying the learning process can get even less engaged employees to participate and open up greater opportunities for themselves.

V. Effective Leadership and Succession Planning

Employees are more likely to demonstrate the traits of engagement when they are made aware of the growth opportunities that lie in store for them. Closely tied to learning and development, leadership and succession planning is a key driver of engagement, especially among the millennial and younger workforce. In this area, HR teams and leaders of the organizations work together to identify key positions to be filled and the available talent to fill these positions.

Applying technology to an organization’s succession planning strategy can make it a more streamlined process. AI-powered analytics solutions can help identify potential talent, link them with the skills and qualifications required for a certain leadership position, and enable HR to tailor learning and development plans for that talent. This level of personalization can significantly improve engagement levels.

VI. Workplace Wellness Initiatives

Stress is a more common problem in the workplace than is visible. Combined with the physical inactivity of most office jobs, a cocktail of health issues emerges that can easily be attributed to the workplace. Workplace wellness initiatives can go a long way in showing employees that employers care.

Organizations are now investing in wearable technologies to help employees stay fit. These include fitness bands and smart footwear. Some of these wearables are even equipped to monitor blood pressure and general health. Given the sensitive nature of this data, HR teams need to adhere to strict compliance rules when receiving and using this data. In addition, employees need to be able to opt out of workplace wellness programs if they are uncomfortable sharing their health data with their employers.

VII. Flexibility

In a study conducted in 2014, 13 percent of those surveyed said they had quit a job due to lack of flexibility. In 2018, this number was 31 percent. The arrival of the gig economy and the increasing demand for workplace flexibility has made it one of the most important drivers of employee engagement. Any organization that allows employees to enjoy a certain amount of flexibility in where they work is more likely to experience higher levels of engagement. There are two reasons for this:

Organizations show that they trust employees to do their job no matter where they are.
Employees tend to perform better without the stress of commuting and when they are in their own comfortable space.

Collaboration tools like Slack and Skype enable seamless conversations not only within organizations but also across remote teams. With the advent of unified HCM platforms, all the benefits that are offered to in-house employees can be offered to mobile workers as well.

VIII. Rewards and Recognition

Employees appreciate meaningful recognition for their work. Regular feedback and checking in on employees are positive drivers of engagement. This feedback should be designed to communicate how the employees’ efforts are helping the organization.

Through employee recognition platforms, leaders can give a shout out to a specific employee or group of employees to recognize their achievements. These platforms allow for instant recognition among peers and senior leaders – delivering said recognition and rewards when they are due, not months later during the performance appraisal. These platforms even allow employees to choose their own rewards, when eligible.

Section III: How is Employee Engagement Measured?

Measuring employee engagement is done in two parts. First, the data is collected through various channels. Then, this data is analyzed against key metrics that quantify the engagement levels of the organization as a whole.

The following tools and methodologies can be used to measure employee engagement:

I. Pulse Surveys

While surveys are the most common way of measuring employee engagement, they should be supplemented with measurable data that can be verified independently. For instance, if a survey asks, “Do you think that having X number of meetings in a day hampers your productivity?”, it should be supplemented with data on how many meetings occur in a day, how much time employees spend unfocused before and after the meeting, and what their productive output for the day is. This data along with the survey responses can then be used to identify what the actual effect of having a certain number of meetings every day is.

Experts now recommend ditching annual surveys and administering pulse surveys instead. Pulse surveys offer insights frequently into the state of engagement in an organization. This means there need be fewer instances of overhauling employee engagement strategy and more instances of merely tweaking it. However, frequent surveys can cause feedback fatigue if employees have to take time out often to answer them. To prevent this fatigue, pulse surveys can now be administered through AI-powered chatbots are being used effectively. As they can be answered instantly and even on the go, these surveys are more likely to yield honest responses from employees.

II. Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis, a method of extracting information from subjective data, can help identify the general sentiment found in the language employees use in their online conversations. By combing through email and chat data, sentiment analytics enable the identification of toxic workplace behaviors in a single team, for example, or across teams. All the data collected is kept anonymous. Sentiment analysis can provide real insights into whether employees honestly answer surveys.

III. Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)

eNPS is a metric used to measure employee loyalty by asking how willing employees are to promote the organization as a place to work. For eNPS to be an effective measure of employee engagement, it must:

Be administered at regular intervals – monthly or quarterly.
Collect anonymous responses.
Be combined with data received from surveys and other sources.
IV. One-on-one Meetings (monthly)

No technology can replace the human touch of one-on-one meetings. Employees feel heard when they are given the opportunity to have a real conversation to express their thoughts. Anonymous feedback can help voice the larger issues. For more specific, personal issues, one-on-one meetings are a great way for managers to identify the general mood of employees.

V. Stay/Exit Interviews

Sometimes it is difficult to get employees to stay in a company. But conducting an exit interview can give HR teams a valuable trove of information. This information can then be used to enhance the engagement levels of existing employees. These interviews often reveal how important it is to continuously engage with employees to prevent such instances, starting from the onboarding process and setting the tone in that crucial first 90-day period to define a culture that even new employees can feel engaged in.

Once data is obtained from these methods, employee engagement analytics can come to your aid to offer actionable insights. Analytics platforms empowered with predictive technologies can provide insights that can help develop solid employee engagement strategies or simply modify existing strategies to meet engagement goals, improve engagement, and even sustain engagement.

Also Read: How Technology is Changing Engagement at Work

Section IV: What is the Future of Employee Engagement?
We live in an interesting time. In an earlier generation, people might have been reprimanded for not being motivated to work and not giving their 100 percent (and a little more to their jobs). Now, organizations have realized that employee engagement is something they can encourage and control.

As Jim says, “Moving forward, employee engagement will continue to become more fluid. Instead of one-time annual surveys, we’ll see organizations adopting more ongoing and holistic strategies that allow for two-way conversations and real-time feedback. Additionally, we’ll see more and more companies recognize the importance of providing high-quality continuous learning and career development opportunities for their employees.”

Employee engagement is a challenging metric for organizations. Following a technology-enabled, data-driven approach to implement and measure employee engagement can elevate the level of happiness and satisfaction employees experience on the job. And as the popular saying goes, happy employees make happy customers.

What employee engagement strategies is your organization implementing? Which technologies are you using to improve engagement? We would love to hear from you on our Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter pages!


Why employee recognition isn’t working

As I have traveled across the country, working with various businesses and organizations, I’ve had the privilege to interact with numerous employees, supervisors, managers and HR professionals. When discussing their employee recognition programs, they report that their current programs aren’t working – they are not having a positive impact on employees or workplace morale. And, in many cases, the ways that most employee recognition programs are implemented actually create negative reactions among team members.

Why? Because, as generally implemented, recognition is very different from authentic appreciation. Here is what we found:

Recognition is largely about behavior. “Catch them doing what you want and recognize it,” the recognition books say. The sole focus is on the employee’s behavior and the manager’s behavior (observe and reinforce). This is an “ok” starting point, but doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter.

The primary emphasis of recognition is improving performance. The goal is for employees to do more (or better quality) work. Often, the focus is on what is good for the company or the manager (who looks good when the team performs well). Many employees see this – and resent it.

The relational direction of recognition is top down. Recognition comes from the administration, managers, and supervisors. It is occasionally communicated peer to peer, but rarely from worker to supervisor or manager. And, as I’ve shared elsewhere, younger workers are less impacted by their supervisor than they are their colleagues.

What Team Members Want: Authentic Appreciation
Conversely, authentic appreciation has a very different feel and quality:

Appreciation focuses on performance plus the character qualities of the team member and the person’s intrinsic value. As a result, team members can be valued and receive appreciation both for doing tasks well, and even when they don’t perform well. This is important because only the top 10-15% of employees are recognized for high level performance, which leaves your 50-60% of solid middle team members who never hear anything. Appreciation fills the gaps.

