Friday, January 11, 2019

New Research: Employee Experience Design for HR Practitioners

Great employee experience doesn’t just happen – it’s designed. From how you define the jobs in your organization to leader selection processes and how work is done, exceptional EX requires more than just picking the latest and greatest technology. HR now has the mandate to design employee experiences with the same care given to delighting customers.

But how?  Your help is needed to answer that question.

NextGen Insights, Red Rocks Impact and UNLEASH have teamed up to explore the state of employee experience design and create a best practice framework for HR practitioners. You're invited to participate in this research with an opportunity to join UNLEASH in London March 19-20 where the results will be presented.

COMPLETE THE SURVEY for a free copy of the research findings and a chance to win a complimentary ticket to your choice of the UNLEASH Conference and Expo in London 19-20 March 2019, or UNLEASH America in Las Vegas 14-15 May 2019.

To recap: Take the survey now (it should only take about 15 minutes), receive a free copy of the results, and you may also win a free ticket to UNLEASH.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year and 5 Favorite Reads in 2018

Hello everyone and first of all, let me wish you happy new year and much health, happiness and success in 2019.

This has been a rewarding year for me personally and professionally, as I embraced a Year of Yes, helped organize a successful TEDx event, co-founded a company, and established a brand and marketing advisory practice.

I also read a lot and wanted to close the books on 2018 by sharing my favorite 5 books from 2018.

Drumroll please - I won't bore you by describing them or explaining why I liked them but I included links in case you want to check them out:

  1. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
  2. Statistics for Dummies by Deborah J. Rumsey 
  3. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  4. Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
  5. Barking up the Wrong Tree by Eric Barker

Honorable mention: This Might Get Me Fired by Gregory Larkin

Happy New Year and see you in 2019!


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Monday, December 17, 2018

Connecting the Dots between Employee and Customer Experience

I disagree with Richard Branson’s famous quote about taking care of employees so they'll take care of your customers.  

Let me qualify that because obviously, Richard Branson knows a few more things than I do about running a successful global organization and any advice he gives on that score is well worth heeding.

It’s just that this particular advice, while not wrong, is incomplete because it implies that if you take care of employees they will automatically take care of customers.  

I think that leaves out an important part of the equation, the all-important bit in the middle that connects the employee experience to the customer experience.
No doubt Richard Branson is well aware of this missing piece and considers it so obvious it isn’t worth mentioning.  But for the rest of us, it’s the bit that matters, the ‘connecting dots’ between looking out for employees and great customer service. 

A few months back, I was poised to leave on a pilgrimage to Monument Valley to ponder my next move.  I had recently quit my job with the intention of doing something new, but I still needed to figure out what that new thing might be.  My plan was to head for the red rocks, just me and my laptop, and figure it out. 

As fate would have it, I ran a content marketing workshop the evening before and forgot my power cord.  Unfortunately, my shiny new personal laptop happened to be the kind of laptop that has a proprietary power cable that isn’t commonly sold.  With my plane departing in a few hours, I was looking at ten days of trying to capture my big vision on paper, like some sort of person who doesn't have a laptop.

Perhaps this doesn’t sound very serious to you but I’m a marketer.  I pretty much live in Powerpoint - it’s my tool of choice for pulling order out of chaos.  Not having that cable really sucked.

My husband, never one to get drawn into non-life-threatening drama, simply detoured en route to the airport at the mega electronics store where we bought the laptop.  Even his confidence in the universe was tested, however, when it turned out that the store didn’t carry the right kind of cable in its three full aisles containing every other kind of cable.  They offered to order a replacement cable but that didn’t help because my plane was leaving in a few hours.

We asked if we could borrow one of the cables from the test machines, of which there were literally hundreds, but that turned out to be against store policy.  The final recommendation of the harassed floor manager was to try the help desk where discarded parts were sometimes to be found.

I have to say, this felt weak to us.  My husband tried reasoning with them, arguing that he could just buy an entire machine, then bring it back in 10 days for a full refund.  Wouldn’t it be easier to lend, rent or even sell one of the many tester cables lying around?

Apparently, it would not.  Feeling the pressure of time, I wanted to buy the new machine, grab the cable and leave, but my husband marched over to the help desk.  

