HR Happy Hour 502 – Measuring the Human Resources Experience

Hosted by

Steve Boese

Co-Founder of H3 HR Advisors and Program Chair, HR Technology Conference

Trish Steed

CEO and Principal Analyst, H3 HR Advisors

About this episode

HR Happy Hour Episode 503

Hosts: Steve Boese, Trish McFarlane

Guest: Marcus Buckingham, Global Researcher, ADP Research Institute

This episode of the HR Happy Hour is brought to you by Paychex, one of the leading providers of HR, payroll, retirement, and software solutions for businesses of all sizes.

Financial capital has long been established as a key driver of business performance, but today, business leaders are increasingly recognizing the importance of their human capital in driving success. Download Paychex’s latest guide to discover why breaking down the silos between HR and finance can result in better business strategy and growth, as well as 14 simple HR metrics your teams should be tracking, and why.

To download the e-book, visit  

This week, we discussed the latest research from ADP Research Institute surrounding human resources’ impact on a company’s talent brand.

– Research Report – The HRXPS: How to measure the performance and impact of HR through the lens of the employee experience

– What are the measures of effectiveness of HR

– The link between employee satisfaction and employee promotion

– Where can companies start and implement the HR Experience?


To learn more, visit

Thank you Marcus, for joining the show today!  Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts.

Transcript follows:

Steve 0:09
Welcome to the HR Happy Hour show with Steve and Trish. Trish, we have a great topic today and a fantastic guest waiting in the wings. We’re going to be talking about some of the very latest research from ADP surrounding Human Resources impact on a company’s talent brand. You probably know already who our guests is, but we’ll introduce them in a second. Trish, I have a question for you though. I am a sneaker person maybe almost a sneaker head, close I’m getting there probably. So here’s my question to you. Which Sneaker brand or style is your go to? Are you Nike, are you Adidas, New Balance, something else? What do you got?

Trish 0:48
You know, I like this question actually. I am a diehard Adidas fan my whole life and if you looked at my closet the majority are Adidas, but I actually just bought a pair for my daughter and I think I need to go get some for me and you might have seen the new commercials that just came out like a week ago. Steve Madden it’s called the Madden verse. And they’re like okay, they are like well the ones she got her like nude colored tennis shoes with sparkly crystals.

Steve 1:17
Probably why I don’t know that one.

Trish 1:19
That’s probably why, but in case you’re looking for any kind of sparkly tennis shoes, it’s a new thing, it’s the Steve Madden line. It’s all over social media and the TV right now so I think I’m gonna join the Madden verse for a little bit. How about you?

Steve 1:34
I’m an Adidas person as well but I will shout out my last pair. I just bought them before HR tech. I wore them casually, not at HR Tech, but I bought a pair of New Balance Todd Snyder collaboration shoes. Really cool, not your old grandpa’s New Balance shoes.

Trish 1:53
You know what, it’s interesting you mentioned New Balance. I did buy a pair a couple months ago when I was with our friends Madeline Laurano and Chris Havrilla. We were in Boston and I bought some, like they’re like white patent leather New Balance.

Steve 2:06
We will cover all this and more on our other podcast, Sneaker Daily. Let’s get on to the show. We have a very special guest today, Marcus Buckingham. He’s a global researcher focused on unlocking strengths, increasing performance and pioneering the future of how people work. He’s the author of two of the most best selling business books of all time. As Harvard business reviews, most circulated industry changing cover articles, and strength assessments have been taken by over 10 million people worldwide. He currently guides the vision of ADP Research Institute, as the head of people in performance research, and is widely considered the world’s leading expert on talent at work, Marcus, welcome to the HR Happy HourShow. How are you?

Marcus Buckingham 2:47
I’m doing amazing. How are you all?

Steve 2:50
Great to see you. Very lucky for us, you were one of the keynote speakers at HRTech. Yeah, a month ago now. So it was great to see you in person. And thanks again for being here today.

Marcus Buckingham 3:01
My pleasure.

Steve 3:03
Question of the day, Marcus. I know we came quick on you. You’re fashionable guy though. I’ve seen you in person a number of times you might have an opinion on this. The question today is what sneaker do you like?

Marcus Buckingham 3:19
I’m not a Nike guy, really. And I’m not an, what we call an England, Addy das rather than Adidas. I’m a Salomon guy. Good right there. Like you don’t really have to do the laces up or anything. And they just got a little zip thing because and then it’s a technical term. And then you kind of set for life and they just last a really long time. So I’m a big Salomon fan.

