People & Process

People & Process

Pulse Flash Read: Morale-as-a-Service?

There’s a lot of talk about IT leaders transitioning into business leaders, especially as the remote workforce situation gets dragged on into what’s starting to feel like forever. Classical representations of IT leaders tell us that emotional intelligence has perhaps not often been identified as their standout ability. While CIOs have been (hopefully) busy working on their emotional intelligence (by watching
TEDTalks, presumably), IT has increasingly turned to SaaS and outsourcing for many of the processes that used to be handled internally. A savvy CIO might be tempted to ask, could there be a SaaS that can help with the well-being of my remote team? It turns out that there are, and yet no one seems to have coined this obvious new marketable tool category: welcome to ‘Morale-as-a-Service’.  There’s an old adage that too often goes overlooked: customer service begins with employees. A motivated and enthusiastic team, driven by a positive mindset, translates to every customer interaction; it’s company culture personified into touch points. This feeling has recently morphed into the idea of ‘employee experience’, and, indeed, even the ‘Chief Employee Experience Officer’. But how do we know what the employee experience truly is?  We’ve become better at measuring the conversions of touch points and engagements into sales through click-throughs and open rates. Can we also measure morale? Some vendors think so. Culture Amp basically offers a continuous deployment platform for overseeing employee engagement and development, offering internal ‘Pulse’ (ahem) surveys that dive deep into employee psychology. Officevibe offers something called ‘Conversation Engine’, which saves managers time by outsourcing talking points, plus a suite of other features designed to engineer interaction into ‘actionables’—and they also offer ‘Pulse’ surveys (what is going on here?). There’s also TINYPulse (seriously?) that comes right out and promises that you’ll be able to “read employee thoughts and feedback in real time” (which we can only hope isn't actually true, but give the tech a few more years). Meanwhile, Achievers has trademarked something called ‘Culture Continuity’ as part of a three-pronged platform that assists teams to build a culture, ‘activate employee engagement in real-time’ and apply ‘data science’ to improve performance.  These vendors all promise metrics that sound desirable to team leaders, such as the ability to measure ‘happiness’ along trend lines. Who wouldn’t want that? The thing is, all the testimonials advocating for the software come from the team leads. It'd be interesting to hear more about the employee experience. Regardless, capturing employee morale should pique the CFO’s interest... When wellbeing metrics can be lined up against conversions and performance, they can be used to convince the CFO and the board to invest in measures that keep morale on the up; if there’s a demonstrable upswing on ROI, the checkbook may stay open. But there’s some murky potential here. If morale comes to be viewed solely as a metric of performance and ROI, the classic capitalist switch can be flipped to demand growth of that metric. Morale must be optimized. Morale-boosting factors must be iterated on. Those employees whose morale is lacking must be… let go? It’s logical to see a 1984 situation playing out with this. If employees can smile through physical/Zoom meetings they’d rather not be in, they can keep up that facade when they know the company wants to ‘measure’ their happiness. If morale can be accurately measured, that’s awesome. But the focus of those measurements should remain on the employees’ genuine well-being. If the business becomes obsessed with optimizing and rewarding morale for business gains, employees may learn what the stakes are and game the system—to the detriment of themselves and the organization: keep smiling through the grimace of another sleepless night hitting those KPIs until companies start wondering why morale scores are so high but the employee churn rate keeps spiralling upwards.  If metrics are what it takes to land some investment for improving employee experience, so be it. And if it actually helps identify employee pain points and improve on them, fantastic. But at the end of the day, the biggest factor that keeps morale up might be remembering that employees are humans—and humans need to feel crappy sometimes. They need to rest. They need to spend time making and eating nourishing food. That can be acknowledged in-house, at zero cost. Technology might be able to augment our understanding of morale, and even provide a framework for how leaders can manage it. But making morale-building an entirely tech-led process might end up missing the simple human requirements of what ‘employee experience’ is aiming for. Keep watching those Ted Talks. 

Have you invested in any ‘Morale-as-a-Service’ tools? Share your morale-boosting success stories, tech or otherwise, in the comments.

