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How HR can navigate the emerging world of culture tech

Nate Randall
Nate Randall is the founder and president of Ursa Major Consulting as well as host of the Illuminate HR Podcast. He is a frequent speaker, advocate and adviser to the Human Resources industry.

What is culture technology?

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There are plenty of companies out there that have been alleviating the administrative burden from human resource teams for the routine tasks that make up health, wealth, recruiting, hiring and even retirement. Those items are top-tier expected benefits by employees. However, in this new world of remote working and dispersed workforces, the differentiator for a company lies in its culture.

Igniting a culture is a big job and can be a logistical nightmare for HR teams to manage–because culture is defined by the distinct characteristics unique to a particular organization. Culture technology is the new wave, taking the administrative burden off HR’s shoulders while helping to connect its people with the programs the company is already paying for–for example, wellbeing, fitness and challenges, and rewards.

Related: Why virtual wellness is on the rise

Culture is ultimately about human experience, and culture technology is about connecting people and experiences in meaningful ways, regardless of location. Here’s a look at four culture tech tools, followed by what HR leaders should consider when making decisions about culture tech.

Founded by Laszlo Bock, former senior vice president of people operations at Google and author of the bestselling WORK RULES!, Humu says it is “making work better for everyone, everywhere.” According to the company, its proprietary Nudge Engine technology can make large-scale changes in organizations by encouraging small, personalized steps based on science and machine learning.

Leveraging AI, positive reinforcement and nudges to develop and change culture is a logical next step for forward-thinking HR and employee experience teams. Not only is it easy to see how this technology could be used to help people work smarter, but one could also see applications in enhancing diversity and inclusion, increasing manager effectiveness and even guiding employees through periods of large organizational change.

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So far, the feedback and data from employees using the technology is encouraging. Those who receive nudges through the system are 2.4 times more likely to take action than their peers and 8% less likely to leave their company.

Espresa solves one of the most enduring problems for employee experience, HR and benefits teams by pulling together non-traditional benefits and activities into a single, seamless employee experience. By creating a one-stop platform for total wellbeing, recognition and community, Espresa has created what the company touts as “the world’s first Culture Benefits platform.”

The tool aims to unify and empower bottom-up cultures, giving employees the ability to find and participate in experiences together, as a team and as a company. Espresa also registers employees digitally, eliminating the administrative burden of spreadsheets and paper sign-ups. HR can push programs to groups and communicate directly through the platform, and it also gives HR the ability to report detailed value and usage analytics and statistics–with ROI tied to business outcomes. In budget-constrained HR departments, this is a great way to make real-time decisions based on real data and to move budget around based on the greatest impact and employees expectations.

Espresa promises to be a true culture game-changer. With such clients as Tesla, Box, Pinterest, ServiceNow and more, it is clear many innovative companies agree.

Related: Take a peek inside Pinterest’s benefits strategy

Culture Amp already is well known for its intensive and valuable HR community work in the form of the People Geeks Slack channel, regional meetups (called People Geekups) and workshops around the world. However, the products created by the company are equally impressive. Broken into three verticals–the platform, employee surveys and performance–the company believes engagement, performance and retention are interconnected.

As the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Culture Amp aims to quantify, measure and create actionable insights that show the relationship between engagement and performance. By providing personalized dashboards for employees and leaders, the company believes it can identify high performers and predict turnover, among other valuable observations. Although it is not clear to me that they have solved the challenges of the dreaded performance review, it is clearly working with a modern platform that should make the process much less painless and infinitely more valuable.

CultureIQ‘s tagline, “Transform Culture into Competitive Advantage,” says it all. The company believes it can help build a culture intentionally and that, in turn, will help retain top talent and translate into happy customers.

The process starts by aligning company goals to areas of culture that support those aims. Then, through pulse surveys, performance reviews, always-on feedback, and entrance and exit interviews, the technology can identify areas of concern and, more importantly, areas of focus. If followed, all of this creates an incremental and purposeful path toward a culture that supports the company objectives.

Considerations when Evaluating Culture Tech

Plenty of platforms take care of certain aspects of culture. When considering a technology to help boost culture, consider the following:

  1. Experience for all. It’s great to have a platform that HR loves. However, in order to drive adoption, you need a platform that employees also love. Consider a pilot with a cross-sectional group of employees to get feedback on their experience. Are they able to access the platform online and on mobile? Is the technology inclusive of all employees, global and remote?

2. Analytics for HR and leadership. It’s hard enough for HR leaders to get the budget they need to move the needle for their culture. Having strong analytics and custom reports in HR’s hands helps them use the budget they have smarter–while tying efforts to positive business outcomes.

3. Flexibility with a platform as a partner. Plenty of platforms are exactly what they are–a service that HR pays monthly for that’s designed with what the platform thinks meets HR’s needs. Consider a platform that is not just another piece of software, but one that partners with HR to solve your specific challenges and provides guidance to positively impact your bottom line–and your culture.

With rapidly changing and uncertain work lives laid out before us, one thing is sure: Human connection and company culture still matter. Culture technology is here to help bridge the gap and offers each of us a chance to engage with our fellow employees, make connections and, ultimately, delight our customers.