When we think of most emerging technology, we cast our minds to Silicon Valley. However, employee engagement software Culture Amp was born out of Victoria, Australia.
Not only was the company’s geography against the grain, but so was its business model. The founders began by outlining what they wanted their company culture to be, before diving into the technology behind an employee experience tool.
UNLEASH sat down with Nick Matthews, VP and general manager of Culture Amp, to discuss what the company does for its clients, the importance of employee experience, and how the role of HR has changed over the last decade.
During the ‘Great Resignation’, employees have reconsidered how they approach work physically and mentally. Questions have been raised about what benefits employees should have access to and how they can be implemented to best help retain talent.
Matthews notes that this is part of a changing perception of HR: “HR used to be a not very cool, not very important, perceived part of the business. I think you’re starting to see that no, that is not the case.
“Organizations are truly saying HR’s having the same moment, that sales, marketing [for example] have had.
“We’re seeing that people are coming from marketing, sales, operations are going into HR – it’s becoming a really important C-level role.”
As HR has moved up in the consciousness of businesses there has been an abundance of challenges to face. Culture Amp is helping employers collect data on, and solve these problems.
Culture Amp collects data on employees and helps companies create and better their culture. However, all companies are at different stages when it comes to defining their culture.
Matthews explains that small organizations can, at times, have the luxury of having time to sit down and define its culture. Often, defining a culture can become more complicated with older and large institutions.
He notes that when working with a large enterprise Culture Amp often asks: “Okay, what does what does good look like for you?”
What some organizations reply, according to Matthews is, “actually having a true understanding of what our people think”.
“Some people have never run an employee engagement survey, that really means they’ve never really had a true sense of what their employees actually think.
“As you go down the maturity curve [for] some of these more traditional businesses” Matthews claims that often companies run a survey once every three years.
While that is exciting for Matthews, “it also means that we have to be really flexible in terms of being a coach.”
By understanding where an organization is in terms of employee engagement, Culture Amp can then begin helping to solve the problem areas that have been identified.
Diversity and engagement
A common issue HR always faces, but is especially difficult as the pandemic draws to a close, is a lack of diversity at work.
Matthew notes that a lack of diversity and inclusion has been a “huge problem” within businesses and it has only been worsened by COVID-19.
He adds that while the government can help, businesses and their HR departments need to actively address dwindling numbers of women and minorities in the workforce post-pandemic.
“What we found is a lot of organizations don’t even have that demographic information.
Matthews states that while the sex of a worker and their role may be known to an organization, often their race, background, or sexuality is a mystery.
As a result, companies are not understanding how their decisions and policies are impacting specific groups of people.
Culture Amp has attempted to directly address this issue with its diversity and inclusion tool.
Matthews explains that the tool enables them to “capture those demographics, then do some engagement type of reporting.”
“For most organizations, we’re really at the ‘how can we start when you don’t have the data? How can you possibly start to identify which groups are most not at risk?’ [and] that tends to be a really big project.”
Matthews notes that there tends to be a “nervousness” about doing these kinds of employee engagement surveys and integrating the data into a proactive plan.
While there is a movement to improve diversity and inclusion, “there are many many years to go before organizations truly sort it [diversity and inclusion].”
“We try and help with that first step of saying, capture that data, know who your veterans are, know who your single parents are.
“There’s a full spectrum of LGBTQ+ experiences that are truly meaningful now, in terms of having company policies and the type of workplace you are. Even just asking, makes people feel heard, and included.
“It’s amazing, when you really go through the list of those demographics, you can just see people are like, ‘I have never even thought to ask that’, but these groups exist within the organization” and their needs are important.
Matthews concludes: “I think that’s a big shift where people are much, much more comfortable being themselves. But do they actually know that the company truly knows?”
In terms of engaging employees, Culture Amp does this by demonstrating a feedback loop and monitoring staff. Where this differs from traditional surveys is the response and goals that are.
Matthews uses an analogy: “I go into toilets that have those kinds of smiley faces and I always think to myself ‘it doesn’t actually matter what I press, but you’d like to think they work’.”
“There’s no feedback loop where I know, as a user of that system, whether it actually has led to a change.
Matthews explains that employees understanding that action is being taken and their thoughts are listened to is important in their satisfaction.
Value to business
Giving employees feedback has an obvious impact on their engagement with work, but there are additional benefits for businesses.
Matthews recalls: “I actually interviewed someone yesterday, who said: ‘I know that when I’m happier and more engaged, I’m much more efficient and productive in my job'”. He felt that the interviewee had “summed up far better than I could’.”
“Effectively if you were an organization of 20 people, 100 people, 10,000 people, that [improved engagement and efficiency] makes a big difference.
“That could be everything from; if you’re a company that has big consumer operations, like retail, the way that someone interacts with you on the front line is a customer’s experience of that brand.
“In fast food, you see those brands, where they’ve got a really strong sense of employee engagement communications, you feel it as a customer coming in. [Conversely] you know there are ones where you’re like, ‘nope, that is not what they’re operating on’.”
“Over time, you’re seeing people gravitate towards those [culture-focused businesses] as customers and also as employees” adds Matthews.
Additionally, he notes that if someone suggests that they are dissatisfied with their employment “there is a very high, [maybe] 70% chance that they will not be here” next year.
When businesses suffer from turnover they have to calculate the cost of onboarding and the loss of productivity.
Culture Amp helps companies do this through “an attrition analysis tool that sucks all the data up and says, ‘you’re probably going to lose X amount of money if these people leave and they’re in these particular geographies or areas’.”
Culture Amp is undoubtedly reflective of a switch in focus from C-level leaders who are now seeing the value of engaged employees and the cost of staff shortages.