Event recap: Argyle HR Leadership Forum Chicago

At Luminoso, we often work with clients who are HR leaders looking for insights from employee feedback. So last week, I attended the Argyle Human Resources Leadership Forum in downtown Chicago to learn more about HR leader concerns and how they plan to incorporate technology into a long-term strategy.

Here were my three biggest takeaways from the event:

  1. Diversity, equity, and inclusion. Several talks echoed themes of steps being taken to overcome challenges associated with hiring and salary biases. As a non-HR professional, it was heartening to hear about the effort and attention being paid to these issues. It turns out that bias isn’t only an issue for data scientists.
  2. Many data sources compete for HR leaders’ time. Employee engagement surveys, hiring interviews, exit interviews, diversity statistics … the list goes on and on. Initial experiments have started to predict employee flight risk, based on hundreds of variables, and recommend proactive steps.
  3. Measuring employee engagement would be great ... if it were easier. HR leaders would love a more systematic way to hear from employees on how to improve job experience. This would help to attract talent and improve retention. But the hassle of collecting and analyzing data means it’s an exercise performed once every one to two years.

    It became clear to me that most HR leaders don’t have the support from business analysts they need to manage the data they have. And in this current data scientist shortage (over 150,000 jobs remain unfilled in the U.S. alone, per LinkedIn), it’s unlikely that HR will get that support anytime soon.

    So how do HR leaders close this gap? At the conference, I did hear three ways they get by without data scientist support, all of which explain why data analysis efforts are few and far between:

    1. Grind through it. The most painful option? Try to read all feedback and manually put together reports. It’s no wonder that employee surveys are often run only once every two years.
    2. Call in favors. Some HR leaders have built relationships with in-house business intelligence, and do some “horse-trading” to get analyst cycles for their tasks. Others have upgraded skunkworks projects into dedicated resources for a specific initiative, like running an annual survey or creating an employee churn prediction model.
    3. Outsource it. This was the most popular option: pay some external group to run surveys, crunch numbers, build machine learning models, or otherwise provide services to give insightful advice from data.

    Some speakers hinted at another solution that few seemed to be pursuing: software. Citing the “fourth industrial revolution” – a digital one – they talked about how the adoption of new technologies can transform the business by automating tasks or augmenting employees’ ability to get work done. Argyle’s pre-conference survey suggested that, after cloud technologies, automation and data analytics software were the next highest priorities for technology adoption.

    We know where we stand, based on clients who discovered key employee satisfaction drivers to improve their business, or others who captured the Voice of the Employee to dramatically accelerate how quickly insights turned into action. Whether with Luminoso or other software, I hope more HR leaders get the opportunity to tap into the rich data at their fingertips, so they can keep pushing for a positive work environment.

    I’ll be back in Chicago twice next month, speaking at the Common Sense CX 2019 event June 3 to 5, and the Argyle Customer Experience Leadership Forum on June 12. Please reach out to me if you plan to be at either.

    Jeff Foley, VP of Marketing at Luminoso, has spent over 23 years working with CRM, CX, customer service, and natural language technologies.