Steve 3:51
Alright, I love it. Marcus. Well, anyway, great to have you here. We’re here to talk about some very new research that you did share some of the highlights of HR Tech a couple of months ago. It’s all around the Human Resources experience, and more specifically, the Human Resources experience score, which is a new metric that you and the ADP Research Institute have developed to help HR organizations understand their impact on people and the organization. Before we dive into some of the really interesting findings of the research, maybe Marcus, if you don’t mind, give us a little context around the motivation. The drivers, you know, when you’re sitting around noodling in the office a couple of years ago, or a year and a half ago about what you wanted to research next. How’d you land on this?

Marcus Buckingham 4:32
Well, we’ve heard from a number of different CHROs, and I’m sure you’ve heard this to both of you is that everyone in the HR function was to know is what we’re doing making a difference. Is it working? We invested in all this new technology we invest in all these new HR transformations and programs. Is it working? And there are a number of things that we can look at in the world of HR that help us understand our impact, we can look at countable things like lost workdays or accidents on the job or number of days to fill openings. But in terms of employee sentiment, I mean, obviously, Josh and Jason and others have been talking about, about the employee experience, and what is the employee experience. And in tight labor markets like today, we all are fascinated, frankly, by what employees really feel about all manner of things. But in this case, in terms of HR was like, Well, where is the measure of employee sentiment, about the experience of HR. And if you look around, you discover and my grandfather was in HR, my dad was an HR, I’ve been in HR my entire career. It’s weird, we’re in 2021. And there’s no reliable way to measure the sentiment of employees as it relates to their experience of HR, and therefore no way to really understand what HR drives or doesn’t drive or what drives it.

Marcus Buckingham 5:43
So I don’t mean in terms of some of the countable things, right. But in terms of the sentiment, how does HR affect people’s experiences at work? Maybe the answer to that question is not at all. Like that could be a legitimate like, not at all, I don’t care doesn’t matter, or, but it doesn’t matter. And oh, you know what, just put any particular tool in front of me, and I’ll be fine. Thank you very much. I want total self serve, I don’t even want to deal with HR. Like that could have been a legit set of findings. But to be frank, what started this research was going on my word, HR hits, sort of every aspect of my life at work. And yet, we don’t have a reliable way of understanding like a thermometer is what I call it a thermometer to measure how people experience the HR function at work, we didn’t have a way to do that. So we set out to try and find a way to build something that would enable us to do that.

Trish 6:34
Yeah, I’m excited to for you to dig into the results, Marcus, because I think having been in that HR seat for a long time, part of me feels like oh, wow, this could be a little scary. If I’m in HR, right, hearing what people think. And if they think I’m effective in my role, or the tools, and technologies I’m putting in front of them are effective. But then sort of the other part of me is thinking, wow, we’ve always wanted a way to deliver learning or education or skill development for HR professionals and for our people function. So what better way to do it? So I’m excited for you to kind of dig in, can you maybe start with some of those those main categories of of your report? Because I feel like you’ve really broken human resources and the interaction that employees have with them down if you could maybe go over this?

Marcus Buckingham 7:26
Yes. So we are trying to build a psychometric instrument to measure sentiment and there’s a standard way to do it, you start off with what’s called primary qualitative research, which is really just doing a bunch of interviews and focus groups really, when you hear people talk about what the what the HR function does for them what it doesn’t, do you hear that vernacular, there’s slang that stories or anecdotes from that, then you build a list of questions that you actually use some of the vernacular that you’ve just heard. And you ask them on a scale of one to five, and then you deploy those to a number of different samples around the world to see basically, which questions work, which questions are redundant from one another, or which questions you think are gonna work, but actually don’t generate any variance at all, they just generate a bunch of threes, or fours, but there’s no fives there’s no ones. So you’re always looking for which items really work, we took our initial set of 70 items and deploy them to 33 odd 1000 people around the world.

Marcus Buckingham 8:26
And for different samples, so sometimes when you when you ask the questions of one sample you the statistics are sort of spurious and it just comes up with a relationship. But it’s only by exposing it to many different samples that you can begin to see whether or not your pattern of relationships is stable. And in the end, we we cold, that 70 list of 70 items down to 15. And not that the other sort of 55 didn’t have some use, but they weren’t as powerful in terms of what they can explain the nice 15. And these 15 are basically arranged to measure five distinct experiences. So if you sort of sat around a coffee and theorized about, well, what are the elements of the experience that people have of HR, we could all have a theory about it, which is fine. But from our research from this sort of 32,000 33,000 people around the world, we ended up with five as measured by these 15 items, three items per experience. And it’s a bit like a Maslow Hierarchy of Needs in some respects.

Steve 9:24
That’s kind of the largest interrupt when I read through these, you know, I read the report. I was like, wow, Maslow is coming back to get us again. Right, I felt a little bit of that.

