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Give a man a fishing rod and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime, they say. For women around the world today, regular access to Wi-Fi and a smartphone would prove much more useful to achieving economic security.
A recent Accenture report found that boosting women’s “digital fluency” — their access to the web and basic mobile devices that most Westerners take for granted — is among the most effective ways to close the global gender gap. Globally, women benefit when they can get online to find information on better-paid work and more successful careers. And leveling the digital playing field this way helps to make the world’s workplaces more equitable for all employees.
Across the globe, women are still paid less than men, and they are often excluded from the formal workforce altogether. But doubling the rate at which women can use digital tools would cut in half the time needed to reach global gender parity, Accenture found, and bring almost 100 million additional women into the workforce.
So, what does a worldwide information revolution for working women look like? Here are a few possibilities.
Big Impact in the Developing World
Most of the benefits to come from boosting digital fluency would be in the developing world, as women there face more pressing challenges and have less overall access to digital tools than women in Europe or America, says Barbara Harvey, managing director at Accenture Research. “The potential there is so much greater, so you affect so many more people,” she says.
Gains are already being felt as cheaper telecommunication technologies filter into poor, rural areas. In Tanzania, for instance, women in remote villages are using smartphones to map property boundaries and secure land-ownership rights, while midwives are sending text messages to order birth certificates for young girls, which helps them access schooling, health care and basic financial services.
In Bangladesh, many female factory workers are now paid through mobile-app-based money-transfer services, giving them more control over earnings that have been traditionally often confiscated by their husbands or mothers-in-law.
And in Nigeria, female entrepreneurs are using mobile devices to build customer bases in areas they can’t travel to safely in person, and to develop professional relationships with men, with whom it can be socially inappropriate for them to meet one-on-one.
Making Work More Accessible
In the developed world, of course, most people already have phones and web access, so reaping the benefits of new technologies is a more complex notion, and the gains aren’t always as clear-cut. Still, having basic digital gadgets like a phone or a laptop can make a big difference to women, Harvey says.
Consider a woman who has a 90-minute commute to her office: Give her the tools to work remotely, and you’ve dramatically boosted her productivity and her earning potential. “Suddenly she can work from home, and that hour and half can become paid work,” Harvey says. “Her working day increases by three hours.”
For working mothers, especially, the flexibility offered by new technologies can open more opportunities. One recent morning, PowerToFly founder Katharine Zaleski took her week-old baby to the pediatrician, came home, settled him down quietly at her side — then grabbed her phone and called a journalist to discuss her diversity-in-hiring startup.
That kind of gear-crunching change in roles — from new mom to president of a company with $7.5 million in early stage funding — is all in a day’s work for the modern woman, Zaleski says. Thanks to teleconferencing systems, Google Docs, Skype and other staples of the digital workplace, it’s possible for women to work more flexibly, participate more fully in the labor force and successfully juggle work and family life in ways that previous generations could not.
Even just a few decades ago, most women left the workforce after having children or saw their careers take a backseat to raising them, Zaleski says. “There was no way my mother, back in the 1980s, could have stayed connected to her job without email or a [mobile] phone,” she says. “The tools we have today are huge drivers for gender diversity and inclusion.”
The Benefits Aren’t Distributed Equally
Of course, it’s easy enough for a woman who runs her own company to use technology to improve her working life. As her own boss, Zaleski didn’t have to persuade anyone to let her work from home, or ask permission to stay connected during her maternity leave.
Many women aren’t so lucky: Big companies like Yahoo, Bank of America and IBM are all walking back their remote-working policies. There’s little benefit to having technologies that allow flexible working if your bosses are philosophically opposed to telecommuting.
There’s also a risk that the benefits of increased flexibility will accrue to the employer, not the employee. Flexibility made possible by the gig economy might be a lifeline for some workers, but it can leave others scrambling from one poorly paid gig to another, living without benefits or a steady paycheck — a situation plenty of mothers are already familiar with around the world.
That’s especially bad news for women, with a growing body of data showing that the biases women face in the conventional workplace are amplified in the gig economy. Bosses who lack a continuing relationship with workers often default to instinctive judgements — including gender stereotypes — when making decisions about who to hire and how much to pay them.
“An increasingly freelance workforce may make the problem of male privilege even worse,” warns Hernán Galperin, Research Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Just a Band-Aid?
For conventional employers, there’s a risk that new technologies can serve as a kind of Band-Aid, allowing companies to present themselves as champions of gender equity without actually doing much to change the status quo.
The increasing use of digital tools across workplaces is creating a firehose of data that companies can use to monitor diversity and inclusion, identify problems and develop creative solutions, says Patti Fletcher, a leadership futurist with SAP SuccessFactors.
That’s a good thing, Fletcher says, but measurement alone doesn’t change anything. Organizations can make grandiose public statements about their values, collect swaths of data about their diversity practices — and then fail to convert those insights into any kind of meaningful action.
That’s rather like publicly announcing that you’ll run a marathon, ostentatiously mapping out a diet and exercise regime, then slumping onto a couch and never actually hitting the pavement. “If you focus on analytics but don’t change anything about what you’re doing, you’re really missing the boat,” Fletcher warns.
Walking the Walk
For companies that genuinely want to make a difference for women, there are plenty of ways to use technology to drive gender equity — and many are much more sophisticated than simply giving your female employees company laptops.
One promising option is to use tech such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to disrupt existing decision-making processes in ways that can nudge managers into making more equitable decisions.
That can be as simple as using automated CV-sorting tools that highlight the best candidates for a job, regardless of their gender. But it can also involve thoughtfully baking AI tools into the processes of mid-level managers whose evaluations often determine which employees are given a chance to progress into more senior roles.
While AI systems certainly aren’t immune from bias, companies like SAP are creating machine-learning platforms that can spot a manager inadvertently penalizing a female employee for taking time out for family, for instance, and prompt them to reconsider their decision. “Ultimately, what you’re doing is giving your people the ability to make critical, informed decisions,” Fletcher says. “We have the technology, and it really feels like a tipping point.”
