HR Your Way

HR Your Way

How the next-generation digital workplace can power a deeply personalized HR customer experience

Business disruption is rampant—new business models, new technologies, a challenging economic environment, and the overall quickening pace of business are all disruptive to “business as usual.” Workforce demographics and trends—retiring boomers, high-expectation millennials, workforce-on-demand models, team-based work—are another disruption. It is incumbent on HR to find ways to “hack” these disruptions for their customers, leveraging the digital workplace to customize the HR customer experience according to each individual’s unique needs in the face of this almost constant change.

To better understand how the next-generation digital workplace can counter disruptions by powering a deeply personalized HR customer experience, let’s flash forward about 10 years to 2027. This is when we could see the first cohort of Gen Z employees—engage in their organization’s open enrollment process for benefits.

Our Gen Z futuristic scenario envisions three hypothetical levels of digital workplace “chatbots” at increasing levels of sophistication:

  • Workflow Adviser—assists the HR customer through the life or work event workflow using natural language, while automatically gathering data from disparate systems and tapping into available training, research, and operational services support resources.
  • Solution Adviser—“understands” desired outcomes and leverages all available internal and external data to design and propose an optimized solution for the HR customer.
  • Human Adviser—“empathizes” with the human emotions and feelings likely involved in the HR customer’s decision process, and provides support—or referral to an actual human—as required.

Future forward to Gen Z

Jamie, an employee and a new mom, along with her husband, Liam, kick off the enrollment workflow in Jamie’s digital workplace and are greeted by the chatbot who will be assisting them through the workflow.

The chatbot explains that, set at the level of Workflow Adviser, it has the capability to listen, understand natural language, and talk back, and is also able to interpret the context of Jamie and Liam’s questions in order to suggest relevant training, research, or operational services assistance as they work through the open enrollment process.

As a bonus, the chatbot explains, it has recently been upgraded to a beta version of the Solution Adviser level. So if Jamie would like to explore this advanced level of digital workplace engagement, the chatbot will be able to understand desired outcomes and leverage Jamie and Liam’s demographic, health, and financial data, as well as cloud-based benefits solution provider data, to effectively personalize a recommended package of benefits.

Jamie authorizes the chatbot to use its Solution Adviser capabilities for her open enrollment process. After a structured conversation driven by the chatbot, she is rewarded with a customized portfolio of company benefits that are customized for her family’s unique health needs and financial resources. After a discussion with the Solution Adviser chatbot to clarify the details, Jamie verbally accepts the recommended portfolio of benefits and completes the open enrollment process.

Toward a true AI model for HR

So, what’s going on behind the scenes in our futuristic scenario, and how far are we from being able to deliver this hyper-personalized experience? Let’s drill a bit deeper into the chatbot’s capabilities at the Solution Adviser level by considering one element of the benefits package—long-term disability insurance—the chatbot recommended.

At the Solution Adviser level, the chatbot was permitted to leverage Liam’s personal health records, (which included information about a mild attack of unexplained vertigo that sent him to the ER six months prior), as well as financial income and liabilities information (indicating the couple was living paycheck-to-paycheck with very little savings). By leveraging this information, along with the context gathered through a structured conversation with Jamie and Liam, the chatbot was able to conclude with a reasonable degree of probability that covering a portion of Liam’s expected future income in the event of an unexpected disability made sense for the couple.

Impressive to be sure. But this ability to use natural language to understand context in order to make reasoned judgments about desired outcomes isn’t even the end of the line. Interestingly, and perhaps just a bit frighteningly, true AI is reserved for what we call the Human Adviser level. Here, the chatbot actually understands the human situation, demonstrates empathy with HR customer feelings, and even engages in humor opportunistically to build a deeper bond of understanding with those it has been designed to serve. Of course, at this level of sophistication, the chatbot would also discern, given the nature of the HR customer’s questions, when a referral to an actual human on the operational services team may be in order.