Marcus Buckingham 9:33
Yeah. And Maslow, obviously, by the way, I mean, he derived a lot of his theories, and they were theories. He didn’t have any data from actually studies of Native American societies and how they think about health and thriving. And there’s some really deep sort of millennial long wisdom inside of that hierarchy. For us. This wasn’t theoretical, it was just derived from the data. So it’s like this is actually there’s, you sort of have to hit the things at the bottom. Before you can hit the things at the top, the bottom is give me what I need my HR function, I want to, I want to get the most basic things that I need to be able to do my job. If you hit that, then the second level is made me feel psychologically safe. Can I share my confidence is joy, fear retribution? Like those kinds of things I need to feel like HR is, is making me psychologically more safe. The third level is does he understand me? Does it understand me? Does it value me? I’m an individual, did they get me the level above that is growth? Do you help me grow, I know that growth is a function of on the job learning and my manager and blah, blah, blah, but can HR position itself to help me know how to advance my career. And if you hit all those, then basically, you pop out the top. And you say, I deeply trust, HR and deeply trusted HR cares about me. So that’s kind of the those five experiences that that make up at least from the research that we’ve done, I wouldn’t dream of saying it’s finished. It’s pretty comprehensive, though. It was really some some some detailed qualitative focus groups and interviews, and then these interviews around the world. So we’ve got something here that is data based around what people expect and want out of their HR function.

Steve 11:12
Your bootstrapping markets, as well as the kind of the call out or not the call out, really, but just the reminded me of some of the Maslow stuff was these five experience categories. There, I don’t say they’re obvious, because that’s probably not the word to say. But they’re not complex. They’re fairly simple to grasp and to understand, if you’re thinking about how I’m designing an HR function, and how I’m designing experiences that I want to provide my employees that that, that I understand what these categories are, they’re, they’re not super complicated, I thought struck me as well.

Marcus Buckingham 11:45
No, it’s not as though the those five experiences themselves are mind blowing. They’re almost confirmatory. We are humans. And we expect our human resources function to deliver on some basic human experience expectations. And here’s what they are. And they are sort of hierarchical. So if you were the CHRO, or if you’re a senior HR practitioner, to go, Listen, give me what I need, make me feel safe, help me feel understood, maybe helped me or help me grow, help me then feel like I can completely trust that you care about me? You wouldn’t as an HR practitioner, go Oh, my word you’d go? No, you know what, we probably better make sure that we’re attending in some way to one or more of those five. Yeah, the question then what was that? What was a big discovery for us was? Well, once you’ve got because remember, we can measure those five things with these 15 questions, we got a thermometer, then the question was, what does it drive? And what drives it? And I think there was like, oh, that’s where we got rocked back on our heels a little bit in an interesting and I think an important way.

Trish 12:54
You know, could you maybe talk a little bit about that? And I’d also be curious, of all of the five are any, weighted more heavily? Did you find in in your research? Or does that depend on maybe the organization and the culture itself? Or did you find that it’s sort of, you know, a pretty even distribution of importance of each of those five elements?

Marcus Buckingham 13:20
Well, it wasn’t as though one was more important to the five, it was more that there was a sequential building. So if you don’t give me what I need, or you don’t make me feel safe, then don’t try to help me grow. Right? If you don’t really help me, give me what I need, then you tell me, I really understand you. And it’s like, no, you don’t like give me the basic stuff that I need to be able to get my work done. And then make sure that I don’t feel like I’m about to be undermined by HR, like, I need to trust that you’ll make me feel safe. So it’s more about a sequence. But once you have that sequence, it’s what was interesting for us, of course, is you can you can take people’s answers to those 15 questions, and we can put you into one of three categories. Number one, do you see HR is value promoting? Second category is do you see HR as performing and the lower categories? Do you see HR is actually valued, depleting? Value, detracting? Like, it’s actually harming my experience of work. And so in the report, and by the way, as you know, but but listeners may not that anybody wants to dive into the detail of the technical report, we’ve got it all at For those who like doing or in being interested in this line of research at was our attempt is our attempt to provide kind of a, a non biased, completely objective view of the world of work. That’s the only reason we’re doing this research. I don’t have any other agenda. I’m not pushing a product. I’m not trying to do marketing. It’s just like, go there. If you want to know what’s real in a world where frankly, there’s a ton of opinion, but we don’t know what’s real.

