bored at work, staring at computer screen
PHOTO: Julien-Pier Belanger

Deloitte's Human Capital Trends 2017 report identified "Organization of the Future" as its leading trend. The report went on to note a big shift in the way employees engage with each other, from hierarchies to networks. 

This social theme was reinforced in the company's 2018 report, which highlighted the rise of the “social enterprise.” The report placed an organization’s social capital as an enterprise asset on par with traditional physical and intellectual property assets. Deloitte emphasized the importance of a harmonized leadership team in building the social enterprise, with collaboration needed at all levels.

HR departments have clearly got the message. Many are now rebranding themselves as “People and Culture” departments. This rebranding is as much to do with presenting a more positive image and distancing themselves from the existing transactional image of HR. As part of this, what was called HR analytics, focusing on the transactional HR, is morphing into people analytics, purportedly to provide HR with more sophisticated big data insights. 

Regrettably, the analytics is still narrowly focused on individual employee journeys. The narrow focus on the individual will hold HR back from its new mission as facilitator of organizational culture and employee engagement. 

The major human capital trends identified by Deloitte in the past two years — enterprise networks and the social enterprise — center on the relationships between people as much as the people themselves. A more holistic focus is required.

Related Article: Separating the Real People Analytics From the Phonies

Employee Engagement, Employee Experience and Organizational Culture

Research abounds showing how organizations are going backwards in their employee engagement efforts. Gallup surveys suggest that 87 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged at work. The shockingly low level of employee engagement has generated a plethora of "fixes" which identify deeper factors. Inevitably these center on organizational culture and employee experience. Even these two terms are regularly conflated into a single grouping. They are better understood as two sides of the same coin. And collectively, they have a huge impact on organizational performance.

organizational culture, employee experience, employee engagement

The traditional HR approach to addressing this collective is to run a survey. And so the annual ‘employee satisfaction’ surveys are now opening up into an exploratory design thinking "Employee Experience" and more frequent pulse surveys

There's nothing wrong with getting employee feedback, and the more often, the better. But employees are suffering feedback survey fatigue as a result of this increase in frequency, which means response rates become a continual challenge. Yet without this frequent feedback, the feedback loops become longer and longer, running the risk of change initiatives becoming outdated even before they start. There is also the significant issue of the staff's responses to how they work not necessarily aligning with how they actually work.

With this in mind, some organizations are now looking to technology to provide non-intrusive workplace insights, by monitoring the digital channels that employees use to conduct their work.

Related Article: HR Isn't Going Away, It's Just Being Reinvented

The Benefits of Online Culture Monitoring

We are now seeing a growth in organizations looking to online analytics to monitor not only behaviors, but overall cultural movements. Organizations have used email analytics to identify high performing sales teams. The results show internal relationships and the size of personal networks are the leading indicator of high sales performance. 

Is your HR department monitoring network relationships in its talent program? 

Analytics company Wiretap is using sentiment analysis technology to identify toxic behavioral pockets in organizations. These insights can head off potential reputational damage, should those toxic behaviors leak externally. Likewise, data analytics firm Keen Corp, who cut its teeth analyzing Enron email archives, are now using text analysis to create employee engagement heat maps based on the contents of email communications. 

How confident are you that your employee engagement survey results align with how your employees are engaging with each other online?

Related Article: People Analytics: Big Benefit or Big Brother?

Identifying Organizational Subcultures

At my organization, SWOOP Analytics, we are experimenting with combining relationship analytics with text sentiment analysis to come up with a more holistic mapping of organizational culture. We monitor four dimensions: reciprocal relationships, diversity, curiosity and sentiment, drawn from enterprise social networking software like Yammer and Workplace by Facebook. 

Our pilot studies were able to accurately characterize the subcultures identified within the formal organizational structures:

organizational sub cultures

The above radar chart representations provide a visual metaphor for each departmental subculture, in comparison to their peer departments. Thankfully, the People and Culture department demonstrated the strongest and most balanced culture (i.e., "walking the talk"). 

The organizational challenge however, is that once we surface the different subcultures, how can organizations deal with the inevitable clashing subcultures? By mapping the inter-departmental cultural interactions, we can identify where cultural imbalances exist. For example, Department A reaching out with curiosity and positive sentiment to Department B, who responds tersely with low sentiment and little or no engagement. With this intelligence, interventions can be targeted, even down to the individual level.

Related Article: Does Your Organizational Culture Help or Hinder Your Digital Workplace?

Monitoring Major Change Progress

Monitoring the change process itself can be problematic. The most common approach is to measure the success of the individual change initiative projects. The problem with this is the measures are retrospective. With many initiatives being conducted in parallel, it can be hard to identify whether the change program is really on track or not. We used the above online cultural mapping technique to assess change over time:

cultural mapping

As we can see, in this case a positive culture evolves toward an execution focus but then suddenly reverses from an execution focus (high reciprocation) to a questioning one. What happened?

Can People Analytics Step Up?

The only thing limiting people analytics is a lack of imagination in its application. 

People analytics will provide value to enhancing the employee journey and talent management. However much of the buzz around people analytics is the inference that it brings the advanced technologies of big data, AI and relationship analytics to bear. The potential to impact organizational culture transformations using advanced relationship-centered analytics is clear. It’s now time for the new “People and Culture” department to step up to their new branding.