Appreciation has dual objectives: to improve performance but also to support and encourage the person. Team members often need a word or action of encouragement, either when they are learning new roles and skills or when they aren’t performing at their best because of other issues going on in their lives.

The goal of appreciation is what is good for the company and what is good for the person. If a colleague communicates authentic appreciation, it is based in a foundational concern for the individual (which may mean helping the person find a position that is a better match for her than her current role).

Appreciation requires more than behavior; it requires “heart attitude.” This is really the difficult part of appreciation—it has to be genuine. You can’t fake it. But you can learn how to appreciate others (even difficult colleagues) by getting to know them better and what they contribute to the organization.

Appreciation can be communicated in any direction. One of the exciting lessons I’ve learned is that colleagues want to know how to encourage and support one another. Appreciation can be expressed from anyone to anyone else in the organization – it is not driven by the organizational chart.

Appreciation is based in a person-to-person relationship. We don’t believe that an organization (an entity) can truly appreciate an employee or team member. That is why so many employees react to recognition programs—the recognition doesn’t feel genuine at a personal level.

Employee recognition programs work well when they are used for the purpose for which they were originally designed—to recognize and reward achieving performance goals. Recognition, however, does not work well when organizations try to use large organizational programs to make employees feel valued individually. In fact, this often creates negative backlash within the organization (sarcasm and resentment).

Authentic appreciation communicated personally in ways that are meaningful to the recipient is what helps team members feel truly valued. Use the correct tool for the right purpose and you will experience positive results!

For more in-depth discussion and recommendations, see “The Difference between Recognition and Appreciation” in the new, updated 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and “Why Recognition Programs Don’t Work” in The Vibrant Workplace.


6 Tips for Effective Employee Referral Programs

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Employee referral programs can be an effective way to hire talented people, and they can also be invaluable in the current talent acquisition environment, in which open jobs outnumber qualified candidates.

“How many of you have a close-knit group of friends that you think are the bomb? We all believe that the people we know and the people we surround ourselves with are the greatest people, and we should leverage that,” said Aubrey Wiete, talent management consultant for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, who offered tips for improving employee referral programs at the 2019 Society for Human Resource Management Talent Conference & Exposition.

Wiete, along with Jenna Filipkowski, Ph.D., director of research at Human Capital Institute (HCI) in Cincinnati, shared six guidelines for crafting effective employee referral programs:

1. Give employees what they need to refer.

Using employees to promote your company brand can be helpful when done right. “The first step is acknowledging that, if you want to build a referral program that really works, you need to have a referral-worthy culture,” Wiete said.

Lululemon, an athletic apparel company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, treats every employee as a brand ambassador and provides all employees with the information and tools they need to fill that role.

“We ask all new hires to provide us with a list of 10 names from their personal network,” said conference attendee Marissa Davenport, a talent advisor and recruiter at Neighborly, a global service-based franchise company in Waco, Texas. When the company has open positions, hiring managers review these contacts. If there’s a potential match, managers ask the referring employee to introduce the potential applicant to both the company and the employment opportunity.

2. Set clear guidelines and expectations.

Make sure employees understand the referral program’s guidelines and expectations, including who is eligible to participate in the program and receive rewards for referrals.

According to HCI research, of the companies it surveyed:

78 percent provide the same reward for a referral whether the open position is executive level or entry level.
60 percent allow all company employees to participate in the referral program.
58 percent give preference to candidates who are referred by current employees.
55 percent accept referrals from nonemployees, such as customers or clients.
3. Offer incentives that motivate.

HCI research indicates that 74 percent of employers offer referral incentives. Of those, 92 percent offer cash, with a median award of $1,000. Awards of $500 are the most common.

Consider the timing of the reward as well. Most employers hinge payment on a referred hire’s staying employed with the company for a set period of time. Only 27 percent of employers offer a full reward immediately upon a referral’s hire.

Aim for parity in these rewards so that a referral for an executive job doesn’t pay substantially more than a referral for a lower-level job.