Hacking the disruption

While the advanced cognitive and empathetic capabilities we are ascribing to our next-generation Solution Adviser and Human Adviser digital workplace chatbots are in the infant stages today, we are making rapid advances at the Workflow Adviser level of sophistication for Deloitte’s own digital workplace solution.

As we increase digital workplace capabilities, however, we may find that the process of benefits enrollment itself has become disrupted by our technology advances, and a complete rethink of how benefits are packaged, priced, and administered will likely not be far behind. After all, disruption tends to breed more disruption—which, by the way, is why achieving sustainable HR is so imperative.

About the Authors:

Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for Digital HR & Innovation. He focuses on helping clients fundamentally change how they operate, often working with large, complex, global organizations to guide transformation programs that enable HR organizations to reinvent the way they leverage digital to improve the employee experience and business performance.

Daniel John Roddy  is a specialist leader with Deloitte Consulting LLP and a member of the Digital HR & Innovation team. He focuses on leveraging his decades of global HR transformation experience to develop and promote thought leadership that helps create breakthrough opportunities for our clients. 

Copyright © 2017 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.


Source: HR your way | Michael Gretczko | Pulse | LinkedIn

Simple Working Tools | The HR Tech Weekly®

Simplifying the Workplace and Life

Simplifying the Workplace and Life

Much has been written about “digital HR” and the challenge for HR to reinvent itself for the digital age. Deloitte’s vision of digital HR is of a sustainable HR function that maintains a dynamic tension between operating efficiency and creative disruption. In an age of disruption, HR will need to continue to evolve its operating model, service delivery model, and enabling technology platform—the “digital workplace”—to continuously hack the disruptions and deliver solutions designed around the HR customer experience.

In our model, the digital workplace is the connective tissue that powers digital HR. It is the always-on coaching assistant for the HR customer, continuously sensing what is required to achieve desired outcomes. It serves as a just-in-time support “bot” that delivers contextually aware assistance on any device and in any language, while working behind the scenes to engage other components of the HR service delivery model as required.

Moments that matter

To more fully explore what it means to simplify the workplace and connect HR customers to what matters most, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Alexandro as he engages with the next-generation digital workplace to accomplish his goals. He’s a 58-year-old Boomer considering early retirement, a critical “moment that matters.”

Our early retirement workflow scenario envisions three hypothetical levels of digital workplace “chatbots” at increasing levels of sophistication:

  • Workflow Adviser—assists the HR customer through the life or work event workflow using natural language, while automatically gathering data from disparate systems and tapping into available training, research, and operational services support resources.
  • Solution Adviser—“understands” desired outcomes and leverages all available internal and external data to design and propose an optimized solution for the HR customer.
  • Human Adviser—“empathizes” with the human emotions and feelings likely involved in the HR customer’s decision process, and provides support—or referral to an actual human—as required.

To retire or not to retire…

Alexandro approached the new digital workplace with some trepidation. He had been considering early retirement for a number of months, ever since he suffered a mild heart attack the year before, but had been intimidated by the many decisions that would have to be made.

As the digital workplace chatbot explained to him that, set at the level of Workflow Adviser, it can listen, understand natural language, and talk back, Alexandro relaxed a bit. While he much preferred dealing with his old pal who had previously been the office HR generalist, he understood that times had changed. As he answered the questions posed by the chatbot, Alexandro was reassured to discover that the training, research findings, and operational services assistance made available through the system were quite extensive and appeared to be tailored exactly for his unique situation.

Alexandro assumed he would be mostly on his own when it came to making the final decision, so he was a pleasantly surprised when the chatbot then offered a more sophisticated Solution Adviser level of support. In this mode, the chatbot was able to articulate back to him his desired retirement outcomes, summarize key health, financial, and retirement location variables, and begin to present alternative scenarios. After a structured conversation driven by the chatbot, he was rewarded with a customized retirement plan almost perfectly optimized for his needs. After a discussion with the Solution Adviser chatbot to clarify the details, Alexandro decided to move forward and verbally authorized the chatbot to complete the retirement process.