Long story short, they had a spare cable, covered in dust and hidden in the back under ten flat screen TVs and a tuna sandwich, and even the help desk guy was surprised when he finally re-appeared with it.  My soul-searching trip was saved and inspired the company Red Rocks my husband and I have since founded, thanks to that spare cable.

Now, let’s look at this customer experience from my point of view.  We’d not only recently bought an expensive laptop at this store, we had also made several other big-ticket purchases.  We also had several upcoming purchases to make that we were planning to make in this same store.  As loyal customers, we weren’t asking for a freebie - we were asking them to help us solve a problem.

Next, let’s look at it from the floor manager’s perspective.  She had a shop full of potential customers to serve – most of whom wouldn't bother to buy anything after sucking up lots of free consulting - and a clear store policy to follow.  My problem neither fit the rules nor struck her as a real emergency.  At the end of the day, store policy is store policy.

As for the help desk guy, he took his time finding the cable and had he cared at all about solving my problem I’m betting he could have found it faster, but since he saved the day we’ll leave it at that.

This is just one example of disinterested customer service – and fair enough if you think it’s a silly one - but I can think of dozens more and I’m sure you can, too. 

Here’s the thing.  Unless you connect the dots for people and reward the folks who go the extra mile for your customers, your average customer experience will look something like this one, with a focus on sales rather than solving customer problems.

To offer a great customer service you need to talk to customers and apply a design thinking mindset to the customer experience.  Especially in retail, where stores are losing ground to online shopping, you can put customers in the centre of your process design without driving up costs if you take the time to understand what matters most to your customers and recognize employees who go the extra mile.

Like great employee experience, great customer experience doesn’t just happen: It’s by design.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Hey, HR: Ready to Design the Future of Work?

Over the last decade, HR has done an impressive job re-inventing itself as the strategic owner of the 'people agenda.'  However, in order to navigate the next wave of technology advancement, they’ll need to again rethink why they exist and how they serve the business.

(As will everyone else.)

With so much speculation about the future of work and employee experience, what is the most critical skill needed by HR to stay relevant as new technologies replace some of the more traditional - and transactional - HR tasks?

I see two areas that stand out as genuine opportunities for HR to create business value, both of which require a new breed of HR professional:
  1. Holistic people agenda – Given the increasing trend toward temporary and outsourced roles (check out my guest post at Hacking HR What Companies Need to Thrive in the Gig Economy), it's time for HR to define a people agenda that includes both employees and contractors.  In my blog post Is HR Ready to be GIGantic? I outlined some of the key areas HR will need to consider. 
  2. Work experience design – With process design skills and a fresh mandate from the business to drive employee experience, HR is ideally positioned to take a critical look at work: who does it, how it gets done, and where the process or organizational blocks are that slow progress,
The workplace of tomorrow needs people with exceptional coaching and listening skills who understand the fundamentals of design thinking and effective work design.  To do what, you ask?  To design a better work experience.

Consider the following example: A marketing organization delivers global campaigns across several teams.  The campaign strategy team comes up with the campaign story, the content team creates the supporting assets, the digital demand team sets up the email campaigns, tracking codes and marketing automation, the field teams localize, and whoever’s responsible for social media creates some social promotions.

On paper it looks fairly straightforward, but if you were to dig a bit deeper – and actually talk to people about how the process works - you might be surprised.  

You might discover, for example, that the only person who understands how the marketing automation tool works has been sick for two weeks.  Or that the person who sets up the campaign trackers is chronically late because she can’t keep up with the volume of requests.  Or that the local teams don't know about the global campaign and have already spent their budget.  Or that the creative team is tired of the field teams pretending they don't know about the global campaign.  Or that there’s zero quality control in place for the social media posts. Or that… you get the idea.

The point is, poorly defined work processes and organizations that ignore bottlenecks create a permanent sense of low-grade frustration and futility.  The thing is, you won’t hear about it in any operational meeting.  Unless you actually talk to people and listen to their feedback and ideas, you will be unable to help them to find workable solutions.  

In other words, you won't be part of the solution.

Another example: The business has implemented a project management solution as part of its overall digital transformation agenda.  Everyone assumes it’s working fine but if you dig a bit deeper you might discover that using the tool creates extra work because it doesn’t do what the project leads need, so they end up double reporting.  Or you might discover that the extra work still doesn’t deliver the information needed to identify bottlenecks and inform capacity planning.

