Relationships at Work - Leadership Mindset Guide for Creating a Company Culture We Love

Why Leaders Need People Analytics to Understand The Voice of Employee with Dr. Kalifa Oliver

April 10, 2023 Russel Lolacher Episode 57
Why Leaders Need People Analytics to Understand The Voice of Employee with Dr. Kalifa Oliver
Relationships at Work - Leadership Mindset Guide for Creating a Company Culture We Love
More Info
Relationships at Work - Leadership Mindset Guide for Creating a Company Culture We Love
Why Leaders Need People Analytics to Understand The Voice of Employee with Dr. Kalifa Oliver
Apr 10, 2023 Episode 57
Russel Lolacher

In this episode of Relationships at Work, host Russel Lolacher chats with psychologist and data analyst Dr. Kalifa Oliver on the importance of people analytics when hearing the voice of employee (VOE) at work.

Kalifa shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • Why survey fatigue is a myth.
  • The importance of intent when gathering data.
  • Four approaches to continuous listening.
  • Why data is more important than what is assumed.
  • What gets in the way of properly collecting data.
  • When anonymous surveys are necessary.
  • Why stories and people are more important than data. 

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Relationships at Work, host Russel Lolacher chats with psychologist and data analyst Dr. Kalifa Oliver on the importance of people analytics when hearing the voice of employee (VOE) at work.

Kalifa shares her thoughts, stories and experience with...

  • Why survey fatigue is a myth.
  • The importance of intent when gathering data.
  • Four approaches to continuous listening.
  • Why data is more important than what is assumed.
  • What gets in the way of properly collecting data.
  • When anonymous surveys are necessary.
  • Why stories and people are more important than data. 

If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe and share with others.
For more, go to relationshipsatwork.ca 

And connect with me for more great content!

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today we have Dr. Kalifa Oliver. And here's why she is awesome. She is the founder and managing partner of Deep Dive Consulting. What's that you ask? Glad you did a consulting agency to help organizations bring together leadership employee experience, data analytics, to discover, value, retain, elevate. It's all about the talent. It's all about the talent. She has a PhD in industrial organizational psychology. She has certification in people analytics from MIT. I'm not done, the breath is almost out. But she has 15 years of experience working in academia and the corporate world all about people data, including organizations like Walmart, Wells Fargo, Stanley Black and Decker, all to improve people's strategies, programs and analytics. And here she is Hello Kalifa.

Kalifa Oliver
Hello, Russel. How are you?

Russel Lolacher
I'm delightful. Thanks for asking.

Kalifa Oliver
Thank you for having me.

Russel Lolacher
Today's VoE. And for those who don't know, acronyms, it's Voice of Employee but specifically all about the numbers, the stats, the data, what you need to get what you need to understand to better serve those, you're supposed to be serving your employees. But before we get into any of that, we have to ask the question, we asked all of our guests... Kalifa, which is what's your best or worst employee experience?

Kalifa Oliver
So my worst employee experiences is what I'll choose. And because it's such a timely thing right now. So I think the worst experience I've had as an employee thus far has been laid off from my job. And it was typical of what we're seeing now. It's not a performance issue. It's a cost measure, right. And it does feel incredibly dehumanizing. And in that moment, because a lot of our socially a lot of our identity is so tied to work. And I think it was only in that moment, I realized how much of my adult identity was tied to me working. You know, when it happened when I spoke to my ex manager at that time, who himself was also like, oh, he told me my mind would play tricks on me for about a week or two. And I promise you it because you start like going through scenarios in your head, right? And I'm okay. Right. It took some time I was okay. But what I started to realize is I didn't need a break, it was almost a forced sabbatical. I didn't need a break. I didn't need time to process my feelings, right? Because I woke up the next day without a job to go to for the first time in my adult life, and it felt strange. And the entire experience when you tell somebody, it's okay, it's just it's not you. It's us. We're cost cuts, it makes you not feel human, it makes you feel like a thing, like a part of a balance sheet. And as somebody who's advocates, employee experience, and really thinking through how do we humanize processes and make people centered decisions and make experiences equally bad experiences not feel so bad. That's not what happened. Not the best experience. And so for me, it felt like I'd failed. But I'm fine. It turned out for me to be a force break that I was not taking it for. It's forced me to really think about and reevaluate what I wanted to do. And I had long advocated in my career about layoffs, and when bad things happen at work, and it occurred to me in that one was the first time I had experienced that. So suddenly, so unexpectedly, right. And I say this, and I tell this story, and this is experienced, I tell because so many people are going through it right now. And I want them to know, if you're going through it, if you have gone through it, if you think it's on the horizon, you'll be okay. Right, you're gonna come through on the other side, you're you don't worry about how you feel the feels, feel the feels, you have to kind of go through it. Don't let anybody tell you not to what you got to go through and how you want to just don't stay in it. Because you'll be okay. We have to learn as a society that our jobs do not have to be our identity. We make our jobs, and we'll be okay. So I think that's, that's why I shared that example.

