Andrea Herron 00:02
Have you ever wondered how a company is able to offer unlimited time off or be a pet friendly office? Curious how HR leaders manage the well-being of remote or essential workforces? If so, you’ve come to the right place. Hi, I’m Andrea Herron, head of people for WebMD health services. And I’d like to welcome you to the HR scoop. On this podcast, I talk with other HR leaders to explore the world of unique employee benefits, and about the challenges of managing unique workforces. Because well-being isn’t a one size fits all approach. On this episode of the HR scoop, I’m pleased to welcome Kevin Campbell, an executive coach and E X scientist at Qualtrics. We connected on our mutual background of organizational psychology, dive into people analytics, explore why HR needs to do more storytelling, and you’ll learn why happy employees make a better tasting burrito. I hope everyone enjoys this conversation as much as I did.
Welcome back to another episode of the HR scoop. Today’s guest is Kevin Campbell, an employee experience scientist at Qualtrics, and an executive strengths and leadership coach. Welcome, Kevin, we are so excited for you to be here. Excited to be here as well. Yeah, as I mentioned, just in that very brief intro, your work is so vast and really spans kind of the entire employee experience from data to coaching. And I can’t wait to talk about all of that. So really looking forward to it. But I know, I guess just to get started. There really are so many people craving a change right now. And it is showing up all over the place in not only people resigning, but just pure career moves, you know, just trying something completely different versus doing the same thing and a different company. So are you seeing an uptick in people seeking coaching? And if so, you know, are there any main considerations or factors people are looking for in a career change?
Kevin Campbell 02:09
Yeah, that’s a great question. There is an uptick, the uptake has been steady for quite a while, even before the pandemic, there’s some interesting research from Gallup that shows that 90% of people who wanted to make a career change, had to change companies in order to do so. So someone who’s in sales, who wants to go into marketing, someone who’s an HR information systems person who would actually prefer to be an HR business partner. Most organizations don’t allow for those internal changes. So they actually have to leave that organization and go somewhere else. And that data is from 2016 2017. So to think about how much that shifted, now, given everything that’s happened, the pandemic shook a lot of things up. And it’s made a lot of people reevaluate what they wanted to life and what they want out of their career.
So a couple of the things that I find people considering whether they articulated or not, the framework that I like to use for it, is applying TLC to your career. And I don’t mean tender love and care, although that’s nice as well. I mean, talent, love and commerce. So what are you good at? Or an even better question? What do you have the potential to be the best in the world at? What do you love? Or at least what do you not mind doing on a regular basis. And commerce? Is there actually a market for the kind of thing that you want to do. And it’s important to have all three, because as you can imagine, if you’re really good at it, and you love it, but there’s no market for it, it’s a great hobby. And if there’s a market for it, and you love it, but you’re not any good at it, then that’s kind of a recipe for failure. And then if you’re really good at it, and you can make a lot of money at it, but you don’t love it, then you might be an investment banker or a lawyer and a lot of my coaching clients are investment bankers and lawyers.
Andrea Herron 04:10
I see. That is so interesting, because it’s true, right? Like a lot of businesses don’t take a chance on their own staff to try something new. It’s kind of like no, you came in as whatever job or job path even not even a specific title but a certain department or skill, and we’re not willing to let you expand, we’d rather you leave, which is the message man, I don’t think anyone overtly is saying that, but you know, we do see it sometimes with rotating internships, but then the majority of companies don’t apply that same opportunity up to their current staff. I will say one exception I have seen is with sometimes leave of absence. If there’s a two or three month period of time that someone’s going to be out that can be a really great stretch opportunity for someone is interested in getting their foot in the door? But there’s a really good point, why don’t we do that?
Kevin Campbell 05:05
You know, I think because the, at the at a higher level within the organization that makes sense, if you’re in the C suite, and you’re thinking about it from an overall business perspective, if you have someone with a lot of talent, and you see a lot of potential within that person, of course, it makes sense to say, why not routine this person, if even if we’re not going to retain them for this particular team, but at a team level, not to say that people are necessarily so self interested that they don’t think about the overall organizational health. But as humans, we can tend to be kind of myopic in our focus. And we might not be aware or incentivized to think about that person’s overall trajectory within the organization. You could even see it in talent acquisition, right if I’m a recovering Headhunter and recruiter.