The Human Adviser

At several different points in Alexandro’s conversation with the chatbot, the questions touched on how he was feeling about the process, how he intended to keep busy in retirement, and the role his spouse was playing in the decision. Once, when Alexandro had joked about his wife pretty much insisting he make the move, the chatbot had asked if he was interested in speaking to someone in the Retirement Community of Expertise (CoE) about his decision.

Alexandro was impressed that the system had managed to sense some of the ambivalence he was feeling about his life after work, not only managing to project a certain degree of empathy with his situation but also offering him the opportunity to speak with a specialist if that would be a help. It occurred to Alexandro that while this chatbot was obviously not truly able to empathize and commiserate with him the way his old HR generalist buddy had, the retirement information it provided was quite a bit more helpful, and the option of speaking to another human about his feelings was always available.

Work and life simplified

While the advanced cognitive and empathetic capabilities we are ascribing to our next-generation digital workplace chatbot are in the infant stages today, we are making rapid advances at the Workflow Adviser level of sophistication for Deloitte’s own digital workplace solution. We believe that both simplifying the workplace via Workflow Adviser services, and connecting HR customers to the information that matters most to them, will be key to digital workplace success.

As we increase digital workplace capabilities, however, we may find that the process of retirement itself has become digitally disrupted, and a complete rethink of how we leverage aging employees as part of the new contingent workforce will soon follow. After all, disruption tends to breed more disruption—which, by the way, is why achieving sustainable HR is so imperative.

About the Authors:

Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for Digital HR & Innovation. He focuses on helping clients fundamentally change how they operate, often working with large, complex, global organizations to guide transformation programs that enable HR organizations to reinvent the way they leverage digital to improve the employee experience and business performance.

Daniel John Roddy is a Specialist Leader with Deloitte Consulting LLP and a member of the Digital HR & Innovation team. He focuses on leveraging his decades of global HR transformation experience to develop and promote thought leadership that helps create breakthrough opportunities for our clients.


Source: Simplifying the workplace—and life | Michael Gretczko | Pulse | LinkedIn


This article was originally published at HR.com – The Human Resources Social Network in November, 2016

From the Digital Workplace to Digital HR to Sustainable HR

The Path to HR Sustainability

The path to HR sustainability

For those of us active in the realm of HR and business, “digital HR” and the “digital workplace” have been hot topics. But as is often the case with new terminology and buzzwords, they can mean different things to different people. We’ve thought a lot about the challenges HR faces and the role of “digital” in addressing them, and it’s more encompassing than many of the definitions we’ve seen. The digital workplace is what powers digital HR, which in turn enables HR to sustain itself in the face of disruption.

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Sustainable HR is the goal

First, let’s look at the end goal—sustainable HR—and what that means. Business disruption is rampant—new business models, new technologies, a challenging economic environment, and the overall quickening pace of business are all disruptive to “business as usual.” Workforce demographics and trends—retiring Boomers, high-expectation Millennials, workforce-on-demand models, team-based work—are another disruption. HR sustainability is about HR (1) maintaining its stability and focus despite disruption, (2) being adaptable in the face of disruption, and in turn (3) helping the business be stable and adaptable in its response to disruption.

Digital HR enables HR sustainability

Next, let’s look at how digital HR enables HR sustainability. When we thought about how HR becomes sustainable, we kept arriving at the same four capabilities—what we call the 4Cs. HR should be able to…

  • Create capacity, freeing up time by eliminating mundane repetitive tasks and enabling HR professionals and customers alike to focus on more value-added activities.
  • Grow capability in its own people and in its customers via a rich, curated, just-in-time learning environment.
  • Empower community, tapping into a variety of internal and external networks as sources for information, learning, and collaboration.
  • Boost credibility within the organization by consistently meeting its customers’ needs.

Digital HR, a top 10 Global Human Capital Trend for 2016, enables HR to accomplish the 4Cs by applying digital principles to HR operations. While this could involve a mix of social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) technologies, it encompasses more than technology. It’s also about using design thinking to reimagine HR processes and the HR customer experience, trying new approaches, gathering feedback, communicating bilaterally (company to employee, employee to company, employee to employee, company to company), and continually making iterative improvements.