“We don’t want the perception that one job is more important than another,” said Davenport, whose company recently revised the amount of its incentive payouts for referrals to help achieve parity between departments.

4. Market the program.

Filipkowski recommended treating the employee referral program like an ongoing marketing campaign. Investing in marketing and communication plans for the program can increase the likelihood that employees will participate.

Groupon, a worldwide e-commerce marketplace based in Chicago, has a unique marketing approach for its employee referral program: Referred candidates get a coveted green Adidas track-style jacket after working for one year at the company. The jackets remind everyone that employee referrals have an impact.

5. Hold leaders and HR accountable.

One common complaint about referral programs is that HR sometimes fails to communicate with the referring employee and the candidate about the job status. To avoid frustration, share information with both parties, and keep them updated about the hiring process. Consider responding to every candidate referral within a set time, such as 10 days.

Senior leaders need to believe in the program and be a part of the design. To get this buy-in and find a program champion, give leaders data and feedback on the program’s outcomes. Make sure executives understand the current competition for talent and the need to capitalize on employee networks. “The stakes are so high, and there is not enough talent to go around. How do we get these people in our door?” Wiete said.

6. Provide feedback on outcomes.

“Measure that [the referral program] is working or not working, and make adjustments as needed,” Filipkowski said. Common metrics to capture include:

The number of employees hired through referrals, compared to other methods.
The number of qualified candidates obtained through referrals, compared to other sources.
The rate of employee participation.
The retention of referred hires, compared to other sources.
The performance of referred hires, compared to other sources.


AI is Promising for Hiring Teams, but There’s a Catch

With AI bias now a critical topic of conversation in hiring, companies leveraging the technology need the right data mining procedures to ensure underlying data sets aren’t perpetuating existing issues.

We see artificial intelligence (AI) at work every day – from determining what appears first in our Google search for “nearby restaurants,” our social media feeds and online shopping recommendations, to deciding our credit limit or sharing personalized job recommendations. These instances of AI have become so engrained in our daily lives that we often don’t even realize the tech behind quick tasks such as being able to order an Uber or purchase regular household items by simply clicking “order again.”

On a much bigger scale, AI’s ability to sift through, understand, and make predictions based on data has transformed nearly all industries from suggesting possible patient conditions and treatment options in healthcare to anticipating stock market changes in finance. While the tech is still new to the hiring industry, we’re seeing AI reshape talent acquisition by making the process much more efficient, proactive and predictive, leading companies to the right talent, at the right time.

But with great power comes great responsibility. AI offers many benefits for organizations, but we’re still in the early stages of the maturity curve, which means there are inevitably adoption growing pains to work through. The prevalence of AI bias is one of those pain points that has attracted media attention because prejudice is one of the exact things these algorithms were supposed to correct due to the technology’s superior decision-making capabilities.

Is AI Doing More Harm Than Good?
With the realization that AI bias exists, many in the business community have started to question whether the technology is truly helping in the ways believed. For example, one algorithm within a search engine was found to be more likely to show male job seekers a pair of ads for high-paying executive jobs than the equivalent female job seekers. Another algorithm used in the U.S. to guide sentencing by predicting the likelihood of a criminal reoffending, seemingly predicts that black defendants pose a higher risk of recidivism than they do. And some of the latest gender-recognition AI technologies can correctly identify a person’s gender from a photograph 99 percent of the time, but only for white men. Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that number dropped to just 35 percent for dark-skinned women.

The workforce management industry is certainly not immune to AI bias. Some companies have gone as far as removing AI tools from their hiring processes all together after discovering the technology was being discriminatory. It’s important to understand that the issue is not because of the AI technology itself, but rather the underlying patterns in the data that the tools are built on.

If historic data houses any form of prejudice, such as that men have consistently – even if unintentionally – been elevated to executive roles over women, the decisions made by these algorithms are inherently biased. AI doesn’t create bias, but it can perpetuate existing prejudice and foundational issues within an organization’s data sets.