Russel Lolacher
But organizations can also be less assholes about it, too. We're hearing stories about people finding out they got laid off because their security card didn't work. Like that's how they're finding out that is...

Kalifa Oliver
You know, there's so much competition that I call the race to the bottom. Like, we don't all have to try to figure out ways to make it terrible. Like it's not a competition to do that. And I think that what's happening is some companies are giving other companies permission to be vessels in that scenario and normalizing right and they're they're companies that have done it really well. They're companies that have really made the effort to do better, right in like the messed up one round a doing that I've seen the improvement. I've seen the effort that people go through even in the present company that I work for. There were layoffs, it's not ever there's no good way to live. Have anybody? There's no good way to do it. But there's bad ways. No. And I've seen improvements the effort it takes to really communicate, humanize it, people center it, really let leaders step up and talk about it. And not just for those who have been laid off, but those who stayed. Because I think there's two different types of PTSD. That said, let me say, something that pisses me off on LinkedIn, if I could say, it's like if somebody gets laid off, a lot of the feelings... don't be going on LinkedIn making it all about you, "Hey, y'all, I still have my job. But you know, if I can help..." Stop it, stop it, stop censoring it about you, you know what I mean? Like, you can, you can, you just trying to make a show. Stop making a performance or try to be a hero, let's stop it.

Russel Lolacher
We hit a nerve, we hit a nerve.

Kalifa Oliver
It irritated me before it happened to me, but it definitely irritated me like, come on, walk away. I am, like, stop making the whole feed like you're hero. Sit down somewhere.

Russel Lolacher
Maybe if we listen to our employees throughout the journey throughout our organization, that maybe we won't get to these, you know, experiences this theater of lack of kindness. I want to start off because we don't define things well enough. I brought this up a lot in the podcast where we say things a lot, but we don't define things a lot. So I want to start by asking you, first, how would you define VoE or voice of employee?

Kalifa Oliver
I think it was that employees any way that an employee is trying to communicate with you about how they're feeling at any given point in time, or how they're reacting to any initiative or program that you put through at any point in time. I think the mistake people make is when they think of VoIP, they think of a survey, right? But people, people have multiple ways of telling us what's going on with them. It could be through their movement, right? What is your attrition starting to look like? Because that's the voice. Right? They are telling you, I don't want to be here. Right? It's what are they moving away from one manager, moving from one department to next department, right, you can do the scrape? The one thing I tell organizations is if you don't find a way to harness the voice, the way that people are going to express to you what is happening within the organization, they will find a way that is human nature, they will go on Glassdoor, they will go on Blind, they will sabotage people will always find a way to communicate how they feel that is human nature. And that's what the voice of the employee is to me. It's anyway, however they're doing it, they are creating a voice and sometimes that voice is unheard. Right? It is something that you have to recognize.

Russel Lolacher
So how do you quantify, qualify that information? Especially... because I know you mentioned people think it's a survey? Well, they go to a survey, because it seems like the easiest way to collect information. So what is the bridge from VoE to people analytics.