The digital workplace powers digital HR

Finally, we come to the digital workplace—one of the ways organizations can accomplish digital HR. The digital workplace is a solution for engaging employees in all the services they have available to them at work. It’s about automating transactions that are manual today (creating capacity). It’s about targeting information and learning content to employees to help them do their jobs (growing capability), just as social media sites target posts based on member preferences. It’s about bringing the social communication concept to the workplace to connect people (empowering community). And it’s about harvesting data to enable analytics that provide informed insight about how the company is operating and how employees can better perform their jobs.

We have more of our thinking behind the digital buzz (and how we’re addressing it with our own mobile digital workplace, ConnectMe), in our publication, Sustainable HR in an age of disruption. Check it out for additional insights on the digital workplace and how it can propel digital HR on the path to sustainability.

About the Author:

michael-gretczko

Michael Gretczko is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the practice leader for Digital HR & Innovation. He collaborates with large, complex, and global clients to identify and bring to market innovative products and solutions that deliver on their business needs.


Source: The path to HR sustainability – HR Times – The HR Blog

The Five Elements of Great Organizational Cultures

The Five Elements of Great Organizational Cultures on The HR Tech Weekly®

I believe we are living through one of the best times in the history of work. Thanks to the advancement in technology and instant access to information, our generation has a greater sense of empathy, ethics, and values. In the past, job seekers would be looking for a place that would pay them well and give them good benefits. Now, job seekers are looking for organizations that have great cultures. Companies need to offer individuals a sense of belonging and a mission to accomplish something remarkable. With no culture, an organization, is not sustainable in the 21st century. I have come up with five elements that are essential to building and sustaining great organizational cultures. Those elements are: purpose, ownership, community, effective communication, and good leadership.

Purpose: Going back to the premise that we have a greater sense of ethics and empathy. We are less selfish, and we want to be a part of solving a problem greater than ourselves. We need to understand the why of what we do. Companies now need to have a strong mission statement where they can share the why with their team members. A great example that comes to mind is SpaceX, a company that builds rockets for space exploration. This is their mission statement: “SpaceX was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Now… that’s a mission statement! That’s something bigger than anybody.

Ownership: The second element in building a great organizational culture is ownership. Ownership is about giving people the opportunity to be accountable for their results without being micromanaged. Giving people the autonomy over their time to accomplish their goals. Basecamp is a company that builds software for project management. They are a great example of a company that promotes ownership. They have an office in Chicago, but everyone has the chance to work from wherever they want. The CEO doesn’t know how many hours his employees work. They just set expectations and give people the opportunity to build their own schedules around their projects. But how do you keep people engaged with a sense of purpose? Well, you do that through the third element, community.

Community: Community is that sense of belonging to a group of people that shares the same or similar principles, goals, and values. Community is a place where there is camaraderie. Focus Lab is a branding and design agency that understands community. They have company standards instead of values. Their argument is that you can’t change a person’s values when they walk into your company, but you can uphold everyone to specific standards. Some of their standards are: work to live, ask more questions, and never stop learning. The culture of their company breaths these standards through their work. Building community is something as simple as having lunch and learns, hangout times on Fridays, and company trips. It varies from company to company. Community, is unique to each organization.

Effective Communication: The fourth element in building a great organizational culture is effective communication. Effective communication sounds like common sense, but through my work I have realized it is not common practice. It means consistency in processes and investing time learning the personalities and communication dynamics of team members. Google created a research project called Project Aristotle, where they found that the most collaborative teams are the ones where everyone speaks equally. In many of their engineering teams they have a list with checkmarks to make sure everyone is speaking the same number of times during their meetings.

Good Leadership: I would say this is the backbone of the cultural dynamics of any organization. The leader has to be constantly be pushing the mission, standards, community, and processes of the company. Without effective leadership the other four elements cannot thrive. People want leadership with integrity and compassion. People want authenticity. People want a leader who is clear on expectations. People want to know they have a leader who cares about them.