Top Answer :

Leadership Under PressureLeadership Under Pressure

Leadership pressure: What are the causes and how do leaders cope, especially during a generational crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic?

Does your organization have separate approaches to internal and external customer experience?

Top Answer : I definitely think there are different ways to approach it based on whether we’re dealing with internal or external customers. But I feel like IT organizations’ internal customer satisfaction is always really high because you don't bite the hand that feeds you. People want to be prioritized in the IT world. They want to make sure they're getting their work done, so I always feel like internal customer satisfaction is a bit higher than it really is because especially in a small IT organization, you have to keep the team happy. So there’s some prioritization for internal customers when it comes to submitting your request. I don't think that's the way it should be but that's what happens. For external customers, it's definitely much harder to get high satisfaction scores. You want people to be happy with the ROI that you're providing to a customer and it's much harder to get that high level of customer experience and customer satisfaction.

What are the best customer experiences you’ve had?

Top Answer : My best customer experience was with my bank account when I was on vacation. Somehow my credit card numbers were stolen and I got a text message saying the card was used to buy something on a flight. It was only $7 but they caught it. They put the hold on the card, credited me the $7 and sent me a new card. It was there by the time I got home, I didn't have to call anyone. That is security done right: They caught a fraud transaction and handled it without needing me to pick up a phone. I didn't have to call anyone. Airlines also do a great job with customer experience when flights get rescheduled and they have to reshuffle people. They just do it with an automatic email. These are examples of great customer service where they've gone through that experience and are thinking about the customer before the customer even needs to call them.

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Will the pressure from recent major ransomware attacks add to employee burnout in an industry that already faces a talent shortage?

Top Answer : Absolutely. InfoSecurity is already a highly prone industry to burn-out and this 24/7/365 pressure cooker will only add on top of it. Mental and physical health is one of the aspects that aren discussed often though there are folks who are championing it big time to bring visibility to this silent crises  who does much to share and highlight this issue that teams face.

What are your biggest concerns about letting your employees work remotely?

Top Answer : Couple of challenges  1, Trust building 2. Managing teams remotely and evaluating their performance 3. Building the office culture. Having said that WFH is the right choice in this pandemic

How have you approached onboarding in a remote working environment?

Top Answer : I would say onboarding new employees does not work well in our remote environment at all. As somebody who has been onboarded in a remote environment and who's tried to onboard other people in a remote environment, it does not work. It's not the same. I’d wondered at first if this is a generational issue, whereby the younger generation coming into the workforce were always digital natives and used to developing relationships with people digitally. But I read recently that this same group entering the workforce in their early 20s does want to go to the office because they're losing so much opportunity to connect with people, develop relationships and get that intrinsic learning by observing.

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Should merger & acquisition (M&A) initiatives be waterfall or are there ways to make them agile?

Top Answer : Because I'm an incident response guy, my view of mergers and acquisitions tends to be rather myopic. I don't know they're happening until somebody knocks on my door and says, "What do you know about X?" So it's difficult for me to figure out how to lean manage something like that because when you acquire or merge with another company, you're on a regulatory deadline and a purchase deadline more than anything else.  You still have your program with all the steps, and now you just have to determine the timeframe needed to get them all done. And will you cut corners? Or will you say, "This will be the minimum viable product (MVP) plus one"—which is a phrase I hate because when you add a Git to plus one, I've yet to see that happen. But you still have the same number of steps and you have to get them all done or somebody has to sign off on the risk.

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Will AI negatively impact the workforce at large?

Top Answer : It's a big debate that starts to get into the philosophical aspects—AI is automation, so will it take away jobs? Manufacturing is a perfect example: Everything in that space is automated now, which took away jobs. But that's okay because you can reskill people.

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What can tank the agreement process during a contract negotiation?

Top Answer : Payment terms. We went from 90 to 110, 120, and now 180 to those who hold little power over us. We’ve had vendors walk away when they found out they wouldn’t be paid at those durations