Essential takeaways from the 2019 Workplace Intelligence Report

Bulging with a wealth of data, the 2019 Workplace Intelligence Report, a collaboration between Greenhouse and George LaRocque from HRWins, offers impressive amounts of information and hard data from more than 1,300 business leaders and 4,000 employees in the U.S. and the U.K. It is one of the few HR technology reports that offers insights behind the scenes in our workplaces, about the work we do and the workflows that inform our decisions on the digital transformation that we are already bringing and will continue bring into our workplaces over the next five to 10 years.

More importantly, it offers solace to those of us who feel like we are playing dodgeball with technologies and buzzwords. It alerts us to the challenges of healthy management practices, gives measure to where we really are on the road to achieving inclusion and belonging, and delivers insight into our adaptation to digital transformation. Overall, the report brings a number of enriching takeaways that HR and organizational leaders can apply now, as well as over the next decade.

Originally, I connected with George LaRocque over a virtual coffee to discuss his upcoming and much anticipated UNLEASH America presentation in Las Vegas this May. My overarching goal of the conversation was to understand the status of the digital economy and which HR tech vendors, apps, and innovative startups would take our organizations to the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0. Our conversation instead turned to the state of work — specifically, the gaps between where our priorities are for work and where we actually are in the state of the workplace.

The report really called out how much organizations are trying to keep up with the amount of disruption based on macro trends, socioeconomic trends, and the pace of change. Additionally, the report is an opportunity to increase our awareness about what we, as leaders, take for granted regarding our organizations. We assume there are processes and programs in place to support our teams and our organizational cultures during the digital transformation, but is that really the case? Take, for example, organizational communication and employee engagement. Businesses will increase their employee engagement spending by 45 percent this year over 2018, a necessary response to continued reports that 70 percent of employees do not feel engaged at work.

LaRocque makes a point that employees are not engaged because we don’t engage them. “Communication is consistently rated as the biggest driver of engagement and might be the most overlooked,” he said. “We’ve complicated the discussion about employee engagement, looking for analytics provided by our survey platforms to tell us what elective benefits to implement or perks to offer to improve our engagement score.” But the hard truth is, where we put our time is indicative of where we put our priorities. Shockingly — or maybe not so shockingly — according to the Workplace Intelligence Report, 51 percent of leaders spend three hours or less on people-related issues on average per month.

We understand that business leaders have started prioritizing diversity and inclusion in company culture, yet 45 percent of employees surveyed do not know if their employer has a diversity and inclusion program. Many managers are stretched thin just executing the basic functions of their work. This leaves very little room for interpersonal, diversity, and leadership training. The desire and need for coaching and growth is greater than the time that is being made available, and that is why some leaders are looking toward the newest tech for solutions.

The global human capital management (HCM) sector is projected reach $30 billion by 2025 and the volume of U.S. HR tech venture capital rose to $1.741 billion, just in the first quarter of 2019. There are overwhelming amounts of HCM vendors, startups, and new specialist HR technologies in the market. For our own professional education and for the growth of our companies, we often feel obligated to know and use all of newest, best technologies available. This very large market is wonderful for innovation, but can leave us in a choice paralysis.

I asked LaRocque how the Workplace Intelligence Report could help me decide, as a business leader and HR executive, what technology tools I should bring into my organization. “First, before you get to this report, have a clear picture of what opportunity you want to seize, what problem you want to solve, or what issue you want to address with technology,” he said. “What results do you want to see from that implementation and what value you are looking for, whether it’s a real business metric or more qualitative message about engagement. Once you have what you want to measure, the report can inform your decisions with trends that are impacting work and HR today, and what you need to be ready for in the future.”



It is no surprise that 71 percent of CEOs and leaders surveyed chose finding and retaining top talent as one of their top three business issues. So, you would expect to see investment in making hiring teams more effective; however, George expressed that “we didn't find it” in the report.

On top of that, the report shows that only a small percentage of people involved in the hiring process have actually had interview training or are given the support they need to make decisions and be more effective interviewers. “When we asked those employees involved in the hiring process about their experience, only 39 percent of them have had interview training, 40 percent have used an interview guide, 39 percent are asked to give feedback in a standardized way, and only 43 percent are asked to provide feedback on all of the candidates that they interview,” according to LaRocque.

Investment in training, process, and systems that help us “get it right” and improve on an ongoing basis is vital for hiring and retaining top talent. We need to have that in mind when we are looking for an applicant tracking system or a workflow tool around recruiting and talent management. LaRocque stated, “We should look for a tool to give managers on the hiring team information they need about the hiring process, as well as interview coaching. It’s not just about the technology. We must remember that we are the customer, that we decide what our goals are and what things we need to accomplish, and let the vendors deliver to our needs.”

There needs to be a commitment to levering technology, with intention and tactful assessment to addressing our needs. “So, how we manage and balance that will all shake out in a 10-year cycle,” LaRocque said. “It’s a lot of noise, and vendors say AI and machine learning are the solutions. But HR leaders and HR practitioners are really in control. Don’t get overwhelmed by the hype — these innovations have cycles. Look back to your priorities to make sense of it all and guide you.”

Change is coming. It is easy to get distracted by the brightest, shiniest objects, buzzwords, features, or infrastructure like AI or machine learning, but the biggest disruptions that are happening now are about how we capture data. It’s the data that we are capturing around our employees and candidates that is truly seismic. This is “smart,” algorithm-derived data that allows us to see the full employee experience or lifecycle. It can make predictions, help us make decisions around an employee or candidate, evaluate company culture dynamics, look at our organizational network analysis, or automate processes to help our managers.

Because we are now able to passively capture all of this data based on what employees are doing in the systems that they work in, as well the systems where they interact with us around HR, we can tailor their experiences for the better.

What resonated with me most is when LaRocque told me, “More than ever, the experience an employee is having across the board is what is retaining talent. It’s not about work-life balance or career path. For everyone it’s individualized and what matters ‘at the time.’ So what kind of transparency you have and what kind of relationship you have with an employee is ‘it’ — the key. This is where HR is in control, where HR really pushes the market. There is a perception in the tech market that technology pushes the HR leaders, and they are reacting to the overall trends. Not true. That is what the technologists are saying. HR will set priority. HR is the market.”

This is a big, disruptive, insightful nugget for HR leaders, and a positive approach on HR’s position in organizations.

The future is more human and more resourceful. As we let technology and AI do the heavy lifting, we can have more time to employ our soft skills — our humanity — to connect and make workplaces and work better for everyone. Technology and data have magnificent power, and like tools of this caliber they must be used skillfully, ethically, and for the betterment of all.

I am imaginatively looking forward to attending UNLEASH in Vegas in just under two weeks. The event is an unprecedented opportunity for HR and digital transformation leaders to discuss the pressing issues we have on our plates, in our workplaces, and in our economies, not to mention to discover new networks, learn from each other, and move forward together mindfully, with agility, and with vital understanding of where we want our workplaces to be in the next five to 10 years. I will be representing Wisconsin, and do so with pride and vigor.

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