Finding Power in Numbers
New technologies are also making it easier for female employees to share information, whether through internal social networks or third-party websites and services.
As the #MeToo movement has shown, it’s easier than ever for women to support one another, to speak out against unjust or abusive workplace behavior and to find strategies for coping with challenges. “There’s nothing like power in numbers,” Fletcher says. “The voice we have if we all come together? That’s powerful.”
It’s especially important when it comes to combating the pay gap. Overall, women currently earn just 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, with three quarters of U.S. companies paying male employees more.
Making it easier for workers to share salary information — as companies like Whole Foods and CrowdFunder now routinely do, and as younger workers are increasingly willing to do — makes it harder for unequal pay practices to continue, and gives women (and their male allies) the information they need to advocate for change. “If you know what you’re being paid and what your coworkers are being paid, it allows the conversation to at least begin,” University of Baltimore law professor Nancy Modessit told CNN.
Technology Alone Isn’t Enough
At the end of the day, however, technology only brings the tools; you still need a supportive culture and strong leadership to use them to impact gender equity positively. It doesn’t matter how much access to tech a woman has if her supervisors aren’t willing to let her work remotely. And flashy AI tools won’t bring about change unless there’s a genuine commitment from senior leaders to make inclusion a priority.
Part of the issue is that, while a company’s commitment to diversity needs to be driven by the C-suite, the solutions themselves need to be aligned to the actual needs of female employees. That can only happen if managers ask women what they want and need, then work to understand their answers, says Rohini Anand, senior vice president and global diversity officer at Sodexo.
On a recent trip to India, Anand met with a group of female middle-managers. She walked in full of ideas about how to help them climb the career ladder, but the conversation soon took an unexpected turn.
“I thought I knew all the answers, and I went in with fancy notions of development for women. But when I sat down and had conversations with women in entry-level management roles and asked what they wanted, I was stunned by their answers,” Anand says.
It turned out that many of the women lived with their husband’s parents — a common arrangement in India — and, after working all day, were expected to cook and clean for the whole family. These women didn’t want AI recruitment tools or a fancier smartphone; they wanted a way to show their mothers-in-law that they were doing important work outside the home.
Anand threw a lavish awards ceremony to honor the young women. “We made a big deal out of it, so that the mothers-in-law could see that their daughters-in-law were respected and well-regarded,” she says. “It shifted some of that dynamic at home.”
Listen to Your Employees
Zaleski recalls that, after the birth of her first child, she felt sidelined by colleagues who — thinking they were protecting her — wound up excluding her from conversations and decisions she would have preferred to be a part of.
“Overnight, I went from an executive at a company to someone whose job was changing diapers, and it was terrible,” she says.
Some women prefer to unplug from their working lives during maternity leave, and that’s perfectly OK, Zaleski says. But it’s a decision that each woman should be allowed to make for herself. And when women decide they want to stay involved, they should be given the technological resources and institutional support to make that happen.
The key, she says, is to recognize that the current workplace was designed by and for men. While technology can be an important enabler for working women, it needs to be accompanied by cultural changes in order to create environments where women can thrive on their own terms. “So many women have to pretend they aren’t women at work, and they end up leaving because they’re trying to conform to workplaces that were never set up for women in the first place,” she says.
As the boss of her own company, Zaleski has been able to design her second maternity leave according to her own needs. She says she’s modeling her time off on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s parental leave — taking a break from the office and focusing on her new baby, but not disengaging or walking away from her leadership responsibilities.
“This time around I’m working from home. I’m staying engaged with my team, and they’re sending me stuff to look at,” she says. “I’m so much happier than last time.”
People are at the heart of every business, but many HR teams only recently started to shift away from focusing on processes to focusing on employees.
“There’s a whole series of underlying drivers, which are forcing organizations and HR teams in particular to focus less on HR processes and what we might call transactional HR,” says Paul Burrin, vice president of Sage People. “Instead, we’re focusing more towards really figuring out how HR leads and champions the conversation around their employees and their workforce experiences, and really doing what’s necessary to build better employer brands, so that you’re in a better position compete in the global skills crisis.”
Creating a people-based HR system can help your business grow. It will give you the time to focus on designing and delivering better experiences that not only attract and retain the skilled workers your organization needs, but drives a high-performance culture to remain competitive at a time when U.S. productivity remains at its lowest for years.
Driving Meaningful Performance Conversations
“Employees have expectations — they want to get feedback, they want to know how they’re doing, they want to feel valued,” Burrin says. In order to accomplish this, companies need to have continuous conversations about performance. “Don’t wait for half a year or a year for that biannual or annual performance review.”
Waiting to give employee reviews is inefficient. Managers end up spending hours going through information, digging up specific examples of things employees did well and things they didn’t. “It becomes quite hard to do, and let’s be honest, many managers don’t like doing performance reviews and aren’t very good at it — either because they’re not very good at coaching and helping people, because that’s not necessarily a core skill that they have, or more frequently they don’t have the supporting data to actually do a good performance review,” Burrin says.
Instead of a bi-annual or annual performance review, continuous performance conversations allow companies to constantly adjust and change things as needed, allowing them to be more effective at listening to and getting the best out of their people. Burrin says using peer recognition, social shout-outs and other means gives a more helpful and useful understanding as to how people in an organization are performing.
Leveraging the Science of People
Data is crucial for driving better decisions, but we often fail in the execution of what we learn from that data. Burrin says Sage People’s surveys have found that about 83 percent of HR leaders agree that they should be making people decisions based on data, but that only 37 percent actually do that. “There’s a desire to do the right thing with people, and to use information and data in the right way, but the fact is, it’s still an ongoing challenge.”
Within the next five or 10 years, Burrin says the introduction of augmented intelligence and artificial intelligence will help HR teams make better use of data by focusing on people. As augmented systems become more widespread, they’ll gain more data, and as the machines get smarter they’ll help make HR processes more effective.