Perhaps people despise the new tool because it has to be used outside the flow of work, i.e. it creates an interruption with non-value adding extra work. Or people may love it… but how will you know unless you take the time to find out?

Once companies have invested in new solutions, they are verrrrry reluctant to scratch below the surface because of the risk it turns out to be a mistake.  It’s understandable and very human but unless you do exactly that you will miss most of what’s really going on, putting the success of your digital transformation projects - and your business - at risk.

Where most companies fall short on design thinking is skimping on testing, iteration and improvement.  In the example above with the project management software, the implementation team may have asked employees for their feedback early in the process but then didn’t use the feedback to improve the implementation.  Or perhaps they focused on change management rather than proper testing and iteration.

In other words, instead of ensuring the new tool adds value to the people doing the work, they made the people who do the work add value to the tool.   

Too often, companies and teams roll out new tools, organizations and processes without doing proper testing and iteration.  Then they move onto the next thing without verifying success or opportunities to improve.

Design thinking helps you design valuable solutions and processes that add value for the people using them.  If HR can master design thinking they will be well suited to step up and help fix work.

Design Thinking is a discipline that creates value through continuous ideation and iteration, and there have been some excellent articles written for HR, for example by Enrique Rubio (Reinventing the Future of HR with Design Thinking and Agility) and Karen Jaw-Madson (Work Experience Design).  

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ageism: Is it True or is it You? Part II

Guest post by Lexy Martin, Principal Research and Customer Value, Visier.  You can find Part I of this article, which includes statistics on ageism and debunks several myths, here.

The Value of Including Older Tech Workers

As the Tech Sage Age finding shows, companies are missing out if they don’t consider the age composition of specific teams, departments, and business units and how managers can build diversity and take advantage of the maturity and experience of older workers.

Legal issues aside, designing a recruitment strategy around younger generations can be shortsighted from a business perspective. Older workers tend to be more loyal, and an over-representation of millennials in the workforce can impact retention. A 2016 Gallup report reveals that “21% of millennials say they’ve changed jobs within the past year, which is more than three times the number of non-millennials who report the same.” [1]

A workforce of job-hoppers can have a big impact on the bottom line. As HR expert Josh Bersin writes in this post[2], “The total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5 – 2 X annual salary.”

Studies have also found that diverse teams are more innovative, which is critical in an era when competitive threats loom large. Hiring people “who do not look, talk, or think like you, can allow you to dodge the costly pitfalls of conformity, which discourages innovative thinking,” write the experts in this HBR post[3].

What Businesses Can Do?

There are some important activities you can do to root out the risk of ageism in your workforce and ensure you acquire, develop, and retain the best and brightest talent available, regardless of age:

       Review your workforce data to understand the current state of age equity within your organization to find any signs of potential bias in hiring, promotions, salary levels, turnover, and performance ratings. If you work in People Analytics, you can play a role in warning of incipient ageism in your organization and support your own organization to outperform your competition. You can uncover and root out intentional and unintentional bias in your hiring practices that might be limiting the Gen X and older workers or potential hires.
       Set objectives and develop a plan with manageable steps (and a way to monitor your progress) that helps your organization achieve an inclusive work environment.
       Keep in mind that, as with ethnic and gender equity, age equity is a cultural issue — if pockets of ageism exist within your organization, you will need to devise plans to address them not only via better HR practice and policy rollouts, but through culture change.
       Consider implementing a version of the Rooney Rule[4] for age, specifically for teams or roles where the workforce is less diverse in age: for every position you have open to fill, consider one or more older candidates (or candidates that will help create a more diverse team, in general).
       Develop hiring practices that reduce the potential for intentional or unintentional bias in the screening out of older applicants.
       Develop hiring practices that specifically do not screen out candidates based on the length of their unemployment — while this report focused on systemic ageism, many individual stories suggest older unemployed workers struggle to get hired, and studies indicate recruiters screen out candidates that have been unemployed for longer periods of time.

The Bottom Line – Attitude, Passion, and People Analytics Successfully Combat Ageism

What can you do? For individuals, it’s about maintaining self-confidence in your competence and passion for your activities. If you don’t love your job, perhaps you should consider another. But if you do, show it, and, if I’m any indication, you can continue to work for as long as you want.

