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How Deloitte Consulting LLP and Salesforce Are Using Technology to Transform the Employee Experience


Today’s employees are digital consumers who expect to connect at work with the same ease with which they connect at home. Deloitte’s ConnectMe enables a digital workplace by using insights to connect the workforce to what they need, where and when they need it. ConnectMe leverages the world’s leading CRM cloud solution, Salesforce, to help organizations navigate the changing workplace and deliver an exceptional employee experience. To find out more, please visit www.Deloitte.com/connectme.

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Angelia Herrin, HBR

Welcome to the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Quick Take. I’m Angelia Herrin, Editor for Special Projects and Research at HBR. And today I’m talking with Michael Gretczko, Principal, National Offering Leader, Human Capital as a Service at Deloitte Consulting, LLP, and with Jody Kohner, Senior Vice President of Employee Marketing and Engagement at Salesforce. We’re focusing today on how new challenges and new technologies are changing human capital management, and how to ensure that this key resource becomes a sustained competitive advantage for your company. Michael and Jody, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jody Kohner, Salesforce

Thanks so much for having us.

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

Likewise, happy to be here.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Michael, you’ve seen a lot of changes in the workplace and the workforce over the past few years. How are those changes impacting business leaders, and what does that mean for human capital management?

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

It’s a great question, and one that we’re working on with our clients day in and day out. And when we talk with business leaders, what we really hear and what we talk about is how external pressures are really fundamentally changing the way organizations do business. And we call this a move from a business enterprise to a social enterprise—one where businesses need to understand what’s happening in the broader society, in their workplace, and with a rapidly changing workforce.

And it’s that last part, that rapidly changing workforce and the change in work, that really leads to some very significant human capital issues. And we really think about those in five buckets. The first is that our client organizations are trying to figure out how to transition to the future of work, as technology is really fundamentally changing how work gets done.

The second one is they’re really trying to create what I’ll call a simply irresistible experience for their employees, to engage them and get them working toward the company’s mission and objectives.

Third, they’re focused on optimizing what I’ll call the human capital balance sheet, making sure their workforce dollars are creating the right kind of impact in the way that their workforce is showing up day in and day out in the workplace.

Fourth, they’re activating the digital organization—taking advantage of the new digital tools that are available in the market, to work in very different ways and to leverage those digital technologies to create efficiency.

Fifth, and last, is sustaining organizational performance—constantly reevaluating how you’re using your workforce and your people to drive performance in the organization that doesn’t rest. That keeps on driving more and more impact on the bottom line.

Jody Kohner, Salesforce

You know, I would add that I think, as someone who’s living this every day, we all know that the talent market is just so tough right now. You have to work really, really hard at these things that Michael was pointing out to be able to attract the very best talent, and also to keep them. There are some interesting stats out there that we really watch closely around attraction and engagement and retention that show that 45 percent of employers report difficulties in filling jobs, that 85 percent of employees self-report as being disengaged, and—a really scary thought here—that 90 percent of them are open to new opportunities.

So really kind of getting ahead of what these issues are and how you’re managing them, and how you’re creating these simply irresistible experiences that Michael referred to—it’s critical work.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

You’ve outlined a lot of challenges. How could HR executives, working with other leaders, really turn human capital management into a sustained competitive advantage?

Jody Kohner, Salesforce

I think that you really have to focus on investing in your employees. That investing in employee engagement is an actual business imperative, and it has real, measurable ROI. The author Kevin Kruse, who wrote a book called Engagement 2.0, which talks a lot about the engagement profit change, which roughly translated shows how happy employees lead to happy customers, which ultimately results in happy stakeholders. And one of the things that I think we notice all the time is that there are companies all across the globe, in every single industry, that are really focused right now on the customer experience, and really trying to drive digital transformations for them. But what they’re under investing in is the employee experience and also driving digital transformations for those employees who are servicing all of those customers.

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

I absolutely agree. I think what Jody said is exactly what we see as well. And I’ll just add that I think that as we think about employee experience and engagement as a business issue, to really make that a reality, there has to be collaboration between the business and HR leaders. HR leaders need to help business leaders sense those markets trends, understand the workforce composition, and collaborate to attract and retain those workforce capabilities—and to do that, they need to address those very sobering stats that Jody pulled together.  There’s always been some form of collaboration, but now it’s mandatory; HR and the business need to be working hand in hand to tackle some of these very tough issues.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

You talked about engagement. Where should leaders be focusing to really keep today’s workforce meaningfully engaged?

Jody Kohner, Salesforce

We definitely do not have all that figured out. It’s a working formula. But the formula that we have been using, I do believe, is generating a lot of success for us. It’s a little tough because it’s human, it’s very personal, and people are messy. But the formula that we like to use is that if you take one part culture, one part technology, and one part data, you will ultimately drive more engagement. And let me just give you an example of how we do that.

When it comes to culture—I mean at Salesforce—we really believe that this is our single greatest differentiator and it is our competitive advantage. And so we focus a lot on this. We are very intentional. We write it down. We prioritize it. We build programs around it. We measure it.