Marcus Buckingham 14:49
So, one of the biggest discoveries I think we found from from this research was that those people that see HR as value promoting are far more likely to address The company is a place to work to friends and family. So now, intuitively, you know, Steve, to your point, it’s like, didn’t we know this before? Yeah, we knew that, on some level intuitively, we knew that HR was relevant to how people viewed the company. But to be able to quantify that and go, you know, what, if you, if you are doing things that get people to strongly agree about those five experiences, they are far more likely to advocate the company to friends and family. That’s talent brand, HR experience drives talent brand, and it doesn’t just drive talent brand through your team or your team leader, which somebody might say, they might say, well, it’s not really a function of HR is a function of my team. Well, actually, we asked all 33,000 people, our eight team questions which are eight engagement, pulse questions, which we know vary by team and are really good thermometer for how I view my team. And so we could then go, Well, how much of your HR experience is basically filtered through your team leader or your team. And they asked their questions 51%, which is not nothing, and is probably what we would Intuit anyway. But that means 49% of your experience of HR not explained by your team leader, which basically means you can have an amazing relationship with your team leader, and hate HR, and then not advocate the company, as opposed to work or flip that around, you could have an amazing experience with HR and have actually a rotten experience with your team leader. And the experience with the with HR is a bigger driver of talent brand, than your experience with your manager. So for the first time, the HR function, and this is why if I was an HR practitioner today, I would take these data and just run down the hall to my CEO, or better yeah, my CFO, and go, if we think that having a really positive talent brand today is an important capital or competitive advantage for us, then we’ve got to think about how HR is delivering value. Because if we do that, right, our talent brand goes up. And if we do it wrong, as shown here, it goes down. So that that was a very important thing to quantify. Even though we might have many of us have intuited, it’s important to quantify and go now if we get this right with HR, Oh, my word, we’re much more likely to have a positive and growing talent brand.

Trish 17:16
Yeah, that’s important, too, that you mentioned to be able to take that especially to the CFO. Because, you know, for many years, you’ve seen lots of reduction in force of HR departments, for example. And if it’s usually the frontline is who the employees are having the most interaction with, if they are interacting, you know, they’re not dealing with the CHRO every day, or even an HR manager, it’s often those the generalists or the benefits specialists or the recruiters right with your candidates. So right, but those are the places we’ve always cut or been told to cut. So I like the idea of even being able to use this data to go to the CFO and say, Look, you know, you’re wanting me to cut or we have cut, here’s the reason why we need to build that back up.

Marcus Buckingham 18:00
That’s right. I mean, and we, as HR practitioners, that the three of us, it’s like, well, we could sort of sit around and a pine about it. But we didn’t just ask about talent brand, we asked whether or not you were actively looking for a job, we asked whether or not you had intend to leave, because we could also deploy this inside of 60,000. People at ADP, because ADP funds the institute, so I could just turn around and go, let’s see whether they did leave. So three months afterwards, after you took the survey. And what we now know is if you are a value promoter, someone who sees HR as value promoting, you are much less likely to have any intent to leave, and 1.6 times less likely to actually leave. So if you wanted to walk down the corridor to the CFO, you know, historically with HR, we’ve tended to see HR is something that brings friction and brings cost. And so we’ve all been sort of challenged to reduce the friction and reduce the cost. And there’s some some wisdom to that. What we haven’t really dove into is how do we see HR as a value creator? And and should we be looking at HR as where are the underutilized opportunities to add value to our business? Well, if we can show that people who see HR as value promoting are more likely to advocate talent brand, more likely to not be considering leaving and less likely to actually leave. Well, now all of a sudden that conversation with the CFO is really different. You’re not having to kind of persuade her or him. Theoretically, you can go listen to people think that HR is value depleting, best of luck attracting anyone and best of luck keeping anyone those things important to you. Do you know how much we spend on recruiting to find them bring the right people in? Do you know how much time it costs too much money it costs to train these people up CFO and your your your strip mining? The thing that could help us do that better? I mean, obviously you wouldn’t take that.

Steve 19:56
So true because Trish and I earlier today as we record this, but today we did a video show and we shared we talked about Deloitte and Fortune magazine survey of CEOs. Their number one challenge is recruiting retention, number one talent. They thought that had the potential to be more disruptive to their business over the next 12 months than anything to do with COVID, or the pandemic. That was the number one issue. Right. So its primary for sure, Marcus, if you’ll indulge me, I want to bore the listeners with data. But I want to share one data point I took I wrote a note about before the show I want to talk about when you break down the results to say, Okay, what’s my percentage of folks say, at least in the US value, think of HR is value promoting what percentage thinks that HR is really just performing? And what percent comes in at valued attracting, it’s kind of close to like a normal distribution about a quarter, consider HR is value promoting about half a little more than half it’s just performing and just under a quarter it valued attracting I thought was interesting, right? Because we see so much in the world and in data that kind of follows that some outliers, everybody else kind of in the middle, and then some at the end, it wasn’t terribly different globally was a little bit fewer value promoting numbers globally. Then the other thing, I think, and I’d love for you to talk about this, Marcus, you talked in this in the report about what characteristics didn’t really matter to the HR XPS score. So I like that the report said that to said, here’s what we think actually matters. Here’s what we don’t think matters. Because I think some of these things, we can be tempted to spend a lot of time on and be concerned about. I’d love for you to maybe comment about what really didn’t matter too much in in HR XPS.