Kalifa Oliver
So I think it's the quality of data, right? I think we don't focus enough on the quality of data. So a survey is just one way of collecting data. And then you have all this hrs data on your people. You can get as fancy as you want, like network analysis, where you're really trying to understand the connections between people, you can look at where people are going, where's your traffic go and within your intranet, as you try to communicate things, all those are ways that you can actually pull data, you have qualitative data, which I will tell you unstructured data, some of my favorite data, like I'm a survey advocate. But listen, I love me some unstructured data, because a lot of times just like any other thing, and service often bias the prisoners curriculum, the person who's written it, right, because it's closed ended. And you just have to assume you know things about everybody. But you find things in open text that people that you don't ask about you don't think about, right. So there's a privilege of things that I don't have to think about when I'm designing a survey, that's somebody who might be the manufacturing plant they think about that is never something that will occur to me. And when you really do natural language processing, then text analysis really well on unstructured data, it gives you this wealth of richness and robustness and data that adds context and color to the story of your people. And so that's what you have to do look for data in places that you may not think data exists. And if nothing else, the simplest way to get to the voice of the employee is just ask them. I think we we try to get too fancy sometimes. But sometimes you go back to basics, the simplest way especially if you're just starting out, try and understand the voice of the employee. Just understand how people are feeling, just ask them. Walk around, ask them, send a survey, have a couple of focus groups, like ask them to write things down. I think look like if you have an intranet really read what people are trying to say because people again will always have voices, always there. They will tell you, they will tell you the things, you just have to listen.

Russel Lolacher
I'm trying to do a chicken or the egg thought in my brain right here. And I tried to figure out how best to ask this is, should you be serving collecting information with an agenda, with an idea of what you're looking for? Or should you be just be collecting all information, all the time? And then try to pick apart what you need? Where's the best approach for that?

Kalifa Oliver
I think it depends on what you're trying to do. So I'm giving you the full psychology answer, right? It depends. Now, the smartest way to do it is to never have preconceived notions of what you're going to collect. Because what you're doing is you're stirring biases in there. And that is hubris, right? That is hubris on the part of many people who are in my field, like I know everything about people. I know what I'm gonna get. And too many times, what you will find is, when you're designing a survey or tool or some sort of assessment, you are led by the voice of whatever leader is trying to get you worst thing you could do is try to make the data say something, data should speak for itself. So the most purest and best way is to go with, without expectations, you should have a broad view of what you're trying to understand about the experience. So like, when you're trying to understand your voice, you think about key factors across industries that will affect people. So like career development, leadership, company, reputation, satisfaction, job clarity, you know, those type of engage, those are key broad things, and then you write tools, or create programs to get that. But sometimes there's something strategic, that you're trying to find out something, something has changed, something is new. So like, you might be doing a new manager, a simulation, where you want to know more about what is the temperature of the room. In those cases, you, you want to write to the agenda, or the things that you're trying to find out. But the best approach is always as far as possible to go in there acting like you have no idea what you're going to get back. And I think that allows the analysis to be richer, the data to be richer, and cleaner and more honest, if you will.

Russel Lolacher
I keep hearing about survey fatigue, when it comes to asking questions. Hey, I like a good eye roll. Please tell me the source of that.

Kalifa Oliver
My philosophy, and I will say it to my dying day... survey fatigue is made up, okay. It doesn't exist. It is not a thing. We've made it up. It's an excuse. It's blaming the vessel and the platform for inaction on our part. People are not sick of surveys, they are sick of us. People will take 100 surveys back to back if they truly believed that something concrete will come of it. I'm like thinking of it in just everyday life. If I keep telling my BFF the same thing. You keep asking me, "Kalifa, what do you want to eat? Kalifa? What do you want to eat for dinner?" And I'm like,"I want pizza." And you're like, "Okay, what do you want eat?" "Pizza." "What do you want to eat?" "Pizza." And I can't get no pizza! Yeah, I'm not gonna keep answering your question. I'm gonna say I'm sick of you. Stop asking me the questions. You know, you're gonna bring me a burger every time. So stop asking my opinion. After a while I'm gonna be like, "You're gonna give me a burger anyway, so I don't care. I'm not answering the question. You don't really care about my answer. So I can't blame the question. "What do you want to eat?" I can't blame the vessel that he's asking me... I'm sick of him. And so that's why I'm like it's not survey fatigue. It's inaction fatigue. Any way that we measure, any technology we use, people can get sick of, but it's not "the thing." It's just the easiest thing to blame. It also allows organizations to distance themselves and not take the responsibility for not acting on what people are telling them. So like, it's the survey's fault. No, buddy.