“Augmented intelligence is really machines working with people to help them get better outcomes. A good example could be in recruitment, where you can you use AI or augmented intelligence to actually help deal with bias in interviewing techniques, and trying to make sure you’re not asking questions or you’re not in a position where you’re introducing more bias into the conversation,” Burrin notes.
Supporting HR Teams with Diverse Skills
Traditional HR skills are being supplemented by a whole range of very different skills, Burrin says. “We’re now seeing the emergence of people scientists, who actually focus on employee information, employee data, and start looking for trends and patterns, and help businesses make better decisions around their people based on people science,” he says.
To successfully create a people-based system, Burrin says HR departments will need people who:
Are from different disciplines or with different backgrounds.
Have strong data and analytical skills.
Understand the importance of marketing and communications.
Most HR leaders in the U.S. don’t even have a traditional HR background now, Burrin notes. “They’ve been bringing people in from different disciplines or from different backgrounds, which are not your traditional HR background, in order to deal with the very real shift from HR to People and their ultimate quest to become People Companies,” Burrin said.
Automation and artificial intelligence are already starting to transform recruiting and talent development — and Amber Grewal, the vice president of global talent acquisition at IBM, is at the forefront of that revolution.
Grewal has two decades of experience in the art and science of talent attraction and management, serving in several leadership roles at General Electric, Microsoft, Symantec and KPMG, where she led the transformation of talent acquisition in the digital era.
At IBM, Grewal oversees the strategic vision for talent acquisition. She also leads numerous activities supporting diversity, inclusion and gender equality. She’ll be talking about all that and more in her presentation this spring at UNLEASH America in Las Vegas.
What are you going to be talking about during your UNLEASH presentation?
I will be discussing AI and the future of recruiting, as well as how the era of machine learning is changing the talent acquisition function. AI has become a buzzword recently, however, AI has been in the market for a very long time, since 1960. It was associated with automation during that time. What makes AI different now in the current market, as well as the future, is the major role it plays in the era of machine learning. Some key questions TA professionals must ask themselves are how do you introduce AI into systems that predict, systems that think, and systems that listen, as well as how do you use machine learning to drive outcomes and predictions? This is where I think many functions of HR will change, specifically talent acquisition. I want to walk people through how to use AI to enable a talent acquisition function to provide better experiences, be more productive, have more speed and really create a new era.
What is ‘cognitive talent management’?
Cognitive talent management is a way to look at the end-to-end HR transformation – all the way from attracting to growing – and figuring out how to build an AI-enabled talent-management function. When we say it’s “cognitively connected,” we mean you’re using AI in every interaction, including attracting, engaging, retaining, developing and growing talent. In the past, HR has been very siloed. You have recruiting has its own set of processes and strategies, learning and development has separate ways of accomplishing their goals, workforce planning and retention teams follow their own plan and so on. In this common scenario, you don’t have any systems connecting all of this together. So how do you build a talent-management system that has a digital thread across all functions? You do it with AI. You connect it by personalizing every single experience and every moment of impact for candidates and employees, and as they’re developing their careers.
What’s an example of personalization in recruiting that you’ve implemented at IBM?
There are multiple examples, but let’s start with attraction and how IBM has personalized the candidate experience. Think about recruiting in the past: Candidates would go to a career site and look through thousands and thousands of jobs, and many times it’s the same job. They do a keyword search, they look by location, or any other filter available to them. There’s no personalization to any of this. But now, what we’ve done is integrated Watson into the career experience for candidates. Watson is engaging with applicants, having a conversation with them, learning from that conversation to understand what that applicant is truly looking for, and then making recommendations on a personalized job for them. Whether candidates have a conversation with Watson, or upload a resume, Watson will match a personalized job for them.
I have tested this out, so I’ll give you an example. If you look at my career or my background, you’ll see there’s a lot of transformation, reinvention, work in AI, and change management. The common theme in all of this has been talent acquisition. If I do a typical search and just say jobs in HR or jobs in talent acquisition, I get various results like payroll or a recruiter — things for which I would not be a good fit. But when I followed the same steps with Watson-enabled career site, for example, Watson not only gave me more senior jobs in talent acquisition that were open, but also broader jobs I wouldn’t have considered, such as a transformation change-management consultant or an agile innovation lead. It gave me the opportunity to consider jobs I would not have even considered by personalizing the job search to my experience.
What kind of results have you seen so far?
We’ve seen great results with this — 86 percent of candidates that use our career site engage with Watson, with 96 percent of those candidates looking at the recommended jobs by Watson. From this, 35 percent have applied to a job they never would have thought about applying to if not for Watson’s personalized recommendation. This is providing us a much more diverse talent pool than we’ve ever had before.
In terms of career engagement, for IBM, it has been all about creating an AI-enabled HR function to help employees have a more personalized experience. It’s about having proactive retention insights, cognitive talent alerts that keep track of the time an employee is ready to be considered for a promotion, and having readily available sentiment analysis to ensure employees are getting offered personalized learning and development opportunities. We have taken many measures to embody AI in our full talent life cycle.
Is this type of technology something you see being adopted broadly by companies of all sizes?
I think we’re going to need it everywhere. I think you need to start by looking at what’s happening in the industry and the market — and that’s not just for a big company or a small company. Think about what’s happening in the industry. There is so much demand for talent. In the U.S. alone, by 2020, a million more software jobs will be needed. By 2022, over 2 million cybersecurity jobs will be vacant. If you’re a big company, a midsize company or a small company, you still need talent.
In addition, there’s fierce competition for talent in today’s market; every company is a tech company and the disruptors are disrupting every type of company, big and small. I think companies will need to ensure a first-rate, personalized experience in the way people apply, how companies engage with people, how you onboard people, how candidates and employee receive feedback, and how you collaborate with one another. That experience will need to be real and will need to be personalized for every individual. Otherwise, companies don’t have a chance.
Then, at the same time, once you attract and build these relationships with these people, and once they’re on board, companies need to think about how to retain them so another company doesn’t entice them to join their company, or lose them to a startup. Engagement needs to be very personalized. When you think about where we’re headed, you need to solve for problems now, before they occur, and that needs to be a focus for any company because we are living through an outcome-solution era.