The elements I just mentioned are not new to people. People have always liked purpose, ownership, community, effective communication, and good leadership. It’s in our own human nature. But now we found words to describe those things to build high performing cultures. I would like to encourage each of you to be intentional about applying these elements, and building great cultures in your organizations.

About the Author:

Andy Cabistan, Co-Founder at Watson WorksAndy Cabistan is one of the Co-Founders of Watson Works, a culture development company helping teams communicate and collaborate better. Andy is passionate about helping companies with diverse groups of people build high performing teams. Andy is a Business Economics graduate from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, and a master’s student in the Professional Communication and Leadership program at Armstrong. In his spare time, Andy travels around the country developing leadership programs with children of military families in partnership with the Department of Defense. Andy is also active in Savannah building the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He believes that entrepreneurship, technology, and a sense of community are key factors to make economies thrive.

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Linking Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Reputation

social-responsibility-to-corporate-reputation

An Interview with Nielsen’s Wendy Salomon, VP, Reputation & Public Affairs

wendy-salomonToday, we welcome Wendy Salomon, a vice president in Nielsen’s Reputation Management practice, to join us for our Q&A blog series. In her position, Wendy leads research engagements that deliver business insights to her diverse set of clients. She is entrusted with some of the firm’s most valuable client relationships.

Wendy has more than twenty years of experience with research and research-based consulting. She has helped her clients set strategy, refine business and reputation management plans, and optimize agency relationships based on research insights. Her work focuses on reputation management, brand strategy, and strategic communication engagements. She has earned particular regard for her ability to consult in challenging B2B environments around the world.

Wendy recognizes the value of both qualitative and quantitative inputs and has intelligibly brought to bear advanced analytics for many of her clients. She is a highly regarded partner and is often called to interact at the c-suite level within her client organizations. She is a published thought leader on reputation management and a sought-after presenter.

The interview is hosted by Jennifer Spencer, Content Marketing Manager at Versaic.

Versaic: Why should companies invest in CSR?

Wendy: It’s funny; that’s something you used to hear asked a lot, and now investing in CSR is not often something that is called into question.

The most successful companies have led the way in understanding that corporate reputation is a business asset that requires proactive understanding and management—the same as any other asset like their supply chain, brand portfolio, workforce, etc. How a company is seen as engaging with the world—whether it is viewed as socially responsible by key stakeholders—is often at the heart of reputational equity and risk.

Simply put, the world and the marketplace have moved beyond evaluating companies based solely on the quality of what they make or the service they provide. Equally important to protecting and growing reputation are the relationships a company has with the environment, communities, its employees, etc.

Versaic: What brand and marketing value can CSR and sustainability initiatives bring?

Wendy: We know that a strong corporate reputation clears the way for positive product brand stories to be heard. A company might have a compelling brand story to tell, perhaps even a pitch-perfect value proposition. However, if there are reputational frictions in the conversation about the company—for instance, if some call into question whether the company behaves in responsible ways—that brand message will have a really hard time cutting through the noise.

CSR activities protect and grow corporate reputation, which creates a supportive backdrop for brand strategies to be brought to life. CSR activities also help the company continue to engage with communities and stakeholders that can provide valuable feedback for their products and services, strengthening their business. Investment in initiatives that bolster reputation unlock business value and shared value.

Versaic: What are the unexpected benefits or outcomes that you have seen for companies that have implemented CSR programs successfully? 

Wendy: Beyond the good these programs do in the world, one of my favorite outcomes of these types of programs is the positive impact they have on employees. This is true on two fronts.

First, for employees themselves, these activities are often a critical piece of how they connect with the company. It makes them fulfilled, gives them a chance to serve with colleagues in a new way and build their skills, and plays an important role as they go out in the world and serve as brand ambassadors in their daily lives.

Second, we know that future talent around the world feel it is a priority that the company they work for is socially responsible, and this is particularly true of those early in their careers. Even when compared to things such as career advancement, elements of corporate character are a compelling part of a company’s reputation that can influence whether someone wants to work for you or not. The importance of this can’t be overstated. There are many who seek to work in a sexy technology environment but somewhat fewer who aspire to many of the stalwart “traditional” industries that desperately need creative talent to remain innovate. CSR activities can help pave the way to attracting and retaining high-potential hires.