Russel Lolacher
Well, I get that too. When people tell me they're like, Well, you know, nobody likes emails anymore. I'm like, No, people don't like shitty emails anymore. If you're a better communicator...

Kalifa Oliver
Stop sending me an email that says "okay". It was unnecessary. It pinged me. It stopped me from doing what I was trying to do. Like, stop.

Russel Lolacher
Totally. Where is the line when it gets to and I'm still sitting in the realm of myth, which is people might feel like they're being too big brother, or too... asking too personal questions like where is the line where it's about improving the organization versus prying?

Kalifa Oliver
And that's why I think there should be a strategic reason. I do not believe in building voice listening systems or continuous listening systems. If there is just collecting data for collecting data sake, because when you do strategic, you really think about the outcomes you think about privacy You think about the ethics of what you're doing. And there should be an outcome that is tied to it. And the outcome should not just be to let you feel better. Because that's where it becomes more when you're monitoring and surveillance of the monitor the Seville and everything that comes over the only thing you act on his penis out of that that's the line where people are just like, This is stupid. But if it's strategic, and you're really trying to make improvements, you're trying to make actual improvements in the everyday lives of your employees, with the aim of constantly setting them up for success, right? When you set your employees up for success, you are also setting your company up for success, you are ready, you are thinking about your bottom line, that is just a longer term investment. When you're doing that, then, when you truly think it through, when you have an end goal in mind, as in these reactions, we want to take this as investments we want to make this is why we're doing that, then it's not Big Brother, Big Brother is when it's just I'm just listening to all of them. I'm just scraping data to have it. Because I'm gonna use this whenever I feel to make it as punitive as possible. That's big brother, when there's a lack of ethics and lack of really thoughtfulness about privacy, when you are just collecting that data to sit there to use like rubbing your hands and stroking that imaginary, they're just waiting, then I can't I can't support that that's not voice of the employee that you being a complete and total asshole. That's all that is

Russel Lolacher
We've kind of focused on surveys quite a bit. But you didn't mention that survey can be just one of many tools to collect that VoE. What are other approaches that maybe organizations are ignoring because surveys their default?

Kalifa Oliver
Yeah, well, when I think about continuous listening, when you're thinking of voice of the employee, I think about four approaches. One is what we call voice listening. And it's I call it so it's four signals, right? I think people have sent four types of signals. One is voice signals, right? That is what people are seeing to you with their voice that is self reported. And so that includes cities, but there's also focus groups. So it depends on what you're trying to do, and how big how fast, you're trying to get information. Surveys are easy, because you'd send out a lot, very quickly to a broad group of people. But sometimes you really want to center on something. And in many cases, I recommend focus groups as a result of something you find in a city, right? So there's there's that, you know, there are asynchronous listening AI tools right now that I am in love with, which really allows a focus, a focus group. But it's not a focus group where everybody has to sit together at the same time. And it allows people to do it at their own pace, and you're getting their voice. There's also intranet that you can scrape, you can scrape the intranet, what are people seeing on our intranet? how they're responding to our communications? Are we seeing the right thing? Is there something with our tone that people aren't complaining about it, there's something that we're not communicating? And then you go to things like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Blind, whatever, Fishable, whatever else is out there now. And you can really get a sense of how people are actually reporting about you, right, and you can really do some data modeling off of that. The other thing is what I call movement signals. And so that's more of the objective data that companies collect, you know, things like, how do we use the PTO? Where are people going? Are they leaving the organization? What is the average tenure? Are they staying? Who's staying? Why are they staying, right? And so it gets you an understanding of how people are moving around. If they move, do they leave the industry, or they just go into a competitor? What's happening, because that's also telling you a story. That's them telling you, how they feel about you, right? The other one I call connection, and this one is one of the things I love. It's organizational network analysis. And a lot of companies do not use this, because this is one of the things that for many people is feels big brother. Right? It's the one that I think makes some people uncomfortable, but I think it's because organizations when they misunderstand it, they have leaders who abuse it, right? Org network analysis, the idea of it is to really understand how people are connected within your organization, are their nodes and thoughts and how are they networked with each other? Right? For example, you could and you can understand who influences in your organization, right? Who are the people who everybody goes to for answers, they're communicating with everybody, they bring different teams and departments together. If you this person has been in this role forever. If this person leaves, we break all those connections. So this person is more critical than we expect. This person probably should be promoted. This person is seen as an organizational leader and you don't realize that right? Or you might realize that there's some groups we can complete silo, which may be impaired and productive. Have a tea and you have to figure out how to connect how these people work. It's even more important to do things like that in this world of flexible location and remote work, is there a difference that we're seeing in how people are connecting and ways they're connecting and, and our meetings too long? And, you know, there's an interesting metric I've seen with Microsoft only, where you can see how many how much managers are in meetings with their directs, right? Because that's duplicated effort. Do you need to be you know, like, that's, that's a lack of productivity, right? What's happening in terms of is there a gap that needs to be filled at the market, the manager needs to be in these meetings, because what that does is prolong the day. The last one is another one that I think is underutilized. I call it connection, sorry, click signals, click signals. I'm a big fan of like, user experience. How we try to communicate things to our employees is what empowers them to be able to do their jobs properly. And we often don't think about when I post a policy in my intranet, are they going there? What are they actually clicking on? Are people looking at our benefits policy a lot, which means, do we need to do more work on our benefits, we think this is important. But all the traffic is going over here. When we post a certain message, the traffic response is great. We post another one it's not. And so the leaders are here thinking, well, this is really important. Everybody will love this. But this is important to you. But clearly what the data is telling us behind the scenes is that is actually what is important to our employees. That's what they're telling you. And they're telling you in their behavior. And they tell him what they're clicking on across your organization and what they feel like, they think that informs so much. They give everybody gives clicking on benefits. And then people start leaving, and they're saying, because these benefits don't work, there is an issue with either your benefits package or how you're explaining what benefits people have. And it's unclear and it's causing uncertainty, and people rather get away from it. So those are the four elements that I use when I think about employee voice.