Healthcare organizations have traditionally focused on their operational systems, leaving talent acquisition and management to take a back seat.
But the massive talent shortage in health care has made that an untenable path for health care employers. Now, many are looking for new tools to help them find and retain talent for critical roles.
To find out more about how health care employers are using technology to meet these demands, we spoke with David Pumpelly, Avature’s vice president of enterprise talent solutions. Here’s his take on what’s happening in the industry, based on his experience working in health care for 15 years.
Building the Pipeline Earlier Than Ever
Competitive healthcare companies are now taking their recruitment efforts to the university level, Pumpelly says. They might establish contact with a first-year physical therapy student, then develop the relationship over the next two or three years of their training. When that candidate is finally qualified to enter the workforce, that company is top of mind.
That early stage engagement is where digital tools have the most potential to disrupt the status quo, he notes.
Consider the contrast from the perspective of a student or new health care professional attending a job fair. At one booth, they’re asked to fill out paperwork with clipboards and those little pencils. At the next, they provide their contact info via an iPad or QR code. Then this is followed up with regular communications: newsletters, meetups, an invitation to a student talent community or career website administered by the recruiter.
“Digital disruption in talent acquisition is all about creating lasting candidate experiences that accompany them throughout their education journey, so the health care recruiter has the best chance of winning them,” Pumpelly says.
Creating New Spaces for Flexibility
The same technology shift is also affecting the existing talent paradigm. Contingent workforces have become a crucial component of how most medical organizations deliver health care. It’s due in part to the demand for care, but also because more health care workers, especially younger ones, prefer to work on a contract basis to maximize flexibility.
Since the recruitment process for most companies focuses on permanent hires, it often does not lead to the most positive experience for contingent workers. Avature helps them use digital tools to make the process smoother, such as onboarding checks for credentials, background, communicable disease and JCAHO compliance.
“The question is, how do I create a better experience for those workers who are more inclined to work on a contract basis?” Pumpelly says. “Don’t just focus on permanent talent, but look for the right ecosystem with workforce planning that takes both pools into account.”
Creating New Paths for Internal Mobility
Another challenge comes with internal mobility. Different departments within a large health care organization may not communicate with each other or use different systems to keep track of their employees’ information. This creates barriers when health care talent wants to make a move.
If you don’t create opportunities within the company, the organization will experience a talent drain, he says. Technology helps understand the employee population: who they are, how long have they worked in their current positions, how have they performed, whether they are willing or desire to relocate.
The new thinking is to take CRM tools for outside recruitment and apply them to existing talent. The best healthcare companies will be able to easily accept data from other systems, and be able to truly understand and segment their employee population, Pumpelly says.
Performance management is also going through drastic changes. The old days of the Jack Welch General Electric-style annual performance review with ranked scores is quickly fading. Millennials in particular feel demeaned by this process. Now, performance management is about continuous, ongoing coaching that seeks to provide feedback in multiple directions, he says
Technology tools now allow employees to do self-analysis and solicit or receive coaching on mobile devices. Automated reminders let managers know when a check-in is due.
The delivery of health care is constantly and rapidly changing, and technology is the key to having the edge on the competition for top healthcare talent.
The technology industry has taken strides to create more inclusive and diverse workplaces in recent years but still has much room for improvement, says Candice Morgan, the head of inclusion and diversity at Pinterest.
Over the past several years, Morgan and Pinterest have been a visible force in the tech industry’s efforts to hire more women and underrepresented minorities. The company was one of the first tech firms to publicly share statistics about the makeup of its workforce, and it made headlines in 2015 when co-founder Evan Sharp set public hiring goals for increasing diversity. Morgan joined Pinterest in 2016 and continues to lead the company’s efforts to build a more inclusive and diverse organization in a period of rapid growth.
Before joining Pinterest, Morgan spent nearly a decade as a consultant with the nonprofit Catalyst, based in New York and Zurich, where she shaped inclusive work cultures by designing and implementing strategic talent initiatives for global companies and firms in industries including finance, consumer goods, technology and health care.
We spoke with her about how Pinterest is innovating in the recruiting and talent-development spaces, the state of diversity efforts in the tech industry, and what she’ll be sharing at UNLEASH America in Las Vegas.
What are you going to be discussing at UNLEASH in May?
I’ll be talking about innovative ways to find and grow new talent. I lead inclusion and diversity at Pinterest, and we’ve had to get really creative about finding new sources of talent and connecting people with access to the tech industry. Then, once people join the company, we’ve had to be creative in terms of giving them opportunities to grow their careers.
I’m first going to talk about some of the things that we’ve created to expand the pool of talent. One of the things is an apprenticeship program that we built for people in software engineering who don’t have a traditional tech background or don’t have a four-year computer science degree. Maybe they’re self-taught or perhaps they’ve gone to a boot camp. We bring them into the software engineering organization, and they work on the same projects any full-time entry-level software engineer would. They have a mentor engineer who spends up to 50 percent of their time with that individual, as they prepare to convert to an entry-level software engineer.
It’s been really amazing for us because we have people with experience in other industries before moving into software engineering, so they bring this sensibility, this maturity, and they bring transferable skills. We’ve had architects, economists and people from finance — people from very different backgrounds.
Another piece that we’re going to talk about in this session is how we give people career-development opportunities. Pinterest’s inclusion and diversity team has built up a number of internal programs, such as our employee communities — they’re also known as employee resource groups at other companies — and we offer the opportunity to lead those employee communities as a leadership-development opportunity. Those people work with executive sponsors who report to our CEO, and they get coaching on strategies, organize programs and do other innovative things like create mentorship opportunities.
This session will really explore how we’ve architected inclusive ways to both find new talent and grow existing talent.
Is that type of apprenticeship program something that’s representative of a tech industry trend?