So before I went to graduate school and gotten involved in Organizational Psychology, I was a recruiter and a headhunter. And, you know, at Google, they were really forward thinking to say, if you if you had someone that wasn’t a good fit for I worked at Google, if you had somebody who wasn’t a good fit for the particular role that you were looking for, but they were a good fit somewhere else that actually counted toward your overall performance metrics. But that’s not true for every organization, right that most organizations, recruiters, Headhunters, talent acquisition people, they have a wreck, and they’re trying to fill that wreck. And they’re looking at whether or not that person is a good fit for the wreck. But they’re not thinking about those bronze and silver medalists, who maybe didn’t make the exact fit for that particular job that you were hiring for, but would be great for the wreck that the recruiter sitting next to you, or maybe not sitting next to you these days. But working next to you in a virtual sense might be working on. So being able to give people those opportunities is, is a huge arbitrage opportunity for organizations that are willing to make those simple changes.
Andrea Herron 07:02
It’s a really smart approach, especially right now as there is you know, limited talent for all of the roles that everyone is trying to fill, it seems like it would be in our best interest to do that to keep your internal folks and grow them. But even to move people around within racks, assuming those people are still interested. Of course, in those positions, it’s a two way street. But again, with the rec loads and just how busy everyone is, I see where that kind of outside of the box thinking might go to the wayside a little bit. And so in those cases, then these individuals might be seeking outside employment to stretch those skills and to learn something different, or, you know, there’s a company down the street or down the virtual street that is willing to give them a chance to try something completely different.
Kevin Campbell 07:49
Yeah, yeah, actually, I worked with a client, cybersecurity firm in the Bay Area. And on their engagement survey, they found that career opportunities where the sense of having opportunities for their career was the biggest driver of engagement for some of their key talent. And they wanted to figure out, okay, well, what what can we do? How can we act on that, when you looked at their data, what you saw was this U shaped pattern of people that were there for a year, a couple years, they had really high hopes for their career with this organization. And then at about two to four years, it would drop, and then five years moving forward, you would see it start to rise again. And you see this kind of U shaped pattern in a lot of organizations. And the theory behind that is there’s usually this honeymoon period when people join. But what we looked at is, we found that when someone got promoted, if they got promoted at that one or two year mark, that honeymoon period started all over again. But that’s not a solution, because you can’t just go around passing out promotions to everybody. So then when we looked at was people that didn’t get promoted, but they changed jobs within the same level. And for those people, they were actually higher in terms of their sense of career opportunities, and the people that had been promoted, and they were higher than people that had had the honeymoon period. So there’s, there’s a huge business case for retention around that stuff, too.
Andrea Herron 09:20
Yeah, it’s personal growth and development. Aside from just me being promoted and recognized for those contributions in higher level work is very rewarding, of course. But I think people are realizing they do want growth, and they do want to continue to learn and we’re seeing that with all generations, but especially with some of the younger generations wanting to really grow and learn and continue on. So kind of sticking with the idea of these good coaching and interpersonal skills and anything that we might have called a soft skill, which I would argue is not soft at all. But you know, HR professionals aren’t really taught in a formal way how to master those They’re critical competencies for HR folks. But we also have to train other people to use those. So I’m curious how you think those interpersonal skills, coaching skills, you know, how do you think that might impact kind of this people profession or even broader company culture,
Kevin Campbell 10:19
I think it’s one of the most important meta skills you could possibly have. Because it’s a skill that unlocks so many other things. And what I mean by that is that it’s one thing to know how to do something. It’s another thing to teach others how to do the thing that you know. And coaching isn’t the same as instructing or consulting. But you’re enabling other people to come up with their own answers, and seek out their own solutions. And HR is already and you know, this better than anybody spread so thin. So, so many of the things that have traditionally been delegated to human resources are almost better.
When human resources acts as a facilitator of the conversation or the process, and enables line managers not for everything, obviously, some things you don’t want to entrust the line managers, but I think, you know, employee engagement as an example, right? How many managers delegate the full task of understanding the feedback and acting on the feedback back to their HRBPs? When engagement isn’t a survey? It isn’t that point in time of how that person feels. It’s how those people feel day in and day out. And that’s going to be dictated by their manager in their immediate team. So yeah, so the very fundamental foundational skills around deep listening, and asking powerful questions are ones that everybody could really benefit from, but especially those of us in the helping professions, especially those of us who are, who are our primary mandate is to work with people and empower others.