For organizations, if you have not already deployed people analytics, the capabilities will help you identify if ageism exists today or will in the future. And you can assess where in your hiring, developing, and retention of your talent you need to improve to maintain your competitive advantages into the future.

What one organization is doing about ageism

SAP is employing all five generations in its workforce – Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y (Millennials) and now Gen Z. While ageism, unconscious bias and pre-conceived expectations can often deter individuals and companies from seeing the value add of a single generation, companies also underestimate the benefit of generations working together to achieve common goals. 

To address bias, SAP advocates for inclusion for all and actively seeks to bring people together to support different life stages while improving cross-generational collaboration. We encourage learning between generations by raising awareness about unique working styles, strengths, and attributes of employees across generations through our Focus on Insight training, as well as virtual and face to face training sessions. We also offer a popular cross-generational mentoring program which allows employees to learn from one another and reduce bias.

In addition, SAP supports education from the top down by teaching senior leaders to celebrate multiple generations. We encourage our leaders to help new employees integrate with other members of the team – for example, by conducting open and appreciative communication within teams, aligning on goals and reserving time for knowledge transfer. By addressing challenges, surfacing unconscious bias, seeking communication and awareness and creating a community of trust and respect – leaders can play a large part in cultivating an inclusive culture. 

The beauty of cross generational intelligence is understanding what is most appealing to the other generation; the way we communicate and respect each other for our uniqueness and differences. Embracing commonalities and similarities to build camaraderie while respecting generational differences creates an inclusive environment that fosters innovation and creativity in the workplace to continue building a culture of inclusivity, teamwork and respect.

Lexy Martin is a respected thought leader and researcher on HR technology adoption and their value to organizations and workers alike. Known as the originator of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, she now works at Visier continuing her research efforts, now on people analytics, and working closely with customers to support them in their HR transformation to become data-driven organizations. Lexy is Principal, Research and Customer Value at Visier. Connect with Lexy at or personally at

[2] Employee Retention Now a Big Issue: Why the Tide has Turned, Josh Bersin, August, 2013, LinkedIn
[3] Why Diverse Teams Are Smarter, David Rock and Heidi Grant, Harvard Business Review, November, 2016.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ageism: Is it True or is it You? Part I

Source: ASA
Guest post by Lexy Martin, Principal Research and Customer Value, Visier 

If you want or need to work, no matter your age, you should be able to. It’s up to you. 

Organizations also have a responsibility to do something about ageism, which is blamed as the culprit for older workers not finding jobs -- I’ll cover what organizations need to do later.  It’s my point of view, though, that it’s up to you to go after the job you want and get it! 

It’s about having an attitude that you are damn good, a passion for your field or the field you want to break into, constantly learning, and applying new skills. Getting and keeping a job, whether you are 40, 70, or even 25, is about manifesting those four aspects.

I’m 73 and still working because I want to. I’ve not had trouble getting or keeping a job – oh maybe a few times when I was younger before I developed and manifested attitude, passion, and perseverance. If you are blaming your age, the company, the industry, or the younger recruiter that isn’t hiring you, you may be a bit of the problem.

OK. I admit it’s not always easy to be the oldest worker in an organization peopled by workers a third my age. I have to combat my own fears of mental and physical decline more than I like, especially after breaking my ankle a few months ago. I feel I have to spend extra time learning new skills – maybe a new area in my field or a new program. I have to force myself to set goals and meet them. 

I can be my own worst enemy, especially when I let fear that I’m not good enough get in the way of being positive, learning, and performing. For that, I exercise, practice meditation, and have my own personal affirmations. And sometimes, even those don’t help and so I crab to my husband.   But I persevere and maybe that’s my one big piece of advice – keep on being the best you can be despite all that “stuff.''

Now let me cover the reality that ageism does exist, particularly in the Tech industry based on research. At Visier, a people analytics product company, delivered as a cloud solution, we have the opportunity to analyze people data from most of our 100+ customers who represent multiple industries[1]

Over the past few years we’ve seen numerous articles about ageism in the Tech industry, and so mined this data and uncovered some truths and also some myths about ageism. Not only is there anecdotal evidence of ageism but also data-based evidence of systemic ageism. But still – don’t let that get you down. Go for the job you want, because you are great!
Many Tech professionals over age 50 (and even a number over age 40)[2] believe ageism exists because of their own personal difficulties finding work later in their careers. Certainly, there have been numerous class-action lawsuits about ageism against Silicon Valley giants, even more than about racial or gender bias.