It’s not typical. There are some tech companies that are starting additional apprenticeship programs, but they’re few and far between. Most are in their experimentation phase, so many of them are not yet up and running, but the more of these programs the better. We are actually on our fourth cohort in our third year of doing this, because we’ve found something that really works.
How do your diversity goals intersect with your approach to recruiting, especially at a company that has had unique challenges rapidly scaling?
When I joined we were 700 people — now we’re twice that size. I spend up to 40 percent of my time working with the recruiting team. It’s really critical that I work very closely with the head of recruiting on making sure that every single recruiter understands there are certain areas where a diverse workforce is important, and that we can’t have slates where we’re bringing in people in the interview that don’t include forms of diversity. It’s not one person’s job. It’s certainly not just my team’s job.
My team’s role is to provide accountability for diversity and inclusion, to influence and to help people recognize when we’re not on track and also to choose the best strategy to accelerate progress. But it’s ultimately each individual recruiter and each individual hiring manager and the loop of other business managers on their team that are making the hiring decisions.
That has included training for hiring managers, training for our recruiting team on inclusion, how to source workers and candidates with more diverse backgrounds, going to different schools as part of our university recruiting program, and really looking at the diversity of the graduating classes at the school that we go to and saying, “Does this still make sense from our creative perspective? Are we supporting the differences in ideas that truly innovate?” — because that’s where the research shows there’s an advantage for diversity. It’s in the innovation and creativity part of team problem solving.
How does diversity improve the performance of an organization?
Diverse teams are better at innovative ideas and solving challenging problems. This is because we don’t assume the group thinks alike, and are instead more thoughtful in presenting ideas and solutions. For Pinterest, it’s also a must to build a product that people of all backgrounds can use to discover and do things they love. Recently, our team debuted a feature for users of all skin tones to find relevant ideas. This was the result of a cross-functional team — inclusion and diversity, engineers, product managers, researchers, legal, and of course our diverse users.
What changes have you seen since as a result of these efforts?
When it comes to hiring, we have seen success in programs such as Pinterest Apprenticeship, where we have to date converted all transitioning engineers with non-traditional backgrounds to full-time software engineers. We have also grown underrepresented ethnic groups at Pinterest from 3 percent to 9 percent of the company, and women executives in the C-suite from 13 percent to 38 percent.
With inclusion, we constantly monitor the retention and engagement NPS scores of underrepresented populations. We have seen a direct correlation between growth of our employee resource group participation, executive visibility and positive engagement.
Did you run into any challenges with putting this in place? What did it take to overcome them?
There are many challenges and we have not overcome them all. Part of the challenge is ensuring not only HR/recruiters are accountable, but so are business managers — particularly mid-level managers that do most of the hiring and have the most impact on an employee’s day-to-day experience. Two things must be done: First constant communication from the executive team on why this is important, what we’re doing, and what the individual manager can do. Second, accountability mechanisms like goals/KPIs help increase ownership across the business.
How has diversity in tech progressed overall since you’ve been a part of the industry?
In 2014 we started to see some companies releasing their data. We released some of our data as early as 2013. We saw really large tech companies, like Google and Facebook, releasing their data, and that was a major step toward change.
I feel that in the past two years, a couple of things have changed the conversation. One, with the presidential election and the level of division that exists across the country, and within companies, the conversations that were previously never held at work are now happening, and have to be acknowledged in a way. When people feel like aspects of their identity are being threatened — whether they’re conservative and can’t express that or they’re from a marginalized group that they feel is in jeopardy given political policies — we do have to sometimes address those in a more public forum. That’s something that has changed.
The #MeToo movement and the sexual harassment lawsuits have been remarkable and have really affected many tech companies. We have a people experience team here at Pinterest that actually helps employees guide and navigate different types of grievances. That’s a really important part of the discussion too.
I will say, though, in addition to all of those conversations, there’s still fatigue around diversity at the same time, which seems kind of ironic. Given all the different subtexts around which diversity is coming up, there’s fatigue around the hiring conversation of diversity. However, it’s been a very slow pace at which we’ve started to diversify tech companies. Less than 10 percent of the population at these tech companies are from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds, and even fewer in engineering. Even though there’s a lot more fatigue and there are a lot more people who are talking about reverse discrimination, the numbers are still not at the critical mass. I think all those things influence this very nuanced, complex conversation.
Digital engagement platform Levelhead is working to bring balance to the workplace with mindfulness-based education programs and innovative gamification tools. The startup designed a mobile app that features self-directed exercises, such as guided meditation, that are designed to work effortlessly with an employee’s everyday routine, helping businesses improve employee productivity and well-being.
Levelhead allows employers to engage with their employees through the option of sending encouragement and feedback, as well as measuring progress at the individual and organizational levels, all while employees build relationships, learn to make better decisions and increase their overall satisfaction.
Founder and CEO Saundra Schrock took some time to share the purpose behind the company and her thoughts about the future of the workplace.
What inspired you to start your company?
One reason is my strong interest in mindfulness, as well as a personal experience of seeing the true power of having a really strong mindfulness practice. When I taught at Arizona State’s graduate school, I learned that the 30-something group was hungry for this kind of practice, but that attention span was not their greatest suit. I developed a program called Functional Mindfulness, which is bite-sized mindfulness practices specially designed for people in the workplace. Most of them are less than five minutes. It really was my desire to scale that whole concept. It’s kind of a combination of my mindfulness experience, and then being able to combine that with the latest technology to come up with this cool platform.
What are your goals for the next five years?
I think that not only will companies begin to see that this kind of engagement with their employees has tremendous benefits, but they’re going to want to have their own content on a similar platform. Our goal is to expand what we’ve done with Levelhead to provide a very flexible, affordable platform where other organizations can use the same kind of technology base to engage with their employees utilizing their own content. So Levelhead really operates on a platform that we’re developing to be much more scalable and much more user friendly for any business to be able to load their own content and use it. We see this growing to a pretty large scale over the next five years.
Where is the future of work heading?