Versaic: What are the three most important ways companies measure the success, and how does that lead to value in the business?

Wendy: From what we see, the landscape of CSR measurement is evolving and is a big opportunity for CSR managers. When measurement is lacking, the programs default to being a line-item expense versus something that drives business value for the corporation. By measuring success, the case can be made that CSR activities protect reputation and shape the business landscape in a supportive way. I’d recommend focusing assessments in three broad areas.

First is actual performance. Are the efforts themselves bringing about the desired positive change? CSR programs take many forms, but they all generally seek to make the world a better place. Perhaps your CSR initiatives set out to feed, educate, or create healthier lifestyles using products that are manufactured with fewer negative environment impacts, or they provide access to cleaner water and the chance for kids to play in cleaner parks, etc. Companies must measure and evaluate their positive impacts, alongside their community and nonprofit partners, so they can share this information both internally and externally. It’s good to do good.

Next is “campaign”-level understanding. This primarily applies to initiatives that are fairly well resourced and time bound, etc. Were stakeholders aware of the effort, how did they come to know about them, and did it contribute to the desired understanding of the company/issue? Over time, insights like this serve to inform future efforts to hone CSR practices.

Last is the overall impact that social responsibility efforts have on corporate reputation and risk mitigation, including the impact on the company’s license-to-operate and overall business environment. This is the business case for CSR that is critical for companies to operationalize—the extent to which being a socially responsible company builds reputational equity and mitigates reputational risk.

Versaic: How can companies truly differentiate themselves in how they communicate their CSR initiatives and results?

Wendy: One of the main things that should be kept in mind when it comes to communicating about CSR initiatives is the basic tenet that companies will need to tell more than just one story. Particularly for CSR, how diverse stakeholders view the information will vary dramatically based on their specific priorities. So, a CSR communication strategy for consumers, for example, is quite different from the strategy for policy influencers, NGOs, or investors. There is a real danger in being tone deaf. Thus, accounting for the different lenses through which stakeholders see your CSR activities is important and has real implications for communicators.

Another thing I’d share about how to differentiate is the expanded value that’s possible when companies engage in activities that link to their own core competencies—moving from old-school philanthropy to “skillanthropy” or skills-based contributions. This could be a CPG company addressing access to healthy food, a bank educating vulnerable populations on financial literacy, a shipping company getting supplies to storm-battled regions, etc. There is a particular “stickiness” when programs such as this are part of a CSR portfolio, as they allow them to shine a light on the good the company does in the world and also the expertise it brings to the marketplace day in and day out.

Versaic: What tips can you share with companies who would like to increase the impact of their CSR programs?

Wendy: You’d be surprised at how many companies don’t communicate the steps they take to be socially and environmentally responsible at all. There is worry that it will be seen as opportunistic versus sincere, or boastful versus humble. The truth is that people are making an effort to learn proactively about the way a company engages with the world before they decide to support it—whether that support be in the form of buying the company’s product, working for the company, or welcoming the company’s expansion in their local community. We know that many don’t like what they find and opt to engage elsewhere.

So, the main tip I would share is to tell your authentic corporate-responsibility story. It’s up to companies themselves to make sure this information is available when consumers go looking; without it, opinions can be shaped by broad industry perceptions, critics, and misinformation. A misperception of many reputation managers is that a lack of a bad story is the same as a good story, under the false hope that the lack of high-profile irresponsible behavior provides the proof necessary that the company is engaging in responsible behavior. For companies who have prioritized social responsibility, it should be a component of their enterprise-messaging strategy.

Versaic: Where do you see CSR going? What is going to be important three years from now?

Wendy: I would say there are two things to watch.

First, we have seen the evolution over the past decade from a definition of social responsibility that was dominated by environmental issues toward a broader view of corporate citizenship. Looking ahead, I think this “bigger tent” definition of what it means to be a responsible company will continue to expand. So, we’re likely to hear more about economic impacts, transparency, employee well-being, etc., as proof points for being a responsible company.