Andrea Herron 12:17
You know, what I love about that, that deep listening and the asking of deep and critical questions, that’s just a good human skill to have, like, even in your everyday life, it’s, it’s helpful at work, definitely. But also just as a person in a relationship with your family, or significant others or friends. You know, if you can actually help people feel heard and ask good, curious, interesting questions, you are going to deepen every relationship that you have totally 100%. But those are not easy things to do. That’s the kicker. If it was, then everyone will be good at it. Ya know, it takes patience and sitting with that uncomfortable silence sometimes.
Okay, so I know we both have a love for Organizational Psychology. And so I want to turn the conversation a little bit and talk about, you know, data and storytelling and how to really distill it down. So, you know, with so much information at our disposal, I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed and fall victim to the dreaded analysis paralysis. So when we’re we’re taking data and we’re taking these deep conversations, and we’re taking the dashboards and you know, all the information from all the digital and analog tools, you know, how, how can we use it? How can we tell meaningful stories that make a difference, versus just piecemealing? out data point by data point?
Kevin Campbell 13:47
Great question. And I think this is where coaching, and people analytics come together in a surprising way that most people might not see on the surface, with data. And with digital streams of data coming in constantly, and channels for listening that are both solicited and unsolicited, and structured and unstructured. All of the answers we could ever want, are available, the real skill of the future and the President is being able to ask really good questions. So in order to make good sense of our data, and to know what data to even collect or pay attention to or to look through, it’s really good to start with a good question. What what is it that we’re really concerned with? What our what’s our history and our aspirations as an organization?
And what is the persona of our audience, right, talk about storytelling. There’s a format to great stories, you know, the the hero’s journey, once upon a time, there was a hero who lived and If everything was right in the world, but then there was some sort of disruption. And as a result of that disruption, they grew in some way. And they discovered something that they hadn’t known before. And then as a result of that discovery, they went on a different path. And that discovery piece is where the data can come in. And as storytellers, we have to ask ourselves, who’s our audience? Because our audience is really the main character? What are their goals and aspirations? What are they after in this world? What are the challenges that are getting in the ways of those aspirations? getting in the way, the ways getting in the way of those aspirations? And how can data help give them guidance and insight into where they want to move next? And I think when we put it in those simple terms, it becomes a lot easier to seek out the specific thing that we’re looking for, right in, in science and social science. They call it heaven and a priori hypothesis. But I think in practical terms, it’s just about knowing what questions you want to have answered. And then being really intentional about looking for things that help you answer those questions.
Andrea Herron 16:11
I really like that, because, you know, I think we spend a lot of time sometimes not enough time, coming up with survey questions when we’re trying to get data from our staff. And I actually authored a blog not too long ago, on this very topic, you have to start with, what do you actually want to know? And then do your questions. Answer that are they going to give you the information that will help you respond or have an action or even know what’s going on based on the way it’s phrased the wording you’re using? I mean, all of that is so important. And then you can use the data, as you’re saying, to tell the arc of whatever story or whatever outcome it is that you’re trying to express. And then of course, you still have the data for those, you know, leaders or people that really want to know, the backup. But storytelling, I think is so undervalued currently, and I agree, it is going to be such a skill that will differentiate the great employees and the great HR folks or whoever, you know, is leading from the average ones.
Kevin Campbell 17:14
Totally. Yeah. And I mean, you know, that’s a big part of why so much feedback that gets solicited doesn’t necessarily get acted on this, because there isn’t that emotional component data in forms. But stories compel?
Andrea Herron 17:33
Absolutely. I mean, humans have survived on storytelling for all time, you know, the, our ancestors weren’t pulling out PowerPoints and Excel spreadsheets, they were telling stories that live for generations and generations. And that still matters now. So if you can work on your storytelling skills, I think it would help whatever you’re trying to influence or change within your organization. But you know, as you’re talking, I’m feeling this sense that there is a new emergence, it feels like something is growing at this intersection of data and people. And you know, even your role as an employee experience scientist or people scientists is probably something a lot of people haven’t even heard of. So I would love to have you explain to all of us kind of what that looks like.