The data supports that employees are feeling less trust. They’re totally disengaged. They really don’t believe that their company cares about them. This is a theme that’s not getting any better, despite all the activities that organizations have done to overcome those issues. But I can see there’s an emerging group of hope. There are enlightened leaders that know that something has to change, and what they need are new tools and a new way to engage their employees.
What gives your team their drive to succeed?
What drives us is being able to ignite the workplace in a different way. We’re using technology to help people think differently about how they lead. As an early-stage company, we take a great deal of time to work with our clients. We help give them ideas, and not just about how to use our materials and our program. I’m so fortunate to have this team of people who all have the same values, same culture. We’re there to help people. That’s what drives all of us.
Organizations across multiple sectors are increasingly exploring how the principles of behavioral science can help them better understand what drives employee behaviors and motivations. Among those at the forefront of that effort is UNLEASH America speaker Chris Dobyns, a human capital strategic consultant and former chief of staff for the National Security Agency.
Dobyns has worked in the area of compensation for more than 30 years and has held various compensation-related positions with a number of large organizations. More recently, he has emerged as a leading voice in applied behavioral science in human capital management, exploring the possibilities of behavior-shaping initiatives while also urging organizations to take a thoughtful and transparent approach to their implementation.
Our presentation is going to be a brief overview of some of the recent advances in the area of applied behavioral science in the workforce, both to enhance the elements of human capital management as well as the area of compensation and total rewards. When we talk about behavioral sciences, we’re really talking about three different areas: We’re talking about applied cognitive psychology — the way in which people think and feel and emotions, social neuroscience — how the brain mediates social processes and behavior, and behavioral economics — which deals with financial and resource-related decision-making and judgments in people.
What’s an example of how behavioral science can be applied in human capital management?
One of the things that we’ve tried to operationalize is the concept of the bandwagon effect. The idea is you try to influence your peers by telling them a little bit about factually what the behavior of their peers has been.
Typically what I’ve seen in the private sector is where the organization maybe has some reservations that its workforce isn’t saving enough and preparing for retirement. In order to influence people to save more, they effectively will go and canvas their existing workforce and then they’ll put out a publication for everyone to read about the average contribution rates for the 401(k) by their respective grade level. Jack looks at that and says, “Here’s some data in terms of what my peers are doing and it says that my peers are contributing to the 401(k) at an average of 12.5 percent,” and “Oh, wait a minute I’m only contributing at 8.25 percent.” So now I’m motivated and now I’ve been influenced behaviorally to say, “Well, maybe I should be contributing more.”
That’s effectively how you operationalize that bandwagon effect with your employees. That one is obviously in all of their best interests, as well as the employer’s, to have your workforce as prepared for the next career stage as they move through your workforce and eventually to retirement.
How do you approach concerns over the use of behavioral science in the workplace?
Specifically in the intelligence business when we talk about behavioral science, people get a little bit sketchy about the differentiation between shaping people’s behavior and manipulating people’s behavior. When it comes to this area of applied behavioral research, we need to think long and hard about whether or not just because we can do something, whether we should do something.
When we’re doing behavioral shaping either with individuals or large scale with our workforce, those shapings should be both in the interests of the employer and the employee. They can’t be just be unidirectional. They can’t benefit one party. They need to benefit both parties, which is what I read in most of the literature. In the things that we’ve done, we’ve tried to walk down that line to make sure that if we were trying to encourage employees to make a better choice, that those choices were potentially both in the interest of the organization and the employee in a fully transparent way.
When you’re implementing a program that’s based on something new, such as applied behavioral science, how do you get buy-in?
The very candid answer is applied behavioral science is still an emerging area, specifically for human capital management. The guys that are in advertising and marketing have been doing this for years, but unfortunately HR, as a general statement, has a tendency to be a little bit more conservative. They’re not known for being early adopters of brand-new types of interventions. And government, which the National Security Agency is part of, is an incredibly conservative organization. Government by design is very risk averse, so making headway in this area has been slow-going. Some things we’ve done in such a light-handed way that we’ve been able to do it almost unilaterally and haven’t had to get a lot of senior management buy-in. But they’re around the very edges of the things that we could be doing.
When you implement a rewards program, or some other new workforce initiative, how do you gather feedback from your employees?
It’s principally in three areas: recruiting, retention or the satisfaction, commitment and engagement areas. In recruiting, after we’ve put a new program in place we try to put as much of a marketing face on that as possible. The demonstrated metrics of that would be increased or easier recruiting of talent in the hard-to-recruit areas — potentially a greater proportion or number of individuals coming from some of the top-tier schools or our ability to effectively attract talent from other top-tier employers.
On the retention piece, we mostly look at our ability to hang on to our existing workforce. We look at mostly attrition statistics and the stated reasons why people are leaving, and any specific patterns in particular talent, discipline or domain areas where we see greater or lesser loss of employees.
The last one would be more of the attitudinal piece, and we measure that in two dimensions. We do have an annual employee climate survey that we distribute, which captures and in the aggregate gives us a sense of how the workforce is perceiving their pay relative to others. We can do some cutting and slicing to gauge how our STEM and cybersecurity workforce is responding.
Additionally, we have our own internal social network. The NSA exists on its own separate classified computer system, so we’re not hooked into the internet in any way, but we actually have our own social network platform. Employees will provide input into that platform from which we can collect and glean what the relative response of the workforce is in reaction to any particular human capital event that’s going on — whether that’s a new pay program, or the most recent hiring freeze, or the most near-miss employee furlough, or any of those kind of good or bad things.
Las Vegas, NV – April 26, 2018 – UNLEASH America (formerly HR Tech World), the fastest-growing international show on the Future of Work & Technology, today announced the six finalists nominated for its UNLEASH Startup Award taking place at the UNLEASH Startup Zone on May 15-16 at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
“We’re thrilled to be featuring the UNLEASH Startup Zone with the most promising up and coming startups for the first time at our 2nd U.S. show in Las Vegas next month. It is a very exciting time to be in HR Tech, the number of investments and acquisitions are high and many investors are finally realizing the huge opportunity this market has”, said Anna Ott, Head of Startup Ecosystem at UNLEASH. “ We have seen an overall investment of nearly 1 billion USD being raised by the almost 200 startups who introduced themselves to the UNLEASH community over the last 6 years. UNLEASH is committed to help them along their journey as they disrupt the Future of Work and Technology.”