Russel Lolacher
So there is one big weakness when it comes to collecting data. And that's because it involves human beings.

Kalifa Oliver
It involves humans, and they're annoying.

Russel Lolacher
You did mention off the top that there is either agendas or bias. What else gets in the way of properly collecting this information?

Kalifa Oliver
Trust. Well, I'll start with trust. The other thing is investments. And I talked about that. People are often unwilling to hear the truth. So often you'll get I don't want to hear I don't want to hear I don't want to hear I don't want to hear. All right. I think this is what our culture is. And I'm the one coming in with the paperwork going. Not so much. That's not the case. When I help organizations come up with continuous listening strategies, and building out our lesson programs and the employee experience programs, the first thing I say is, if you're not ready to hear it, you're not ready for a program, period, we are our own worst enemy. Trust is one of the biggest things. If you really want the employee voice and you're willing to act on it, you've got to take some time to build trust between the employee and the leadership. You have to if you don't have that trust that I can tell you the truth about where we are, and I will accept it. And you will acknowledge that I said it, then there's no point. It's like speaking to what what is the point. And I think that is one of the biggest things people take for granted. With employee voice. The other thing is honestly having people who truly understand people data. And I know that sounds silly, but something I've seen with a lot of organizations, they think just because people can work with data, they can work with people data. Nay nay. Because people are unpredictable, and people require context. And thinking that you can just work with data, which means you can work with people data is not true. And I think we know that inherently. Because we do so well on the customer side. And those are people too. But then when it comes to employees, we act like we forgot a lot of the techniques, the voice techniques that I talk about, we've been doing it with customers for years, we've had personalization for customers for years, the differences that customers are on the right side of the balance sheet, right we think they bring in money. And we think that our employees fall on the side that we just they just expenses right and and we got to rethink how we see employees. We've got to rethink it.

Russel Lolacher
You touched with trust. I immediately think culture because it If you don't have trust, or if you do have trust, I mean, both those are examples of the type of culture you have an organization. I've had a lot of conversations that I believe anonymous surveys are a sign of a broken culture. Because people don't feel they can be themselves or attach a name to the data. What are your thoughts on anonymous surveys, because they are so prevalent.

