Meet the HR Tech keynote speakers: Stacia Garr

The HR researcher and thought leader sounds off on employee experience, remote work and D&I.
By: | October 2, 2020 • 5 min read

This is the fifth in a series introducing our keynote speakers and their HR Tech Conference topics. Read more here.

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At this month’s free, virtual HR Tech Conference, RedThread Research co-founder and principal analyst Stacia Garr will bring a data-focused perspective to the conversation about the evolving HR technology marketplace.

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Specifically, Garr will explore the need for organizational purpose in technology programs, a keynote she will deliver Oct. 28. It’s among the many topics Garr has studied through her 15 years as an analyst and researcher in the HCM field. She has consulted for such organizations as Taproot Foundation and led talent and workforce research at Bersin by Deloitte, before founding her own human capital research and advisory firm in 2018.

For more information about HR Tech and to register, click HERE.

Before she shares her outlook on the trends reshaping the HR industry at HR Tech, Garr gave HRE a preview.

Stacia Garr

HRE: How have your own professional priorities changed in the last six months?

Garr: We were already doing a lot of work on how organizations could be more responsive to volatility and change before the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 accelerated our publication and the importance of that work. It has also resulted in us going much deeper on the topic, looking specifically at the role of people analytics and managers (forthcoming late October) in supporting employees through this challenging time. COVID also resulted in us doing more research on the disproportionate impacts on women during the pandemic, which we published in a study called The Double-Double Shift. In addition, the social justice movement has resulted in us working to update our D&I technology research (due in late November) and beginning a new project on people analytics and D&I.

HRE: What were some of the biggest trends you were seeing in how HR was using tech for employee experience prior to the pandemic? And how has it shifted?

Garr: Though mistaken, many organizations saw employee experience—especially from a digital perspective—as a nice-to-have. Now, everyone understands the criticality of it and the importance of having a digital mindset around it. And when I say a digital mindset, I don’t just mean employees knowing how to turn to technology. Instead, I mean an understanding of how the scale of technology can either enable or overwhelm employees when the majority of their interactions are online. For example, how many of us are now sitting in endless Zoom meetings or have an overwhelming amount of email, when many of those conversations used to be in person? Yet, organizations with a digital mindset are turning to technology and asking, “How can we use technology to slow the crush of information/requests coming at people? How can we use technology differently than in the past to enable people to be more scalable and productive?” The easiest example of that occurring is the use of Teams or Slack, which cuts down on both video meetings and email. But other solutions are different project management tools (e.g., Asana or Jira), new OKR tools or tools that can capture feedback or recognition. There truly are new ways of working that can make the remote employee experience awesome, and some of the most forward-thinking companies are enabling that. I expect whenever people start to go back in the office, this focus on digital mindset within the employee experience will remain.

HRE: What is your outlook on remote work; do you think it’s here to stay on a large scale? If so, what kind of technology should HR leaders be considering to support that shift?

Garr: Remote work is definitely here to stay for the long-term and on a large scale. No one would have designed this remote working experiment as it has turned out, but given how, overall, successful it has been, we won’t go back. HR technologies that have been especially critical during this time—and will continue to be important—are employee experience/engagement technologies, to help people understand what is happening with their people in a more nuanced fashion and to be able to respond to their needs; people analytics technologies to more deeply probe the data and to bring together broader data sets (not just employee experience/engagement); and learning technologies, to ensure folks have access to the resources they need to learn when they don’t have their colleagues as close to show them the way.

HRE: D&I has become a more central part of the American consciousness this year. What should HR organizations be doing right now to ensure their D&I efforts are sustainable long-term?

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Garr: The first thing leaders—those in HR and the other parts of the business—need to do is to listen. And to listen openly and without judgment. For so long, the perspectives of diverse people have not been heard and so now is a time for us all to listen and learn. Second, HR and DE&I leaders need to work to create a new strategy that gets at the urgent things happening within the organization. It is easy to turn to talent acquisition as the savior of DE&I, but if there are internal reasons why people are leaving an organization, simply bringing in more people won’t help your retention and inclusivity rates. Third, HR and business leaders need to use forward-looking metrics—in addition to backward-looking data. For example, retention rates of certain populations at different levels are backward-looking; diverse people’s experience 30, 90 or 120 days into the company or the level of network inclusion of diverse people are forward-looking metrics. There are so many new people analytics solutions targeted at DE&I on the market right now; use one! Finally, those metrics need to have some accountability behind them. It is not enough to measure—action must be taken and there must be consequences for not taking action. DE&I can be a hard topic to tackle, but now is the moment to do it—and to do it with a vision to the long-term work and timeline necessary to drive real change.

For more information about HR Tech and to register, click HERE.

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.