The UNLEASH Startup Award is sponsored by The Muse and the 5 finalists and one lucky wild card candidate will pitch their product in front of a mixed panel of delegates, investors and experts, with the winner taking home a Gold-level sponsorship package for one of UNLEASH’s next event.
The six nominated UNLEASH Startup Award finalists chosen by the Expert Jury are:
Goodwall is one of the leading professional development platforms for students. Registered students are looking to find internships and their first entry level jobs, as well as to network with over 1+ Million other students on the platform. Goodwall delivers organisations with new, screened candidates to their inbox every month, based on its hiring needs. Its robust filtering process allows companies to focus on a few hyper relevant candidates based on their own search criteria. The student profiles on the platform are comprehensive and holistic. They include hard and soft skills, achievements, and video interviews. Registered students come from over 155 countries, showcasing diversity at its best.
Altru transforms the way companies execute on Employer Branding, through Employee-Generated video. It works with companies like Unilever, L’Oréal, and Dell to create video content through its SaaS mobile platform. Employees are nominated by TA teams to share their personal experience on what it’s like to work at the company, and create content through Altru’s mobile application.
KnowledgeFlo is a transformative four-component platform that empowers its users with the continuous FLO of information needed to outperform the competition. It re-imagined every aspect of today’s systems (learning, performance, social and decision management) to deliver a proprietary and next generation solution that easily integrates with companies’ existing tools. KnowledgeFlo’s mobile first approach gives unparalleled access to the most important data when it needs it most, anywhere, anytime.
Click Boarding is an onboarding platform that takes the stress out of employees’ first days — and beyond. The platform delivers a guided experience that removes HR burdens and minimizes employee anxiety related to any transition or internal mobility, from being a new hire, to being promoted, to changing roles or offboarding. Click Boarding bridges the gap between talent acquisition and talent management to help companies engage and retain talent.
Video My Job
VideoMyJob is a software solution that enables organizations to create, edit, share and track branded video, at scale, to better engage with employees and jobseekers. Job Ads have been left in the 90’s, Top Job Seekers are Passive, Branded Videos are costly….the world has moved to video…so they are passionate about bringing jobs to life! Video My Job is just under 2 years old, has a team of 15 passionate individuals and is already working with over 150 clients in 32 Countries.
Zyvo offers online assessments and predictive HR-analytics: Predictive HR-analytics; Neuroscience games to measure cognitive abilities and personality traits; Personality assessments; Competency assessments; Pre-screening assessments; Team development assessment; 360? feedback. The ‘Zyvo HR Analytics Box’ combines psychometrics, neuro-science and machine learning with companies’ data to predict business outcomes.
UNLEASH (previously HR Tech World) is the largest and fastest-growing global network on a mission to inspire and transform the Future of Work & HR Technology. Our shows in the U.S. and Europe attract the world’s leading technology providers, entrepreneurs, visionaries, disrupters and doers, including Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Sir Ken Robinson, Rachel Botsman, Gary Vaynerchuk and many more. Our Startup Ecosystem is the biggest HR Technology community for the latest innovators and next-gen technologies that will change how we work and how work gets done. UNLEASH News keeps the conversation going year-round with provocative, engaging stories on the Future of Work & HR Technology. Find out more at www.unleashgroup.io . Follow us at #UNLEASH18
We’re announcing a brand-new format on our Startup Stage — the UNLEASH Lightning Round!
You may already know about our popular Startup Award, in which our top five finalists and one lucky wild card candidate pitch their product in front of a mixed panel of delegates, investors and experts, with the winner taking home a Gold-level sponsorship package for our next event.
It’s an exciting, competitive event, and we always have a ton of amazing candidates who just barely miss the cut, and we wanted to find a way to bring them the exposure they deserve.
This year, at UNLEASH America in Las Vegas, we’re excited to introduce the UNLEASH Lightning Round, in which our top semifinalists get a unique pitching opportunity before a special panel of judges.
This event will be dynamic and interactive, with startups pitching their products in three minutes or less and receiving instant feedback from our expert panel. Ultimately, both the judges and the audience will get the chance to decide whether they would (hypothetically) buy the product. The company with the most “buy-ins” will take the grand prize: a guaranteed competition spot in the upcoming UNLEASH event of their choice.
Our fantastic Lightning Round panel in Las Vegas will include:
We’ve committed to the continuation and expansion of the wildcard program we tested at the UNLEASH Conference & Expo in London. This program opens our pitching floor to non-exhibitors, offering startups who aren’t quite ready to exhibit at UNLEASH a shot at the prize. Any pre-series HR Tech startup with customers can apply and be included in our pre-judging for competition finalists. The highest-rated wildcard gets a spot in our Startup Award competition and a chance to take the grand prize.
We debuted this new program at UNLEASH Conference & Expo in London in March to great success. This is an evolving program, so watch for new and bigger opportunities for wildcards at UNLEASH World Conference & Expo in Amsterdam in October.
Disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and augmented/virtual reality have the potential to revolutionize not only HR but the nature of work itself.
Tim Gregory, the director of HR innovation and workforce technology at Corning Inc., says HR organizations need to develop a thoughtful approach to evaluate disruptive technology and its potential impact. He would know — during his career, Gregory has led efforts to digitally transform HR for three Fortune 500 chief HR officers, including two National Academy of Human Resources fellows.
Two years ago he began focused efforts to identify the practical application of AI technologies within HR. He led co-development efforts with IBM to prototype HR solutions powered by IBM’s Watson.
He will be speaking at UNLEASH America in Las Vegas on May 15-16. We spoke with him recently about his upcoming talk, his work at Corning and the dynamic technology landscape that surrounds HR.
What are you going to be talking about at UNLEASH America in May?