Marcus Buckingham 21:33
Yeah, well, that’s where you always begin is you start by going well, let’s let’s look at the usual suspects. And then let’s sort of that’s put them through our analytical lens and see whether or not they are actually usual suspects. So once you build a thermometer, the first question you asked, because we were just talking about is what does it drive? It does drive some really quite significant things that are valuable to the business. And then and then the next question, obviously, is well, what, what, what drives it? Like? How do we, if it’s important, how do we get more of them? And so you start looking at these usual suspects? Education, education level, does that drive if I know your education level? Do I know probably what you’re going to say to the HR XPS questions? No. Do I know that over time, people just come to love HR more? No. Now that’s true for four measures of inclusion. It’s true for measures of engagement, it is not true. For measures of HR experience, the fact that you’ve been with a company eight years doesn’t seem to have it doesn’t gradually just build up that HR becomes amazing. That isn’t, that isn’t. So there is some something to do with level where there is some difference in terms of level but but actually, that difference is mediated through something else, which we can get to in a minute.

Marcus Buckingham 22:48
So really what level you’re at doesn’t really help me know whether you see HR is value promoting or not. Age doesn’t help me know gender? Doesn’t if you’re a man or woman or women love Hmm, no, that isn’t necessarily so men love Hmm, no, that isn’t necessarily so. So type of work full time versus part Oh, all the full time people love HR, but all the part time people think it’s value depleting. No, that’s not true. So, type of work, sort of tenure, gender, age, those kinds of things don’t seem to matter terribly much at all. There is some relationship to company size, where for some reason, and I don’t know if I would take this to the bank, but for some reason companies between about 500 and 1000 seem to be more or less slightly more likely to see HR as value promoting, as opposed to very small companies, or very big companies. I don’t know that that is it isn’t statistically significant. Is it practically meaningful? I don’t think so it might be one of those spurious things that’s just a function of this particular study. But at the moment, all those things that we just mentioned, don’t seem to affect that HR experience thermometer. Not that they’re not interesting, but they don’t seem to affect how you view HR.

Steve 24:08
So then the follow up then Marcus right is what does matter. And this is where when I first learned about this study, before it was released, when we talked months ago, as we were talking about bringing this to HR tech, you share with me some of the preliminary findings. And and they were really kind of stunning to me back then, especially coming from a technology point of view, which is generally where I come from. We’re seeing so much of the effort investment in initiatives around automating HR processes, driving more processes out to people to sort of control and manage themselves, or relying on technology, whether it’s AI or a chat bot or some other form of a tool to kind of help people experience HR. I’d love for you to share what you found about what characteristics really do matter to the HR XPS score.

Marcus Buckingham 24:58
Yes, well, the first one we asked people, do you have a single point of contact? Do you have multiple points of contact? Do you have increasingly no contact at all? Because it’s all mediated through tech. And frankly, when you go into this, you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to find. I don’t even know what the theory was going in with that question. Because you could imagine kind of any one of those three things being, you could, you could imagine a story in which any one of those three things has a strong effect on HR XPS. But it turns out that the one that has the strongest relationship to your HR XPS score, is single point of contact, that employees are more likely to see HR as value promoting, if they also say they have a single point of contact. Now, does that mean a single person point of contact or a single technology point of contact, we would need to explore that I think all the more. But what it does seem to suggest is that human beings are craving somebody who understands me as a full human being, you can hand me off almost immediately to some Center of Excellence, or some technology or some vertical, or some call center in Arizona, if you want to. But to begin with, I want somebody that knows my name, or somebody that knows what job I do, or somebody knows if I’m married or not, if I have kids or not dependents on, I just want somebody who actually knows me as a full human being before you hand me off to a Benefits Administration person, or, or a family leave of absence person or whatever it is a bit like in hospital, as we talked about before, you know, when you go to hospital these days, it’s sort of disconcerting, when you realize that you’re just seen as an organ, you know, you’re the gallbladder and room 302.

