Why HR is the secret sauce for innovation
In the latest installment of our Employee Experience Visionaries series, we hear from Geoff Ho, PhD, Director of Organization Development Research at Rogers Communications about:
- How his team uses “experience” and “operational” data to tackle employee engagement, performance, & turnover
- How Rogers enables employees at every level to have their voices heard
- What Geoff believes is the trifecta of skills needed to succeed in HR
Over to Geoff!
On HR as the competitive advantage:
Any company can be the next Google or Apple with the right people, culture, and set of HR practices in place.
People are increasingly important in our digital information economy. They are the source of innovation. You need to attract, grow, motivate, and retain the best employees to get the most out of your people and drive this innovation. So HR is the secret sauce to scale innovation. Any company can be the next Google or Apple with the right people, culture, and set of HR practices in place. If you get people right, you’re going to have the best innovation, best technology, and best products.
On doing the right thing with data:
We take employee experience data seriously. We do rigorous analytics with this data so we can decide what people programs to build, what people strategies to implement, and what ultimately will take our organization to the next level. We don't “innovate” for the sake of innovating on the employee experience. We're not chasing the latest fads or trying to start our own fad. We're trying to help our leaders do the right thing for our employees, our customers, and the company, based on the best evidence and people data.
On the power of connecting experience and operational data:
the piece I'm most proud of is that we connected the right “experience” data and “operational” data.
Employee turnover was one of the first projects I helped tackle at Rogers and the piece I'm most proud of is that we connected the right “experience” data and “operational” data. The goal of the project was to determine the top factors that differentiated employees who had left vs. remained with the company in the past year. On the experience side, we have data collected via Qualtrics on our employees’ experiences (e.g., how employees feel about their growth and development, how they feel about their manager) and on the “operational” side, we had data in our HR systems (e.g., compensation levels, benefits enrolment, key demographics). When we connected these sources of data, we were able to build robust statistical models to help us determine the top drivers of turnover. The system we’ve built triangulates across multiple data sources and shows us the root causes of turnover, for the company overall and for sub-groups.
Beyond turnover, there are other critical employee outcomes such as engagement and performance. When we connected our data, we also started to study drivers of these outcomes and what we found were what I call “silver bullet drivers” —experience elements that influence across the most important employee outcomes. For Rogers, one of these silver bullets is employees’ feelings of growth and development. Because we know it’s important for engagement, performance, and turnover, we know that it’s something we need to invest in heavily, and we do.
On our experience breakthrough:
our leaders get great ideas about improving our customer experience directly from our front line
Through our employee experience survey, we learned that our front line employees — for example, people in our retail and call center employees — felt like their voices weren’t heard as much as our corporate employees. So “Voice of the Front Line” was born.
One key initiative within the “Voice of the Frontline” is a quarterly call out for ideas directly to our frontline employees on how to improve the employee & customer experience. These ideas are visible to everyone, and can be voted up by employees. The creators of the top 5 voted ideas have the opportunity to present the idea to a panel of directors with the top 3 being presented to the VPs who then choose a winning idea for the company to focus on. It’s doubly beneficial — our leaders get great ideas about improving our customer experience directly from our front line and employees also feel heard and valued.
On how Qualtrics helps his team empower stakeholders:
Qualtrics has enabled us to offer our HR business partners and managers access to their own employee experience data — they have dynamic dashboards to generate their own data-based solutions for their teams and departments. This means we can scale analytics and evidence-based people practices cross every team in the company beyond what my research and analytics team can support individually.
What we appreciate about the Qualtrics team is how responsive, nimble and agile they are. Qualtrics isn’t just giving us something and leaving us on our own; we’re partners working in tandem to help make the experience better for our employees, managers, and leaders better.
On his advice for someone coming into HR:
you also need to understand the business side in order to create people strategies that support and drive business strategy
HR is an evolving field and I believe that increasingly, one needs to understand not just people, but business strategy and data as well. Of course, we need an understanding of people, but you also need to understand the business side in order to create people strategies that support and drive business strategy. And in order to build the right people strategy, HR folks need to have the data literacy to inform the people strategy with the right data and evidence. Credibility and impact with business stakeholders, in my opinion, is born from this. So I think a great foundation of skills for the HR practitioner today, is the trifecta of skills in people, business, and data.
On books I recommend:
Laszlo Bock was the head of HR when I was on the People Analytics team at Google. He’s one of the most extraordinary leaders I've ever worked with. His ideas about HR are counterintuitive on the face of it, but they make a lot of sense when you dig deeper. For example, he believes we need to “pay people unfairly”. Sounds wrong, doesn’t it? I definitely recommend his book “Work Rules” for his perspectives to find out why this, and many more innovative ideas, makes a lot of sense.
Want to learn more about creating great employee experiences?
Qualtrics compiled a reading list based on recommendations from HR leaders like Geoff, you can download that here.
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