And we’re constantly innovating on it. This is something that is not owned by HR; it is owned by every single employee across the globe.

I’m not talking about ping-pong tables and snacks; this is really about meaningful work. It’s about purpose and belonging. And that’s all really nice, but it can result in only words, if you don’t put a lot of action behind it. And so one of the things that we have found is that this is where the technology component comes in. Because a great culture and beautiful words and wonderful sentiment are just not enough. Today’s employees also want social, mobile, intelligent, and connected technologies—the same as the ones they are using outside of work. They can go through their life and have these relationships with their favorite brands in a really efficient and awesome and meaningful way, but they need to be able to come into work and have those same experiences.

So we’re doing things like avoiding endless meetings and emails and instead leveraging a community for communications. We don’t have an intranet at Salesforce, we use apps. They’re all built on the Salesforce platform. We don’t have help desk tickets into black holes where nobody can get help for anything. We have self-service apps in which 95 percent of employee needs are instantly answered in real time.

And the beauty of all of this is that if you get out of some of those older and more archaic technologies that people are sometimes forced to work in, and you work in apps, then you get data, which is the third component of engagement for us. Because when you’re in apps, and you’re in communities, and you’re putting people on email journeys, you get a substantial amount of data. And you can aggregate this, and you can analyze this, and you can help make smarter talent decisions. And to Michael’s point, how does HR partner with the business? It’s through data. Data is the language of the business, and if you can change the system so that you have more data, you can really many more meaningful experiences for employees.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Measurement and metrics challenge every company, so how do you measure efforts to build a great experience for employees?

Jody Kohner, Salesforce

That’s kind of funny, because when I first took this job and was thinking about taking this job, my mentor said to me, “Oh, you’d better be careful, because if you don’t have data, you’re never going to be successful. I’d really think twice about that.” And I had this fear that I wasn’t going to be able to rise to that occasion. And so we have dug in really, really deep on the data chain. We do things like employee surveys—we do those twice a year. We also do a lot of analysis around help tickets that are being logged and what employees are struggling with. We monitor conversations in our own social internal networks. We measure attrition numbers and patterns. We also look at outside sources like Glassdoor reviews and LinkedIn talent flow data trends. And all of this combined can tell a really robust story that shows tangibly why investing in culture engagement is a really smart business decision. It’s not just a “nice to have.”

And we run our employee surveys here a little differently than most companies I’ve seen. We do them twice a year, and all of the data is actually put into an app that every single employee has access to. This really fundamentally changes the ownership question—you know, who owns the culture? If it’s a survey that’s run by HR, then what you find is the whole business goes back to HR and says, “Okay, well, what are we going to do about it?”

But if I put that data into an app and I make it “drill downable,” so that every person on every team across the globe can look at the survey results, now that manager is really the one who’s on the hook, who has to admit, “Wow, the culture on my team isn’t where I’d like it to be.” This becomes really important from a price perspective; it’s another performance metric that we measure against.  A company that’s growing must be able to retain its talent and show them different career paths. And if you’ve got a score that indicates your team isn’t engaged and having fun, that’s going to work against you. So again, it’s not an HR thing to own—everybody owns it, and the data is what makes that possible.

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

And I’ll just add that I think everything that Jody and the team at Salesforce are doing is leading edge and is what we’re seeing that the most progressive organizations are doing. I think one of the takeaways is that we’re starting to see organizations taking marketing technology and marketing thinking and applying it to this talent problem of engagement. It’s things like using data to segment your population and understand the texture of your workforce so that you can drive different programs and different engagement with those employees based on their profiles and based on what they need as individuals, and starting to really highlight the individual within your workforce.

We also think there’s a need to really focus on what we call interaction analytics which is—like some examples that Jody shared around employees—what are they clicking on? What are they consuming? How are they talking to each other? Who is talking to whom? It’s really getting this other level of texture around what’s happening out in the workforce. We find that allows you to be much more predictive in how you service your employees as an HR function, how you understand the tone of how your employees are thinking about a new business initiative, or a new product, and to use all that data to really enrich your management decision-making as you navigate these very turbulent waters that many companies are navigating right now.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

So, Michael, where do you see new technologies like AI and cognitive having real impact on the way work gets done, and on employee experience?

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

You know, I think there are really three big buckets of technology that are specifically transforming this employee experience. The first one is what I’ll call a digital workplace, which is a little bit of what we’ve been talking about here—how these technologies are changing, how the workforce engages, how teams communicate and manage work, and how leaders engage with team members.

And this is really about bringing those consumer and social technologies into the workplace and making them part of the fabric of how work gets done. The second thing I think is really important is cognitive and AI, which is radically transforming how lots of different work gets done. It’s automating tasks, it’s optimizing processes, it’s taking over work that teams don’t necessarily need to do that is relatively routine. And it also allows machines to learn perhaps more quickly than humans and develop new capabilities based on those patterns that they detect. Cognitive and AI are really changing the kind of work that employees are doing in the workplace. And it is likely that work will be much more interesting, and much more focused on humanistic capabilities and abilities than some of the more routine work that gets done today, and that is frankly less engaging to employees.