Marcus Buckingham 26:37
And it’s alarming, because you’re not like I’m not a gallbladder in 302, I’m a I’m a human being, which is why I’m actually many hospitals have created a doctor role called the hospitalist Would you believe, who’s just designed to be your quarterback, they’re your health quarterback, who can translate what radiologists said or translate what the therapist said, or, or what the surgeon said, and make it kind of come together for you? Well, HR is kind of in that spot where we’ve moved away from the 30 years ago, the HR generalist which, okay, that makes sense. But we might have moved a little bit further away from what humans crave. And as you look at those five experiences, one way to deliver those experiences clearly quite well is to have someone know you as a full human. And then you feel like you might get what you need, and you feel safer and you feel understood. And you feel like someone’s helping you grow. In the end, you go HR, trust me, because I know Brian, or Janie or whoever it is, I know them. And they know me. So one of the interesting things for the HR function to consider moving forward is how do we we can’t just dismiss that human need, just like hospitals couldn’t go well. We don’t know what a hospitalist doctor ever forget that because patients were continually saying my experience on hospital take patient ratings very seriously because they lead to patient outcomes. You can’t just pretend that patients don’t want a quarterback they do just like the work HR or the CFO can’t pretend our people don’t really want a one person to really understand. Yes, they do. Now, how do you execute that? can technology help do that? And then the answer to that question is yes. But how do we do that? isn’t really a question of the last? Now you may guys may disagree with this. But it doesn’t seem as though that’s been the most pressing question. In the HR world in the HR tech world. How do we make someone feel like there’s there’s a quarterback for how do we do that in a cost effective way? technology enabled? How do we do that? I don’t know. Anybody, HR tech is we’re walking the floor the other day? I don’t know that. That’s the most pressing question. And yet of this, you know, 32,000 people in the world, that’s the biggest, excuse me, that’s the biggest driver of whether or not you see HR as value promoting, okay, that’s if I was the Deloitte human capital practice, I would be all over that like a rash. Because it’s like, how do we do HR transformation to attend to that basic human need? So that’s the first one.

Steve 29:08
Two things. Chris ran HR in a hospital for a while. So she has some context on that example, too, but just you just as an HR leader herself, too. Yeah, I agree with you, Marcus. But I’d love to hear what Trish says too.

Trish 29:21
You know, I was thinking even before that I spent the largest chunk of my career at at PwC working in human resources and it’s interesting, we didn’t even call ourselves as before business partner was a title or I guess I was a generalist, but really, I was just their HR or HR person, right. And it was getting to know every single individual we didn’t set out to do it in that way, but the for all of the employees, whether my interactions with them needed to be very positive. Maybe they had done something wonderful, or whether it was something negative. Maybe they had a death in their family. They were going through a divorce. We have you know, sometimes People have alcohol issues or drug issues, or just whatever if they felt like they could trust me, Tricia, not HR, me, then they would come to me and tell me and I mean all the way from a new hire all the way up to a partner. I’ve got lots of examples. But it’s interesting because I’ve never, I’m nodding because I’ve never really thought about it in this way of measurement. And what we lacked back then, were the technology tools. And now, we focused, it seems like these last 10 or 15 years on really building up the technology. So to me, this is like that exciting frontier, where it’s like, wow, I would almost wish to go back into HR so that I could sort of free up my time using some of the technologies to handle those compliance things and the things that really, I was spending so much of my time on, and get the HR people back to where it’s all about conversations, because I can assure you when I worked in HR, you know, I remember being on maternity leave, and I was on bedrest in the hospital for a while.

Trish 31:02
And I literally had people coming to meet with me, in my hospital room, I had a guy who he just could not resign to someone else. And he felt so bad, he just had to come tell me in person, right. So to me, it’s each HR person really wanting to have that. That just super personal relationship. And the last one, I’ll tell you, and I’ll, I’ll be quiet about it. And I’d love to just get either one of your thoughts on this. But like to me when you’re doing HR, right, it’s like, they waited to terminate someone, one of the partners needed to terminate someone and the partner was located in one city and the employee was in another the employee happened to be in my city. And he had never come to HR really, I tried to get a relationship with this guy. Couldn’t get one. He was just very, you know, very standoffish over the years, and I worked there a long time with him. Long story short, his performance slipped while and it was while I was on maternity leave, they waited till I came back the day I came back, I was going to have to be there in person to let him go. And his partner was going to be on the phone. And it turns out that this guy was going through like the most horrific divorce ever, right? But he didn’t let anyone at work. No, he didn’t feel like he had to trust a person, he could even tell that he had troubles. And what we learned what we both learned, because now I know he’s gone on to do wonderful things. He’s a fantastic accountant. But I think what you learn there is you have to have that relationship, if not HR was someone because it also saves people who might be really good performers who just haven’t really difficult times. And it’s that you know, this that caring, it’s that I have someone I can trust I can they care about me they know my name, all the things you’re saying. It’s so true. This is so true.