Kalifa Oliver
I don't love anonymous surveys. But I'll tell you, depending on where you are in your culture, sometimes it's the best thing to do. Especially if you only start up your culture journey, you just lay the truth, if you just want the lay of the land, that is the best thing to do if you're trying to make informed decisions. anonymous surveys are made clear. Because people could take it multiple times. And in one thing about anonymous cities that people take for granted. It increases the likelihood of trolling, people put awful things, and they're not helpful at all. And so you might have somebody like me who wants to do all this analysis, and I'm like, Oh, my God. My god. But a lot of us, I think you have to be real at where you are. When you're just beginning. If you just know rebuild in the state, if you just trying to build out culture, nothing is wrong with anonymous survey, right? Because sometimes any data is better than no data, because you need a starting point, and you need a foundation. But when you're really serious about making data driven, and apparently lead lead decisions, then you need to have confidential surveys, and you need to be very clear that these are confidential, you need to be very clear, who has the ability to see it. How was it reported? I think one of the... here's the truth. Even if a survey is anonymous, nobody, no employee ever believes it. They always think that there's somebody who's sitting down, twiddling their moustache and reading every who has time for that. Right? Like I worked at Walmart, I don't mean, at that time, I was about 2.2 million people, when that survey comes in, we're talking about 97% response rate, it has taken forever for that file to open, who has time to read every single comment. That is insanity, I can't do that, like I know you, when you take that survey like you when you how you feel is the most important thing at that time. But I'm just trying to understand what's happening. So that's the first thing I think people just don't trust that organization. So it always gets back to trust, right. And it could be a sign of a broken culture. But it could also be a sign of somebody trying to build trust. And the first thing they're saying is here is I just need to know how you feel. The one thing is if you're trying to repair your culture, or build your culture, truly get that trust, as you can do anonymous a couple of times a couple of falses. But you need to act, and the more you act, and the more you are honest. And the more you're transparent. And the more you report your findings. As you start moving into conflict confidential surveys, then people because people will tell you their business regardless, I promise you, I don't know why people, people will complain and then write a whole paragraph about how they're feeling they will put names and dates around like, Oh, my goodness. But I think it just depends on where you are. And I think, you know, as we look at some of the cultures that I think are being broken right now, they may need to think of having like maybe anonymous pulses, which is like short things that you're just trying to find out some key broad strokes information, but anything related to strategic decisions, do we need to create a new career development programs or how our like DEI. How are people feeling? You know, are there any ethical issues are there any microaggression type issues that may be impacted experiences, different groups are having or the entire group is having that is strategic strategic service should be confidential, and they should be tracked and be able to be tied back to hrs metrics. But if you just want to know, you know, in general, How's everybody feeling? What's the general temperature of the organization go anonymous, it's not that big of a deal. If somebody wants to take a survey five times get on now.

Russel Lolacher
You mentioned that people need to know what to do with those people analytics. And that's where storytelling comes into my brain. Because which we can collect all the data in the world, but numbers mean nothing if you don't give it context. And relatability. How do we get there?

Kalifa Oliver
So it's a skill that people have to learn. And I think it also gets down to there's a lot of people who work with data but not people data. And to your point, that's why you have to be able to tell the story of your people. The one rule that I've had I've always heard I keep it near and dear to me is that every I have a big responsibility. Because every data point is a human, it's a person and that person affects other people. And as long as I remember that, when I look at data, and I look at trends, and I look at patterns, I have to take care and how are reported, and really try to understand the interactions between multiple variables before I come to any sorts of conclusions or make recommendations to leaders about what they should and should not do. I really think it, it boils down to us. It's hard, right? It's, it's one of those things where it's hard to think about how do we really train people to understand the data, but I think, really trying to be the human. I know that sounds kind of...

Russel Lolacher
It's compassion, you're working with humanity and compassion. These aren't columns, these are people.