We’re going to focus on two topics. We’ll start by sharing key learnings from our global-scale HR Digital Transformation project, in which we essentially leveraged the entire suite of SAP SuccessFactors products across 22 countries, in 12 languages with over 70 integrations. We’re going to talk about the top three things we did right and the top three things we did wrong.
That’s the first part. Then we’re going to talk about what’s on the horizon — what does the view look like after you have made it to the cloud? We’ve been exploring a variety of disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence, data lakes and robotic process automation. For UNLEASH America in May we’re going to focus on something I think people are really interested in that will help them cut through the vast amounts of hype that is surrounding artificial intelligence today. We will demystify AI and provide the audience with a practical framework that they can use to assess whether or not the technology products that they are evaluating are indeed AI-enabled.
What is your focus these days, and what technologies are you exploring in your current position?
When I joined Corning back in 2014, we developed a strategy that we called the “HR2020 Roadmap.” In it we defined a number of principles, attributes and measures that we wanted to achieve prior to the year 2020. To achieve these business goals, we recognized that we had to adopt a modern, agile and cloud-based technology platform. We chose SAP SuccessFactors and it has delivered a lot of value for us. The mobile app delivers frictionless direct access for employees and managers, which, in turn, enables higher levels of engagement. We also benefit from the quarterly release of new features and capabilities that are included in our annual subscription.
My focus today is on developing our “HR2025 Roadmap” which evaluates the practical use of the disruptive technology I mentioned earlier as well as augmented reality, which has enormous potential in the learning space, and blockchain, which has the potential to fundamentally change how the world accesses and manages personal data.
How do HR leaders sort through all of this new technology to find tools that actually add value?
I have benefited a great deal from the world-class instruction that is broadly available online from institutions like MIT and Cornell. I’m also a strong believer in the idea that no one can genuinely understand something new until they can use it. So I think it is really important for HR leaders to commit to lifelong learning and intellectually engage in efforts to develop practical HR use-cases and prototypes.
I also rely a great deal on my network, which I actively invest and nurture by attending conferences, taking the time to meet with new and established vendors, and developing and growing my social media connections via LinkedIn and Twitter. Social media has gotten a bad rap lately, but when used intelligently it can be a phenomenal learning platform capable of enabling amazing access to some of the world’s leading subject-matter experts. It takes time and effort going through the articles and posts, seeing who the authors are, who they’re referencing, and then finding them online and seeing who they’re following to triangulate where these innovations are coming from. But once you’ve tuned your social network in to those channels it’s phenomenally valuable and I rely on it a great deal.
With a little effort and time you develop a much keener sense for what’s pixie dust and what’s genuinely practical. … But no matter how you cut it, when it comes to understanding disruptive technology and challenging your “comfort zone” you must grow your network and connect to people who are new to you and outside of your traditional organizational boundaries.
Should people in HR be more anxious or optimistic about the integration of AI into their field?
I think if people really understood what it was, they’d be very optimistic — and I think you’ll have those who lean forward and embrace the technology and they will do very well as a result.
If you go back to the early 2000s, people were hesitant about adopting the internet. There was a time when we were told “Don’t meet strangers on the internet and don’t give them your credit card information.” Today we routinely do precisely that and then we get in a car with them — we just call it Uber. The internet changed everything and genuinely transformed our society. Some of the emerging technology we’ve been talking about has the potential to drive society-level changes.
AI is one of those technologies. If you peer inside the core of today’s AI, you won’t find the Terminator. What you will find is vast quantities of data, statistical algorithms and cheap computing power. What is important to understand is that even the most advanced AI systems are not actually “thinking” at all. … No researcher or scientist who understands this well would describe this technology as being anywhere near human intellect. These systems don’t think; they compute, and they do this for the purposes of generating predictions. Which can be very helpful to us. Typically the human brain doesn’t do well with processing exponentially large numbers because these are not the types of numbers we encounter in our daily experience. AI-enabled systems, on the other hand, do that exceptionally well. HR organizations that learn how to build “human-in-the-loop” processes that blend the best capabilities of AI and humans will gain a distinct advantage in the war for talent.
For example, in today’s economy if you want to find the best talent you need to search everywhere, and you need take advantage of the vast quantities of useful data that potential candidates have readily made available on the internet. In this circumstance if you take a recruiter equipped with a trainable AI-enabled system versus a recruiter armed only with a browser and keyword searches, the AI-enabled recruiter will build the better candidate slate every time and will do so in a fraction of the time.
Despite all the promise AI-enabled systems have, they should not operate autonomously. The value of AI-enabled systems is limited by the quality of the underlying data and algorithms used to generate them. If there is bias in the data or the algorithms then the resulting prediction will be biased. For this reason alone, companies need to be very cautious about taking the human out of human resources and subscribe to “human-in-the-loop” models.
How willing have companies been to adopt these emerging technologies to date?
I think we’re at the very beginning of this. There are some leading HR organizations who are exploring it, but I think there is a lot of work ahead of us before it becomes “normal” to see AI used to its full potential, broadly across HR. We still have some key technical and “people”-related hurdles to overcome.
It’s probably not helpful to get too deep into the technical hurdles in this interview but I think it is valuable to at least recognize that AI is based on data and it suffers from many of the same weaknesses that traditional data analytics suffers from when the necessary data is sparse and of poor quality. In terms of “people”-related hurdles I think there are some very big questions that the industry needs to be able to solve for, like the potential for algorithmic bias as we mentioned earlier.
Another big problem is known as “explainability.” With the more advanced neural-net-based machine-learning models it is very difficult for even the data scientists, who developed them, to explain why a certain prediction was made. This is not acceptable in the HR space. The source of evidence used by the machine to offer a prediction needs to be auditable and, if necessary, the weighting of its contribution to the prediction easily changed.
Until these and other related topics are understood by a much larger percentage of HR practitioners I think it’s going to slow the broad adoption of AI. But there are a lot of very bright people actively working on solving these problems, and I think once they’re resolved you’ll see adoption on a massive scale.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to Gregory and not necessarily to his employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.