Organisationsentwicklung Business Transformation

"We want to make work better"

Change is the characteristic of our present (working) life. Laszlo Bock, CEO of Humu, former SVP People Operations at Google and probably the world's most famous HR manager, talks about successful change and how data based nudges can help all people in a company to reduce their resistance to change.

With personalized nudges to better work: That's Laszlo Bock's approach.
With personalized nudges to better work: That's Laszlo Bock's approach.

Change a bit every day

You are working on Humu. Could you briefly describe what it is about? 

Everyone wants to be a good manager, a great employee, and to find a sense of meaning in their work. Everyone wants to be listened to, respected, and empowered to take a few creative risks. At Humu we aspire to make work better for everyone, everywhere. But to make work better, everyone has to do something differently today than yesterday. As a behavioral change company, we aim to make change easier. Our approach marries behavioral and organizational psychology with machine learning technology to diagnose the unique drivers of happiness, retention, and productivity for every organization we work with. Powered by that information, Humu’s Nudge Engine predicts and encourages the unique actions for every employee, manager, and leader that will improve the individual’s experience and the company as a whole.

Everyone wants to be listened to, respected, and empowered to take a few creative risks. But to make work better, everyone has to do something differently today than yesterday. As a behavioral change company, we aim to make change easier.
Laszlo Bock, CEO, Humu

You say you are going to measure people‘s behavior. What exactly is measured? How? 

With our custom diagnostic we measure the sentiment of each individual within an organization on a carefully curated list of statements about that individual’s experience of work. Each item is validated against independent user testing and decades of academic research to predict outcomes that are desirable to organizations. These include employee retention, happiness, productivity, innovation, inclusion, and more. We marry the information collected with HRIS data in order to predict the specific behavioral changes required to increase these positive outcomes. Once we begin nudging an organization, we look at a number of signals in order to continuously improve the nudge experience and drive behavioral change. These signals include nudge open rates, engagement within nudges themselves, self-reported action on nudges, and responses to follow-up questions.

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Wants to drive change via personalized nudges for everyone i a company: Leaszlo Bock and his project Humu.   Foto: Humu

Reduce resistance to change

What kind of knowledge will you extract from the data? Will you be able to say „Christoph is X because of Y“? 

No, we do not perform analysis at the individual level. In the effort to make work better, the privacy of individual employees is among our top priorities. We are incredibly careful only to perform and share analyses of employee information in ways that protect the confidentiality and anonymity of employee responses. And of course, anyone is free to not participate or to opt out of participating. That said, when we have enough information to perform detailed analyses in a way that protects employee privacy, our predictive analytics can shine a light on patterns of attrition, productivity, happiness, and more within an organization as a whole (and within sub-populations) and draw connections to the specific themes of those employees’ workplace experience that could be driving those outcomes.

By definition a nudge isn’t a means for control, it’s a tip to make it a little bit easier to make the right choice, do the right thing
Laszlo Bock, CEO, Humu

Is the nudge engine a local tool for the employee or a tool to control employees?

The Nudge Engine is a tool for everyone. By definition a nudge isn’t a means for control, it’s a tip to make it a little bit easier to make the right choice, do the right thing, or—in the context of work—to be the best colleague, partner, employee, manager, or leader that you possibly can be. Employees are free to ignore nudges or to choose not to receive them. We all want to be our best, and to feel happy, empowered, respected, and listened to at work. Humu’s Nudge Engine helps each person achieve those goals in a customized and contextualized way. It also happens to be the case that these feelings—of meaning, trust, empowerment, and more — are scientifically validated to increase outcomes that businesses care about. So in that way, the Nudge Engine is also a tool for employers. But we’ve designed the system to put employees first.

Everybody wants to be respected and empowered

Who evaluates the data: Employee or company? 

When employees participate in the Humu diagnostic, their data is analyzed by our algorithm and a team of highly specialized People Scientists and only shared back to companies (and individuals within those companies) in a way that carefully protects the anonymity of individual employees.

You claim to make work better. In which way? What is good work? 

We spend more time working than we do with the people we love, on our personal passions … more time than we spend doing pretty much anything else. But while the experience of work is highly personal, which makes “better” incredibly subjective, there are a few universal truths of what a “good day at work” looks like, regardless of the individual, or the industry, or the organization. These include meaning, empowerment, and trust—a sense that you find meaning in the work that you do, that you are empowered to make decisions in your work, and that there’s a sense of reciprocal trust between employer and employee.

We all seek the meaning in our work

In Germany organizational design and a new operating system for agile organizations are topic of the year. Are you part of a transformational „revolution“? Or is it just about individual change? 

A little bit of both at the same time. Humu drives the incremental, but dramatic, changes that over time lead to cultural transformation. Humu certainly makes teams and companies more agile.

Everyone has dealt with the pain of change inside of an organization. Even the best intentions to make work better can be met with resistance.
Laszlo Bock, CEO, Humu

We know that humans tend to resist change or at least to have an immunity to change. How is Humu helping to overcome that resistance/ immunity?

Everyone has dealt with the pain of change inside of an organization. Even the best intentions to make work better can be met with resistance. And it’s natural for people to resist change—especially when the choice seems to be out of our hands. What Humu does is make change easier. Our behavioral change technology, the Nudge Engine, makes small, personal recommendations that, over time, make change easier and work better. 

Humu is about nudging, as I understood. What kind of nudges are we talking about? And how individual can those nudges be? 

Nudges are highly personalized, and will, over time, become even more customized to an individual’s experience with Humu. At present, nudges are customized, contextualized, and complementary based on a team’s aggregate responses to our diagnostic — in particular in response to the diagnostic “items” that surface as most impactful to company outcomes. For example, it may surface that for a particular team at an organization, a key driver of happiness and therefore productivity is  transparency , or the feeling that employees have access to relevant, timely, and adequately explained information in order to get their jobs done. This team’s nudges will be  customized  based on this finding and  contextualized  to role type or industry. Both managers and team members will then receive  complementary  nudges to address this issue.

It's all about making work better.

Manager nudges are designed to increase the amount and quality of information the manager shares with their team around decision-making, policies, and more, whereas individual employees will be provided nudges that help them to play a more active role in seeking out and developing information flow within their team. Over time, based on each person’s interaction with our nudges, the system learns the best timing, delivery method, or motivational techniques that are likely to drive action.

Where should all the nudging lead?

To make work better, of course.

 

Christoph Pause
Christoph Pause
Chefredakteur Haufe Group

Christoph Pause ist Chefredakteur New Management bei der Haufe Group. Er ist seit fast 20 Jahren Journalist mit Leib und Seele und fasziniert von den Möglichkeiten, die eine mitarbeiterzentrierte Unternehmensführung Menschen und Organisationen eröffnet.

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