But that doesn’t mean AI is a lost cause. It just means the global business community needs to adapt.

Fighting AI Bias at the Core
AI has the power to address hiring bias at the core – the more that employers apply the right algorithms and data mining processes that help hiring managers through the decision-making process, the more enabled these teams are to take existing bias out, not introduce it. Organizations need to adopt holistic data mining approaches and be more aware of the data sets used in AI and machine learning models.

The key to removing AI bias is knowing where biased data exists and having a global data set that doesn’t include qualifiers – like gender, race or other factors – that aren’t pertinent to the hiring decision. Organizations should also be careful of pulling in external demographic data sources – for example, filtering out zip codes that have high rates of failing criminal background checks, but could still have promising candidates, and making sure algorithms account for the fact that different countries use different screening criteria.

The most important factor contributing to organizations’ ability to fight AI bias is knowing data sets inside out and where bias potentially exists. Then, fine-tune algorithms and test potential outcomes to remove existing bias. AI can be an amazing tool for weeding out biased hiring practices, it just needs the right data to base its decisions off of.

AI at Work
Once organizations take the proper steps to eliminate bias in their hiring practices, AI enables them to find and match the best candidates for the job. For example, AI tools can automatically convert every CV into a searchable candidate record that can then leverage semantic search technology to more effectively match the meaning of the candidate’s content with the intent of the job requisition. This means candidate matching can include both fact-based requirements, such as years of experience and education, as well as softer characteristics, such as cultural fit.

A human-based review can then focus on the most likely candidates to meet job expectations, cutting down on the review time and ultimately, speed the path to fill an open position. AI capabilities not only allow teams to make hiring decisions faster, but also enables HR and procurement managers to focus on more creative, strategic planning that fosters efficient operational processes, employee retention, and a stronger bottom line.

Together, humans and AI can be an unstoppable combination for finding the best candidates. Success starts with the right data sets and leveraging that data to create algorithms that reduce bias in hiring, not perpetuate it.


The most underappreciated key to success

Do you know what will make you the best in your profession?

It’s not having the most talent.

It’s not necessarily being the hardest worker or the nicest person (unfortunately).

All the skills, talent and connections in the world are no match for one quality that endures, standing the test of time and outwitting any foe that dares to challenge it.

This quality is something that is often overlooked. It’s underappreciated. Oddly, it’s not that highly valued, nor does it appear on many people’s mission statements or core values.

It’s acknowledged with mild enthusiasm.

Ho hum.

That quality? (How was this for a tease?!)


Consistency deserves its rightful seat at the head of the table of every successful entrepreneur, company, operation, venture and story of accomplishment. And yet?

It ain’t sexy, baby.

Few people ever truly get to the point of maximum consistency in the key areas of their lives. Sure, they’ll rise at 6:30 A.M. on the button each morning. They maybe won’t cut corners- always on time for work! And they’ll pay their taxes and do their darnedest in all they do.

Admirable, to be sure.

But will they consistently tackle every task of their life with belief, commitment and purpose?

Will they give-in or change course when the going gets a little too tough? How firm will they stand in the headwinds of adversity?

Will they truly see things through to completion that they believe in with all their hearts?

That’s consistency. That’s persistence. That’s resilience.

As Mr. Tom Petty once said: “I won’t back down.”

And as Christopher D. Connors once said,

Truth is, there’s no other way toward living a life of fulfillment. I know this. I am an expert on this. Because I’ve tried the countless other ways and fallen short.

I have the emotional, spiritual and mental scars to prove it. You just can’t see ’em. But they’re there, alright.

What I’ve learned on my journey is that consistency is absolutely, positively, unequivocally KING.

Consistency in doing what you say you’re going to do.

Consistency in following through and seeing tasks through to completion when you have control.

Consistently showing up and giving your best effort each day- even when you don’t want to.

Consistency in attitude and leadership.

Consistency when you doubt.

Consistency when others doubt you.