Marcus Buckingham 32:49
Well, it’s funny, the the second finding in terms of what drives HR XPS, we ask people about did you? Did you call that a tough thing like you having to find someone? Or did you call about a good thing like you were just promoted? Or maybe it was a change in your status, you just got married or you just had a child and you needed to change some withholding or whatever it is, we asked all these. And then also, do you have onboarding? Do you have some sort of performance, frequent performance management thing? And we just asked all sorts of things to see whether or not any one of these was more important than any of the others going back to your earlier question. And what we found was that no, one thing really trumps any of the others, it’s the frequency of all of them. And if you have, if you’ve called HR for seven, seven reasons, over the last year, you are much, much more likely it’s a graph, if you look at the graph itself, it just goes up, you know, interaction one, the graph goes up, two goes up, three goes up, four goes up, it’s just your H XPS go just sort of goes up in perfect lineman, almost like the data looks fake, perfect alignment with the number of interactions with HR you have and and what that suggests that’s so weird, but it’s kind of cool is what you’re saying, which is, every single touch point with HR is an opportunity to ameliorate what, frankly, HR in a way that’s distinct from any other function has to deal with, which is the human anxiety associated with a good thing. When you’re promoted. You’re anxious, did I get that right? Am I going to start right? What’s my next 100 days? Or it’s the bad stuff I need to take a leave of absence? How do I do that? Who do I talk to? Can I do this right? Well at home, everything that we have to deal with in HR is fraught, it’s emotionally fraught. And so we could pretend that it isn’t. And that tech is going to somehow solve everything. But of course, tech well applied is an adjunct to a human interaction. It doesn’t replace the human interaction particularly when the human interaction is fraught.

Marcus Buckingham 34:46
And so HR has every single interaction point is an opportunity to convey to that person that we are here for you, and that we are attending to what experiences you want outward. You want to feel safe, you want to feel understood, and HR clearly distinct from any other function has a way and a responsibility to attend to those emotional needs that you have. And when HR does that really well, well, we, we get the talent brand uplift, we get the retention, uplift. Like we get all these good outcomes. So each interaction point is like this wonderful opportunity to think about how do we increase value for that human? How do we listen to them? Pay attention care about them? But also, we have to be competent? Where do we send them? Do we have the right centers of excellence to know exactly how to hold their hand? Am I still there to hold their hand when they get lost in that center of excellence, and they don’t know how to complete their leave of absence insurance, or whatever it is, every one of these things, we should be looking to technology to do what technology does really well, which is accuracy, availability, some sort of sometimes AI inflected prescription, which is great, but there’s nothing better than a human going, I hear you, I see you, I value you. And to your story, it’s like that poor person just didn’t feel like there was a place for going, can I tell you why I’m struggling? That I’m struggling is pretty clear to everyone. But I don’t even think I’ve got an avenue to share why. And yet all of us have been there, all of us have been there. Humans deal with human things all the time. So to me, it was what that was. So I’m sorry for running on a bit. But I’m so excited about the HR function has to reclaim its value, promoting power. And every single interaction point is a chance to add value. And we don’t we shouldn’t strip mine ourselves. which in a sense, we’ve been doing a bit of, of late.

Steve 36:58
Yeah, I agree, to me two marks that was the big takeaway, or one of the several big takeaways from the research. And to me, I, you know, I’m a dumb the HR tech person, but I am coming to learn that automation in HR is not at all like other types of automation in business, right? It’s not like supply chain automation. It’s not like financial accounting, automation. It’s not like procurement, automation, pick your automation, right? All those things, they’re fine. And they do add a lot of value to the organization. But I guess my thing is, be my mindful. And this is really read from the poor, being mindful and careful of how we apply technologies in HR, specifically around automation technologies as well, to not look to really teach not to replace HR and and take away these meaningful interactions, which the research shows are very, very important, right to people and to the organization at large.

Marcus Buckingham 37:52
Yeah, I mean, it’s the analogy that occurs to me as I look at HR is we are where financial services was 15 years ago. So 15 years ago, all the banks or the retail banks Anyway, go, Listen, we don’t need all the tellers because we could shove the ATMs in and then clients want to get their money when they want it accurately, perfectly. They don’t need tellers, and they’re right. So that’s where technology does what teller technology does really well, constant availability, perfect accuracy, great record, keeping all sorts of stuff, by the way, that HR tech needs to do well, as well. But of course, what the bank’s found is that just as HR issues of fraud, financial issues of fraud, so customers are going, that ATM can’t tell me if I need a new demand deposit account, they can’t tell me whether or not I can afford that mortgage, they can’t tell me whether or not I can transfer this saving into this trust, like, I need how because I’m an idiot financially. And so obviously, the retail banks hired actually more people in the personal banker role as personal bankers everywhere, for everybody, no matter what that balance is in their account. Why? Because banks realize that humans are anxious about money, and they need a personal banker to kind of hold their hand. Well, HR is right there. With I think we sort of over indexed on kind of ATMs will replace HR kind of, and really where we should be at is going in to know really great technology massively augments the value that the HR function can bring. But let’s not disintermediate the whole HR function as though humans don’t want to talk to another human about these really emotionally fraught issues we do we want to talk to another human. And is that just our team leader? Well, as we know, we’ve got this data which goes now it’s not just that the team leader matters, no question. Let’s not get away from that image. But there’s a big chunk of the variance of people’s experience at work that is mediated through the HR function. That well that means we shouldn’t disintermediate the HR function. We should think about the HR function with a big emphasis on the age what the humans really want from other humans. Wow. We want somebody who understands us, we want somebody who makes us feel safe, etc, etc. So That’s kind of where I see HR is living right now.