Kevin Campbell 18:25
Yeah, IED scientists is sort of a term that’s particular to Qualtrics. But it’s usually more like a people scientist, like who moved Laszlo Box Company has people, scientists, culture, amp, a lot of firms in this tech people space will often have folks with a background like mine, and call them people scientists. And it’s sort of an emerging role. And I live in diagrams. So he’s like to think about things in terms of a Venn diagram. And I think people science and people, scientists sit at the intersection of organizational psychology, people analytics, slash data science, and practitioners slash consulting. So it’s not just about having that domain expertise in Organizational Psychology. But it’s about being able to apply that to the real world, and having just enough analytics chops, to be able to explain it to mere mortals, and do so in a compelling way and not necessarily be an analyst, but be someone who’s facile enough with analytics to be able to use it and work with data analysts to make decisions and help orchestrate that. That storytelling.
Andrea Herron 19:42
Yeah, that’s what I it’s what it sounds like, wow. Like the ultimate HR data storytelling genre of a new role. So I think this is coming. So if this sparks anyone’s interest, you know, I think there is work to be done there and the better we can start using data to be more able to come across a compelling story, the richer and the more holistic culture and well-being and you know, all the things that we strive to be and will be a little bit more influential. So we had, you know, briefly talked before about, you know, this employee listening and deep engagement. What, in your opinion is it is the solicitation to action gap? And how do the stats kind of compare with gathering feedback and how employees actually feel about it.
Kevin Campbell 20:31
So, around 90%, give or take a few percentage points of organizations have some sort of employee listening strategy, whether that be lifecycle surveys like onboarding or exit, or whether that be an employee engagement survey, whether that’s done once a year, or on a more regular basis, there’s some sort of mechanism for collecting feedback and listening and understanding employees and their sentiment. But only 7% of employees feel that their organization is very good at acting on their feedback. So there’s a huge gap between people being asked for their opinion. And that opinion actually manifested in some sort of meaningful change, or at least it feeling like there’s some sort of meaningful change happening.
Andrea Herron 21:22
It’s a really small percentage. And yet, I’m both surprised and not surprised. I think I’ve seen surveys and results and action happened to varying degrees, you know, across experiences, and companies, with the best of intentions, you know, to do the survey, and then the follow through, is so hit or miss. And I think we’ve, we all know, if you ask people enough times, and don’t do anything about it, you stop getting the feedback. So this goes back to know what you’re after your question is going to answer it? And then are you going to follow through with it? Because if if not all of those three, three things are true, you shouldn’t do it. In my opinion, would you agree?
Kevin Campbell 22:02
Yeah. Don’t Don’t ask questions that you’re not inclined to act on. And one, one interesting technique is to create mock reports of the survey questions that you have, and present them back to leaders and see how they react and ask them what they would do as a result of that. And that can really pressure test some of those, those reactions to see what people might do with the results.
Andrea Herron 22:28
Interesting, interesting, and make sure you have some accountability built in. I mean, that’s another strategy that I’ve seen work is maybe it’s maybe go right and a goal for the annual goals for managers, if you know you’re going to do a survey, but also having some accountability or follow through or committing to results in a town hall, or come all companies stand up, because people will hold you to that, and then it, you know, gives a little bit more incentive to actually follow through.
Kevin Campbell 22:58
Totally, and, you know, I think a lot of it also has to do with the loop of acting on feedback, there’s the outer loop, which is more organization wide. And that tends to take more time, you know, maybe a few months at the least, but oftentimes six months or a year or more. But there’s that inner loop with a manager and their team acting on her feedback together, that could happen in a matter of days or weeks. Or there’s that that procedural loop or a closed loop where on an onboarding survey, somebody doesn’t have their laptop or have access to some system that they need, there’s a ticket that automatically goes to it so that that can be addressed right away.
So, you know, I think a lot of times the focus tends to be on that the big what are we as an organization going to do to act on this? And that’s absolutely warranted unnecessary. But that takes a long time. So how can you manage and think about the smaller loops that don’t have as much left and you can do much more easily right? If recognition is an area of concern or opportunity on your engagement survey. Implementing a company wide recognition software is gonna take a while. But it takes virtually no time for a manager to write a handwritten note to someone to tell them how good of a job they’ve done. And in many ways that’s even more impactful than what you can do with a company wide surveys or recognition system.