And the third area, which we talked a little bit about here, is really this whole area of what I’ll call sensing and insights, cognitive and AI. Digital workplace helps with that, but it’s about really sifting through the notes and finding the signal, finding the intelligence and the insight using that employee data to understand how employees are impacting each other and their leaders, and how they’re interacting with the external world.

In response to the first question, I talked about the rise of the social enterprise, and that understanding how your employees perceive your organization and what they say about your organization outside of its walls is a really important indication of how well you’re doing around engagement. And you can use that data and those interactions to really craft very personalized experiences that speak to individual employees and their career objectives, and that’s when you really hit nirvana of engagement and experience.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

So, what does it mean to create a digital workplace, and who drives this transformation? Is it HR? Is it IT leaders? Who’s in charge here?

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

I define digital workplaces as a smart, intuitive, and empowering set of technologies that really help employees do their jobs really well and feel good about where they work. One key characteristic of this is that it needs to be a consumer-grade, social media-like experience, very similar to what employees experience outside of the workplace. It’s something that we’ve invested in, and we built a product we call ConnectMe—built actually with Salesforce technology and leveraging all the innovation that Salesforce has brought into this space—to really allow employees to access and consume HR services and content that are relevant to them, and to help guide them through things like the moments that matter when they’re in the workplace, such as getting married or getting promoted or starting a new job or taking on a new set of responsibilities or moving to a new location.

We really want to enable them to be successful in those clear transitions—helping employees to team better to get work done, and helping employees get information about how to improve their own effectiveness and raise their own capabilities. And we’ve enabled all that in this digital workplace platform by taking these various technologies we’ve talked about here and aligning them around some of the common problems and issues that we talked about in the beginning that our clients are starting to experience in the marketplace.

The last part of your question was, how does this get driven? In our perspective, it needs to be close collaboration (this will be a theme for today) between HR and, in this case, IT. HR needs to really understand the programs it’s pushing out to its employees—really understand its workforce and what they need, and understand even the workforce outside of its walls, the gig workers. And IT really needs to help by stitching these technologies together and making sure they create a comprehensive, easy-to-use experience that’s modern-technology-accessible, in all places at all times, to employees to really meet the expectations of those employees. And we don’t believe either function can do this well on its own. And the best solutions that we’ve seen were about close collaboration and goal alignment between those two functions.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

A lot of companies are facing this digital transformation. So what advice would you give to HR executives and other business leaders to ensure they don’t get left behind in this fast-paced transformation?

Michael Gretczko, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

I can take first stab at this one. I think one of the things that we see all the time is that the workforce is changing dramatically right now, and very, very quickly. The composition is changing, the kind of work employees and the workforce are doing is changing, and the way we do that work is changing. And employees recognize that in this world of constant change, a traditional career trajectory probably doesn’t set them up for success. They’re more looking for experiences—developmental experiences that help them build the skills of the future. And that requires a level of empowerment. You’ve got to empower employees to go off and take on these new experiences and express themselves, and our research suggests that only 59 percent of executives have rated themselves as effective at empowering the individuals.

So you’ve got a large portion of the management workforce saying, “I don’t know how to create experiences for my employees,” yet that’s really the way employees will learn and develop in the future, and that’s really the expectation they come into the organization with. I think some of the best organizations are empowering individuals with those valuable experiences, focusing on raising the skill sets of their managers and their HR professionals who are trying to nurture and guide this. They’re really trying to focus on making sure there’s this constant focus on new experiences—taking advantage of the disruption within and outside your walls, so that you’re prepared for the changes that are coming.

Jody Kohner, Salesforce

I agree with everything you’ve said. I also think that there is obviously a heavy dose of technology that is going to be the key to evolving, but you can’t forget about just the plain, simple human factors. And it really starts with having meaningful work—making sure that your employees deeply understand the company vision, the plan to get there, and most importantly, what their share of the task is. This is what creates a sense of purpose and belonging.

The other thing that I would note, though, is that we also need to make sure that employees have a purpose just beyond profit. I think one of the most remarkable things that the founders did from the very first day the company was started was to create our 1-1-1 model, wherein we give away one percent of our time, one percent of our product, and one percent of our equity to the communities that we live in and we serve. Being able to state company goals around this and activate employees to be out in the community and to be participating, it creates a higher purpose. More recently, we actually elevated equality to be another core value of our company, in addition to giving back, because it was important to the employees—the employees told us that, we heard them, and we changed the culture of the company because this needed to be prioritized.

I also would add that you could never underestimate the power of just focusing on some fun and some well-being. These are things that millennials are demanding from their employers, but honestly, I don’t think these are just millennial things; I think these are human things. I think the millennials are just bold enough to ask for them.

Angelia Herrin, HBR

Michael and Jody, this has been a great discussion. Thanks so much for joining us.

Learn more by visiting www.Deloitte.com/connectme.

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