Second, it’s a hobby of mine to take note of how companies work CSR activities into their actual organizational structures. Is there a “sustainability” team or “global citizenship” department? Is it primarily a marketing function charged with creating a glossy sustainability report? Are responsible business imperatives decentralized and woven in across the company, giving it a voice in R&D, community outreach, and hiring practices? It’s all across the board right now. As the definition of corporate responsibility becomes broader—the bigger tent I mentioned—presumably, providing a framework for responsible behavior will need to become more systemic. I’m not sure yet what shape it will take, but I think we’ll see fewer occasions where companies opt to relegate CSR to a silo and fewer instances where it is an appendage on the org chart that is separate from where the “real work” happens. We’ll see more and deeper integration.

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Source: Linking Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Reputation: Nielsen’s Wendy Salomon, VP, Reputation & Public Affairs

How Starwood Measures Social Impact

holding-the-earth

An Interview with Kristin Meyer, Associate Director of Community Partnerships

kristin-meyer-starwood
Kristin Meyer, Associate Director, Community Partnerships

Since 2009, Global Citizenship has been a cornerstone of Starwood’s business strategy. Global Citizenship provides Starwood’s guests, customers, communities, owners, and associates a better way to experience the world. A key component of influencing lasting, sustainable improvements in communities around the globe is accomplished through collaborative partnerships with the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Foundation, Inc. (“Starwood Foundation”) and international charitable organizations. The Starwood Foundation is dedicated to enriching communities by supplying financial grants to select partner organizations driving change in three key focus areas: Workplace Readiness, Human Rights, and Community Vitality (includes: Sustainable & Ecological Development and Disaster Relief).

When we first started a partnership, the Starwood Foundation team knew they needed to track, quantify and evaluate their social impact and put a system in place to manage the complexity. As a first step, the Starwood Foundation contracted with The Rensselaerville Institute (TRI) who suggested a shift in mindset from ‘funder’ to ‘investor’ to achieve a portfolio approach. With that perspective, the Starwood Foundation created a strategic framework to clarify results for their signature program grants. With clarity on what results they were seeking, they could be more strategic in how they identify partners, educate those partners, align the application and selection process, create effective grantee reports, and implement performance assessments. The flexibility of the Versaic online solution made it possible to streamline the grantmaking process and aggregate results across programs.

One year ago, Versaic wrote about Starwood’s grants program in this ebook. We wanted to follow up with Kristin Meyer, Associate Director, Community Partnerships, to get an update on the Starwood Foundation’s grants programs and the impact they are having.

The interview is hosted by Jennifer Spencer, Content Marketing Manager at Versaic:

1. Thanks for joining us Kristin. Let’s start by talking about the Starwood Foundation’s workplace readiness program. The investments the Foundation has made in this focus area and the impact it has had on your hiring in those communities is such a great example of tying corporate philanthropy programs to business goals. Can you elaborate on your signature workplace readiness program and the results the Foundation has seen?

By adopting more of a results-based framework, we’ve been able to apply what we’ve learned from our partnerships with NGO’s around the world to better understand what needs to be done in the private sector to support the requirements of the community. In the area of workplace readiness specifically, we know from the results shared by our partners that training is not enough to move the needle in the workforce development space. Our partners were achieving phenomenal success equipping individuals and marginalized populations with the appropriate skill set as well as the social and emotional support to enter the job force. Yet many of our partners often commented on how time consuming and challenging the process was to establish employer partnerships and place their clients into local jobs. In addition, employment retention was quite challenging, not because the clients weren’t adequately prepared, but because employer expectations were sometimes not aligned.