Andrea Herron 24:32
So true. Like most everything else, really to humans, we are just an onion with layer after layer after layer. Okay, so I think this has been really interesting from the employee experience, perspective and great insight. Do you think there’s a connection if we push it out a bit further and talk about the employee experience and how it relates to the customer experience?
Kevin Campbell 24:56
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think we all intuitively know not that happy employees create happy customers. But I think a missing piece of that is knowing what elements specifically within the employee experience, have the biggest impact on the customer experience. And sometimes the things that we found in looking at the two data points have been really, really eye opening, and sometimes counterintuitive. Now, when it comes to any kind of data, a lot of times and in most instances, it’s correlational. So you have to take it with a big grain of salt. But I still think there’s insights that are available there. Right? If you see as a just an outrageous example, that ice cream sales go up, when sunscreen sales go up, you know, it’s not the sunscreen that’s driving the sale of the ice cream, right? I think we’re all smart enough to know, okay, it’s probably because it’s a sunny, warm day, right.
So you know, a large restaurant chain, quick service restaurant chain, we did some analysis for them. And we were looking at their different store locations. And we found that for store locations, where the frontline team members had more teamwork and collaboration, the customers said that the food tasted better. And I at first, I was kind of skeptical, I was like, oh, that’s probably just a spurious correlation probably doesn’t mean anything. But when we presented that finding back to the executives, they said, No, that makes perfect sense. Because our food is a is assembled on an assembly line, you know, somebody puts the beans in the burrito, and then the machaca, and then the, the, you know, the lettuce and the guacamole.
And the more there’s collaboration and teamwork on that assembly line, the better the burrito is going to taste, because every bite is going to have just a little bit of each ingredient. So you know, there’s, there’s little things like that, that you can start to gain insight around when you connect the two pieces that will allow you to say, of all the things that we measure, related to employee experience, what’s gonna give us the best return on improving our culture as it relates to not just improving the employee experience, but having those knock on effects of making sure that our customers have an engaging experience as well.
Andrea Herron 27:24
So interesting. And it does make sense. And I agree we intuitively know that to be the case. But I think it would be worth exploring with your employee group and your leadership team and your customers. Are you collecting customer feedback, if that applies to your organization? You know, and what might those correlations be? And maybe a survey? I don’t know, you have to find out what the questions are. Yeah. All right. Well, before we let you go, I did want to wrap it up with our final question that I do love to ask. And that would be if you have anything interesting that you’d like to share with us that most people don’t know about you.
Kevin Campbell 28:06
Most people don’t know that I was almost kicked out of Machu Picchu. Because after hiking the Inca trail for several days, if you’ve ever been to Machu Picchu, when you enter there’s a big sign that says no causing a commotion, no clapping, no yelling. And I had decided that the woman I was dating and had hiked through the Andes with for three days was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. So I got down on one knee on top of Machu Picchu and I proposed to her. And I didn’t realize that. Because of that virtually everybody that was visiting Machu Picchu that day would stop what they were doing. Look at us and start clapping and cheering.
Andrea Herron 29:00
Kevin Campbell 29:03
That’s something most folks probably don’t know about me.
Andrea Herron 29:05
Oh, that’s very sweet. And what did she say?
Kevin Campbell 29:08
She said yes.
Andrea Herron 29:09
Okay. Don’t leave is saying. Well, that is lovely. And I’m glad you didn’t get kicked out. But if you did, it probably still would have been for a good reason.
Kevin Campbell 29:20
Totally worth it would have been totally worth it. With all the respect.
Andrea Herron 29:23
Yes. All right. Well, thank you. Again, this is really interesting insight. I hope everyone takes a minute to think about their storytelling and how that might be able to improve their communication and those deep listening skills and maybe we should all strive to practice some of those deep listening and good curious question asking. So thanks again so much, and we’ll see all y’all next time. Thank you for listening to the HR scoop podcast. Please take a moment to rate and subscribe on Spotify Apple Google are directly at WebMD health services.com/podcasts.