Situational ageism–prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person’s age–is an important issue organizations across industries should be aware of and take steps to monitor and improve. Not just because of fairness or to reduce the risk of age discrimination litigation, but also because of upcoming retirements and the resulting skills shortages. In the past 50 years, the size of the US workforce has grown an average of 1.7% annually. In the next 50 years, the US workforce size will grow by only 0.3% annually[3].

Does Ageism Exist in Tech?

In short, yes. A Visier Insights Report on ageism in the Tech industry [4] found that Tech does hire a higher proportion of younger workers and a smaller proportion of older workers than in other industries.

Is this disparity in hiring due to systemic ageism in Tech? To investigate this, we first strove to determine if the disparity is related to the availability of talent versus an intentional bias towards hiring younger workers. We found that hiring decisions in Tech do indeed favor younger candidates, hiring Millennials over Gen X candidates at a higher rate than in non-Tech industries.

This answer has traditionally been difficult to get: While leading Tech companies publicize their organizational ethnic and gender composition data, little data has been shared about the age makeup of the Tech workforce5.

We began our research into ageism by looking at the breakdown of the workforce by age, comparing the Tech industry to non-Tech industries. Using the Visier Insights database—an aggregation of anonymized and standardized workforce databases that for this report included 330,000 employees from 43 large US enterprises (those with at least two years of verified and validated high-quality data)—we were able to examine the role of age in the workforce like never before.

Debunking Myths about Ageism

Our research showed that the average Tech worker is 38 years old, compared to 43 years old for non-Tech workers. The average manager in the Tech industry is 42 years old, compared to 47 for non-Tech industries.

It comes as no surprise that Tech workers are younger on average, but our research clarified some key misconceptions related to the salary lifecycle, resignation rates, and perceived value of older workers. 

Here are four common ageism myths we debunked with the data:

Myth #1: Older Tech workers are less valued

While the average Tech worker is five years younger than the average worker, it is a misconception that older workers are less valued in Tech. From age 40 onwards, non-manager workers in Tech enter the “Tech Sage Age” and are increasingly likely to receive a top performer rating as they age, mature, and gain experience. Conversely, the proportion of top performers decreases with age in non-Tech industries. This finding suggests that maturity and experience are more important drivers of high performance in Tech than in Non-Tech industries.

Myth #2: Older Tech workers experience a drop in salary

Older Tech workers as a group do not experience a reduction in average salary that is any different from non-Tech industries. Rather, workers in Tech experience the same salary lifecycle as their counterparts in non-Tech.

Myth #3: Newly hired older Tech workers are not paid equitably

Older Tech workers that are newly hired do not — on average — experience a lower wage. Rather, newly hired workers are paid the same average salary as more tenured workers, across all age groups.

Myth #4: Older workers in Tech resign at higher rates

The average resignation rates by age for Tech and non-Tech workforces show that older Tech workers — from age 40 onwards — have the same first-year resignation rate as their non-Tech age counterparts: approximately 10%.

This concludes Part I of Ageism: Is it True or is it You?  Stay tuned for Part II, which will take a closer look at what organizations can do to combat ageism.

Lexy Martin is a respected thought leader and researcher on HR technology adoption and their value to organizations and workers alike. Known as the originator of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, she now works at Visier continuing her research efforts, now on people analytics, and working closely with customers to support them in their HR transformation to become data-driven organizations. Lexy is Principal, Research and Customer Value at Visier. Connect with Lexy at or personally at

[1] The Tech companies included in our research represent the diverse fields within the Tech industry from Software Development, Hosting, Data Processing, Telecommunications, Computer Systems Design and Scientific Services.
[2] It’s Tough Being Over 40 in Silicon Valley, Carol Hymowitz and Robert Burnson, September 8, 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek.
[4] Visier Insights Report: The Truth About Ageism in the Tech Industry, September, 2017.
5 Hacking the Diversity Problem with Big Data Analytics, John Schwartz, Data Informed, February, 2015.

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