Nick Sanchez is Chief People Officer at Namely.
MK: HR technology is now used to build better teams and foster stronger relationships among key stakeholders. How are you using technology to build stronger, more productive teams at Namely?
NS: At Namely, we utilize the Namely platform for a variety of functions within the company. Namely acts as our central source of data for all employee records, along with payroll, benefits, and performance. Just as importantly, it acts as a central hub for company-wide communication, including our social feed. We have three offices and additional remote employees, so we use Namely to unify our team, wherever employees may be. One great example of fostering stronger relationships is through the appreciation feature, which employees regularly use to publicly recognize their colleagues.
While Namely is our core employee technology, we also use supplementary tools that help us increase our efficiency and build our community. Slack, for example, helps employees collaborate in real time. Google Hangouts are regularly used in meetings to help bring remote teams together. We find that face-to-face video meetings enable better interactions.
Tools like Namely, Slack, and Google Hangout have all been game-changers for us. As a Chief People Officer, it’s my job to ensure that everyone across the organization feels aligned in our mission and included in our culture—and I couldn’t do it without these tools.
MK: There’s been an explosion in real-time and pulse feedback technology for performance and engagement. Why are these systems becoming a critical substructure for businesses in terms of talent management and retention?
NS: A culture of open feedback (in multiple directions) is critical to foster a great workplace. And managers need support in providing feedback in different ways, at different times. At Namely, we use a combination of tools to foster feedback. We provide in-person learning around coaching (that is captured in our LMS), we utilize Namely for goal-setting and performance management feedback, and we partner with CultureAmp for ongoing employee feedback. We regularly utilize technology to pulse our employees, be it for benefits, talent acquisition, or performance—because accurate and up-to-date information is essential. We need to know what employees think if we want to improve on their behalf. We’re lucky enough to have a full-time data analyst on our people team, who digs into the results and help us identify areas where we can improve our employee experience.
Real-time feedback also plays a big role in our performance management practice. Employees need to know how they’re doing, so that they can continue to grow—and the immediacy of feedback matters here. Namely’s appreciation feature helps facilitate frequent positive recognition, and we also encourage people managers to hold weekly 1:1s to regularly surface valuable feedback.
MK: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are disrupting best practices not only in HR, but across the entire enterprise. CHROs must expand the scope of the discussion beyond HR. What are the most important considerations for the coordination of AI and ML across an organization?
NS: From an HR perspective, I think success comes from both being data-driven and always trying to be one step ahead of the curve. The advent of AI and ML are the perfect storm of both elements. At the organizational level, sweeping innovations also require a number of considerations: we must consider what this means in terms of new competencies in our talent acquisition and workforce planning. We must partner with leadership across the company to understand how our organization will—and should—evolve. As AI and ML extends into countless industries, businesses that may have been traditionally non-technical may also be forced to embrace new business norms, and HR will need to be there as a dedicated partner through that evolution.
MK: What new skills will HR team members need to acquire to take advantage of using AI in HR?
NS: As our technology gets smarter, we’ll need to adapt and make sure that we’re putting new AI tools to use. I think we’ll be able to make much smarter decisions around everything from hiring, recruiting, and retention, based on behavioral patterns. Understanding how to take data and transform it into action is a fundamental skill for future HR professionals.
Today, it is critical that HR practitioners understand data across the employee lifecycle and when and how data is captured for future work in AI and ML. AI has the potential to actually make us more efficient in all of our HR practices, freeing up more time for us to focus our energy and talents in other directions.
MK: Why should HR be excited about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, chatbot assistants and the like, and where are some areas where automation will make HR more effective?
NS: In general, technology can give us time back. I’ve personally experienced this as HR technology has become increasingly sophisticated. When we’re able to automate simple functions, it gives us more time to be strategic and focus on the human side of HR. Along those lines, chatbots and AI may be able to help guide employees through basics like W-2 forms, tax filing, or PTO. If these tools can save HR professionals the time usually spent on answering common questions over and over, HR can refocus its resources on the strategic work and in person connections that can help optimize the employee experience.