We have taken some of the learnings from our investments on the CSR side and applied that to how we can do our part as a business within those communities. How do we better train and equip our hotels to ensure they are working with those same NGOs on the ground, and actually hiring from that talent pool? How do we make sure they really understand not only what an NGO does, but the populations that they serve, and how those populations may differ from our typical candidates? What are the practices they may need to alter internally in order make sure that those individuals are adequately supported starting from an initial interview, through onboarding, hiring and retention? That is really where our program has been successful. We learned from our philanthropic investments the impact we’re achieving and where there are gaps, and are applying that to our business model to ensure that as an organization, we are playing our part by hiring from the talent pool we are helping to create.

2. Regarding the other pillars that you’ve focused on, are you getting the same kind of results, learning, and impact in those areas that you’ve achieved in workplace readiness?

Sustainable & Ecological Development is another area where we’ve used a results-based framework to manage our charitable investments. Through this approach, we have been able to make investments in environmental organizations around the world. Similarly to Workplace Readiness, we are able to capture learnings from our NGO programs and apply that knowledge to our business operations. For example, one of the funding streams under Sustainable & Ecological Development is water risk, encompassing water access, quality, scarcity, security, stress and sanitation & hygiene. My colleague, Claire Cutting, works with our partner NGO’s within this focus area. Through these relationships, she is able to better understand the conditions that can lead to any one of these water issues as well as prevention and remediation actions. In one such case, the analysis from coastal and watershed restoration projects, funded by the Starwood Foundation’s results-based investments, has provided learnings that led to the creation of a water risk framework for our development team, ensuring that we, as a company, understand how to properly mitigate a community’s water risk as we build new properties. Applying knowledge from our Foundation investments to our business allows us to contribute positively to a community and ecosystem’s health. We also are able to share examples of successful business practices with our NGO partners so that they can share with other relevant stakeholders.

3. Can we talk a little bit about how you are collecting the data needed to analyze results and communicating impact?

We collect all of the data directly from our grant partners. We worked collaboratively with the Versaic team as well as our consultants at TRI to establish the results framework, which was specific to Starwood and the impact we were trying to drive. From there, we approached a small group of our grantees, showed them the results we were seeking, and asked them to help us understand what steps were involved for them to accomplish the desired results. That process helped us build out a more robust grant application that included the right indicators of success. We ask our grant partners to project their expected results during the application process and then we collect progress updates on a semi-annual basis, which makes it simple for them to submit and easy for us to discuss successes and challenges.

In addition, The Starwood Foundation team does a lot of training at the beginning of the relationship with a new NGO partner. If I were to call out one thing that we do as a best practice, it would be this initial training. Asking our new partners to attend a two-hour training on results-based impact is understandably a tall order, but many have since come back to us and said how worthwhile the training was for them. We want our partners to clearly understand the results-based framework, how to think about setting milestones, and what we mean when we talk about impact. Having our partners share their results is imperative for us to understand our larger impact as a Foundation. To understand the progress of our grant portfolio, we built scorecards that enable us to look at the results of each individual grant, as well as aggregate the results of our investments. As an example, for Workplace Readiness, we can look across our global portfolio to understand not only how many individuals have been served, but how many of them have achieved a certain education level or how many have retained employment for a certain period of time.

4. How has your impact reporting affected your brand and business?

For the Starwood Foundation, our results-focused approach has definitely elevated our exposure and reputation within the nonprofit field. The Starwood Foundation has become a respected partner within the charitable community. In addition, the work of the Starwood Foundation has enabled us to understand where there may be opportunity to have even more impact as a company. We’re able to more effectively evaluate and consider opportunities with both business and social returns. The Workplace Readiness program is a perfect example of this in action. As a result of the Starwood Foundation’s investments and the strategic framework, we were able to identify an opportunity on the corporate side in terms of how Starwood can more effectively drive social impact and tap into a new potential talent pipeline.

jennifer-spencer-versaic
Jennifer Spencer

Driving inbound interest means being everything from a publicist, researcher, and writer to thought leader.

 

 

Whether it's sponsorship, grants or donation, Versaic's best-in-class solutions are easily combined and customized to provide companies of any size a comprehensive solution for managing their CSR programs. Visit www.Versaic.com to learn more.

Source: How Starwood Measures Social Impact: An Interview with Kristin Meyer, Associate Director of Community Partnerships