Steve 40:02
Yeah, this this is great stuff. This was one of the most interesting reports I’ve read in ages. is where you can find this. I encourage everybody to, after you listen to the show, if you haven’t already, go get this report, download and read it, share it inside your organization, share it with your HR leader, share it with your business leaders as well. I can’t recommend it more. It’s really really well done as well, just how it was presented Marcus. Anything else?

Marcus Buckingham 40:30
Well, the only thing I was gonna say yeah, the only I was gonna say see was that the we’re not sure what to do with this the monitor me. You know, as you know, I released this at HR Tech. But I really released it to try to uplift the entire HR function. I said this on stage. But it’s like this isn’t for one company or another. This is for we are trying to change the experience of people at work for the better. The HR function is a critical player in that having a thermometer to measure what people sentiment is about the HR fight, we’ve never had it, we’ve got it, it shows some interesting things. We kind of want to give it away, I kinda wanted to give it away to the entire industry, so that we can, as an industry walk down the corridor to the CFO and go, Hey, we got a reliable way to measure something that seems to be quite important. Let’s not strip mine out, because we might see more value detracting than value promoting. That’s not good for us. And that’s not navel gazing, HR stuff that’s about driving value for the business. So frankly, if you could ask your listeners always to go to what how would you want to use this? Go to Have a look at those 15 questions. The institute isn’t sure what to do with those 15 questions? How do we make them available to everybody? Can we make them available to everybody? What would the function like? I mean, that’s what the CHRO of ADP was like, let’s just ask the entire function. Remember, the ADPRI Institute, the Institute, the purpose of it is to do is to offer stuff up for the greater good, just like the National Employment Report, one could have just monetized that data. But now let’s just write economy’s function better when we know the real data about the employment market? Well, the same is true of HR. So we’ve got this thermometer, frankly, we’re not entirely sure how to make it available to people. And we want to so okay, I would love to hear from the function on how would you use it? Would you want to use it? Do you want to enter an app? Do you want it in your cereal? I don’t know. So this is really sort of day one, almost of going, Hey, let’s elevate the power and the influence and the accountability of our function? And can a thermometer like this help? If the answer is yes, then please let us know how you think you can best help. And we’ll try to figure out how to make it available.

Trish 42:50
Well, I think I love the idea. Of course, like we talked about, you know, telling your CEO, your CFO, a way I would use this is if I were still running an HR department or recruiting function, a payroll function, I would be giving that to them and going over the semi meetings with them. Because at that, that base level, recruiter, entry level recruiter or entry level, generalist, specialist, whatever their titles are nowadays, right? Because I sometimes get the sense. And I got the sense when I was in that role, that those are the people who have, like, the most interaction, potentially with your employees, but they don’t necessarily see how they fit in the big picture. And so if I were an HR leader, I would be kind of pushing this down to to my team and saying, This is exactly why I tell you, you’re important, and that every single interaction, you can’t just cash it in and be like, Oh, that annoying person just called me with this one thing. They they always need this one thing, right? I was thinking like, you know, we give them technology saying, you know, use this on your own and take care of yourself, basically. Well, sometimes people just want to be heard in much like bank tellers, right? I was a bank teller in college, a lot of people come in to cash their check on Friday, not because they have a problem, that that might be the only person they get to talk to all week is the bank teller. And that’s their relationship. And I feel like HR like that. Sometimes people just want to come and talk to you and things are neutral. It’s not good. It’s not bad. They don’t need anything. So yeah, I’d push this to my HR teams. I would put this in your meetings. I would have them talk about it on a regular basis and see how are they measuring themselves against this thermometer because I think it’s just such a great way for them to look in the mirror.

Steve 44:36
Good stuff. We’re going to put the word out, get in touch with Marcus on there and his team there to figure out what th can do to get this out there more make this more useful make make a difference, elevate the profession, elevate our organizations elevate our workplaces more. Marcus Buckingham, thank you so much for spending some time with us today.

Marcus Buckingham 45:03
My pleasure, really enjoyed it.

Steve 45:05
Great stuff, Trish. I know that this is just the start of this conversation. We’re happy to help continue that on the HR Happy Hour Show. So that’s it for the show. Thank you so much again, Marcus. Trish for you, for Marcus, my name’s Steve Boese. Thank you for listening to the HR Happy Hour Show. Get all the show archives at We will see you next time and bye for now.

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