Consistency when it really doesn’t seem like it’s worth it, but that powerful voice inside your head- ya know, the one of intuition that always seems to be right- is pleading and screaming at you to keep going. Because you need to keep going. Because if you do, you will reap the rewards and benefits of perseverance.

I’ll tell you what- this is so easy when the going is good. It’s practically effortless.

But truly powerful consistency is revealed when times are tough. When times are bad. This is where you have to go for it with all your might and resist the urge to give in “for another day.” Because then, you’ve broken your habit. And it gets harder and harder to get back on track.

Think about times where you’ve stopped short previously in life because you haven’t consistently given things your time, energy, effort and haven’t “stuck to your guns” enough to see something through that you deeply believe in!

How did that make you feel?

It isn’t easy to keep going when you don’t see results. It’s the biggest challenge we will EVER face to our personal development. It’s adversity in its finest and most formidable manifestation.

This is where you have to embrace the path you’ve chosen and surround yourself with positive influences.

Cast worry to the side and approach every day with a resolute mind and consistency.

The biggest results of your life will follow when you simply give it your best shot every day.

It’s the way. I promise.

Are you willing to give it your best shot every day?

As Lee Ann Womack once sang, “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance… I hope you dance.” That’s what living is all about.

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Experts take on employee engagement

With the rise of next-gen technologies and new workplace trends setting in, workforce expectations have changed significantly. And this has added to the woes of employers to attract, engage, and retain top talents across industries like never before. Majority of organizations have been reactive to this shift although the top organizations embarked on a journey of mobility and culture of flexibility. For employees, getting engaged at work just like the way they connect with consumer products and services necessitates differentiated experiences. Organizations that offer those experiences stand to gain in terms of higher productivity, job satisfaction, competitive advantage, and increased revenue.

So do you ensure your employees are engaged in their entire journey that they take with your companies? According to McKinsey, it requires a human-centric approach to grasp an employee’s needs and desires to create those moments that truly matter in their day, year, and career. Engagement, as the advisory company Gallup describes, is meeting the basic psychological needs that employees need to perform their work well. This also includes emotional and social needs. This is where the role of talent professionals come in.

Let’s take a look at what experts have to say about employee engagement and experience.


The biases in India’s engineering workplaces

When Katie Bouman was credited to be the scientist behind the first black hole image this month, she faced a question mark on her credibility, due to her gender. However while gender bias is one of the most talked about biases, it is not the only bias which modern day workplaces suffer from.

A recent study ‘Walking the Tightrope’ by Society of Women Engineers (SWE), a 38,000-member organization, founded in 1950, reveals that engineers suffer from high levels of bias affecting everyday workplace processes. For instance, over 77% of engineers reported bias in promotion decisions. While men engineers face bias based on where they come from, women engineers are more likely to face gender bias.

How can organizations root out these inherent biases to make engineering a bias-free profession? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Karen Horting, CEO & Executive Director at SWE, a driving force that seeks to establish engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women, throws light on some of the probable ways to do so.

Could you share some insights from the report ‘Walking The Tightrope’, about the bias patterns in India’s engineering workplace?
SWE’s recent study, ‘Walking the Tightrope’, points toward gender biases that women and men face in India in the engineering workplace. These findings present a hurdle for women engineers to success in the workplace. Key findings from the study include:

• 76% of engineers reported having to prove themselves over and over to get the same level of respect as their colleagues;

• 77% of engineers reported that they were confined to a narrow range of acceptable behavior than their colleagues;

• 40% of engineers reported bias against mothers in their workplaces;

• 45% of women reported feeling that they have to compete with their female colleagues in the workplace

Engineers also report high levels of bias affecting everyday workplace processes, including:

• 77% of engineers reported bias in promotion decisions;

• 74% of engineers reported bias in work assignments;

• 67% of engineers reported bias in their performance evaluations;

• Half of engineers surveyed reported bias in their companies’ hiring systems.

We found a direct connection between the levels of bias reported by survey respondents and their feelings of inclusion at work and their desire to stay or leave their organization. For example, when engineers feel that they have to prove themselves over and over to be seen as competent at work, they are also likely to report feeling a lower sense of belonging in their workplace.

What are the major reasons for the causes of these biases?
We hold biases based on experiences or pre-conceived notions, and many of these biases are unrecognized as such by those who hold them. Biases can impact our everyday decisions in the workplace but left unrecognized and unacknowledged, they can affect how we interact with others and influence our hiring, promotion, and compensation decisions. They can impact an organization’s culture and make it challenging to develop an inclusive workplace.

How would you say India fares vis-à-vis other developed countries as far as bias in engineering workplaces is concerned?
The findings from gender bias studies conducted by SWE in India and the US indicate that white men engineers in the US report lower levels of bias than women engineers and engineers of color, while in India both men and women engineers reported high levels of bias in the workplace. Our research suggests that woman engineers in the US and India experience bias based on their gender, while men engineers in India were likely to report bias based on their region of origin or the language that they spoke.

What do you think are some of the ways engineering organizations can address these biases?
Education of managers and leaders is key to eliminate gender bias in the tech world and the overall workplace regardless of what industry. Simple training on gender bias isn’t enough, though. Evidence shows that one-time diversity trainings often do not work. For change to occur, systemic bias at each level of a business organization must be addressed. This will allow leaders to take a full look at how they can make sure things like salary increases, promotions, and assignments are designated in a way that doesn’t negatively impact women.

To effectively use bias interrupters, the first step is to do a climate assessment. Find out if the bias patterns are present in your workplace and how they are affecting everyday work interactions. One tool for accomplishing this is the Workplace Experiences Survey—a version of the survey used in this study that is adapted for use to assess organizational climate.

Second, develop an objective metric to establish baselines. For example, do performance evaluations in your company show consistently higher ratings for men than for women? Do women’s ratings fall after they have children?

Next, implement a bias interrupter. Typically, this involves evidence-based tweaks to existing systems and processes. For example, if your climate assessment shows that men from certain groups get less access to the glamour work or that women are doing more “office housework,” consider rotating the less glamorous tasks among those within your area.

After putting a bias interrupter in place, return to your metric to assess success—and try something else if you have not yet met your goal. Bias interrupters involve an iterative process, so you should plan to go through several rounds of adjustments to get the results you are hoping to achieve.

Also, organizations could signify to employees that supporting diversity is a priority for the company by making sure there is a budget and support staff for diversity efforts and making it easy for employees to participate.

Could you highlight some of SWE’s efforts in making engineering as a highly desirable career aspiration for women?
One of SWE’s most notable programs to further this mission is SWENext, our free program for girls in grades K-12 (under age 18) to become part of the Society of Women Engineers and have access to information about engineering camps and programs, engineering competitions, scholarship opportunities, mentors and other resources available to them to help further their interest in STEM. This program has almost 5,000 members across the globe.

SWE is also actively working with business leaders, policymakers, and other nonprofit organizations to create a level playing field for women in engineering. We have a Corporate Partnership Council made up of more than 80 organizations, dedicated to helping further our mission. Some of these organizations have joined SWE’s program, the STEM Re-entry Task Force, and now offer “returnships” to help women return to work after a career break. And, SWE’s Career Center has more than 4,000 jobs for women engineers at every level of their career. In addition, SWE provides over $830K a year in scholarships for aspiring engineers. Complementing our SWENext program, we host engineering outreach events that have been attended by hundreds of thousands of girls every year.

How do you think India can encourage more women to take up a career in STEM? What is being done to address this at the global level?
We must change the perception of what an engineer looks like. A stereotype exists globally that engineers and technologists must be men. But this is not entirely true. We must demonstrate that engineers and technologists are also women by showcasing successful people of both genders in the field.

On a global level, organizations like SWE are working hard to not only change the perception of what an engineer looks like but to highlight the successful, hard-working women engineers who hold leadership roles. You can’t be what you can’t see. Showcasing these women will work to not only change that perception but to give young women role models they can look up to and aspire to be.