Kalifa Oliver
Right, right. Like, if if I count dollars, I don't hurt the dollars signs. Don't count it, right? I don't hurt the dollars. Dollars'll be fine, right? But when a person, right, that person, you make that decision, and it's wrong. The... the, the consequence of that decision, it could go anywhere from a lawsuit to like harm it for me, it's not worth it. Because you know, you did not contextualize the data. I am a full believer and storytelling, and I think part of it is data is, and a lot of leaders will not. But data can be very intimidating, and very confusing. And one thing I've learned about leaders is they don't like to preach, they don't like to show that they don't understand something and they're intimidated by what is data see, especially data doesn't see what they thought it was going to say. Right. And a lot of what I have to do sometimes is to tell a leader, you haven't you have an ugly baby. Yeah, you know, and so I always have to be like, okay, so people think they're babies. It's okay. Okay, we can pretty this up, it's alright, what we can read it, right? Right. Like, a lot of times, I have to do that. It's my job. That is what my job is to get them to trust me, we're on the same team, and I wouldn't do anything to hurt you. And so I go from once upon a time, because what I encourage people to do when you are doing employee voice work is understand your people, understand your industry, understand the lingo, so that you can tell the story appropriately. There are many people in my field, who were very academic, I blame us, right? We're very academic, and I will tell you, Oh, work is boring. Okay, working with data is boring, I'm not gonna lie to you. It's, it's boring, right? A lot of what I have to do is the most boring stuff in the world, its structure and data cleaning data. It is not sexy at all. It's boring. And I can go in and drone on and on. And 19% of people say this, and 20% of people say that, and everybody leaves us over in the room, we don't care. But I need to inject life and his story. And I also need to say, and this is what we can do, these are the solutions. And so you really start with true storytelling, which allows your voice to remain in the room when you're not there any mortality story, right? Every story you ever think of that you remember, if you don't always remember the first person, whoever told you that story, but that story lingers. You can hear that voice and a really good storyteller, whatever you think of that story. That's the voice you hear that person who brought it to life for you. And that's what storytelling with data is storytelling with data means that you're moving past the data into the insights of the data. What is the data actually saying? And what is it telling you? And then what can we do with this data. And that's that storytelling with data. And that is such a rush for me. And it's such a skill that's learned with time, because you really have to trust yourself in recognizing that you're speaking on behalf of multiple people. And the voice that you're using is yours, and it's just a vessel. But this is the story of many people. And you're advocating action, in order to create the outcomes that you're trying. You're trying to make. So it takes a lot of practice. It takes a lot of trust, and you start from scratch you really do start with well, once upon a time there were people in and bring color to the data And I think once you move away from the academics, just these, you need to be steeped in some theory. But you move away from that. And you really bring life, bring insight, bring context, bring solution that creates the story of the data. And that's the fun part. That's the part that a lot of people don't get to see. That's the fun part of working with data.

Russel Lolacher
Khalifa, give me a win. Give me an example where this storytelling is actually had, listening to employees collecting data properly, has actually moved the needle for an organization.

Kalifa Oliver
Oh, my God, I can I tell you a fun story. I always tell this story.

Russel Lolacher
I love fun stories. They are my favourite.

Kalifa Oliver
It's one of my fun ones. It will seem so boring. But I promise you, I promise it's not. Because it's so silly. Okay. So I'll go back to when I was a Walmart. So I had been, I've been reading a lot of survey results that were coming in about offices. And randomly in the qualitative data, I hadn't noticed a pattern, but I put it aside, I didn't think about it. And then one month was in the process of working on creating a new campus, they were looking at creating new buildings and whatnot. The office is essentially huge warehouses, okay. It is just dark, huge warehouses. That's how it feels when you get that. And you know, they were going to do it. And so at the very last minute, my manager said, "Hey, Khalifa, before they start working on the architecture before they start making announcements, can we just check one more time? Send the survey out? Let's just make sure we know exactly what the employees want." Okay, cool. So understand that. What do you want? Do you want this? Do you want that kind of, you know, what kind of resources you want in there? What will make a really nice office. And I decided last minute, I thought, you know, what, I can't see an unsafe is coming up randomly and open text that we don't ask about, like, people kept talking about how it was dark. People kept talking about like, I was like, I'm gonna throw in a question in here about light. So I said, what, what is it? Because it's like, what's important to you? I put light and I said, light, artificial light, natural thriller. Now I know, my boss probably was cross eyed by lightning. No, no, no, no, it's nagging me like, I've heard like, people keep talking about it, and it keeps coming up randomly. Let's throw it in. So I get the I, we did a survey, we bring it back out. I mean, lighters up there. Light is out there. Folks want windows, let me tell you folks wanted some window. So I write this report. And I was like, what is really important the people is the one light, natural light. So as we build these new buildings, spend these multi millions of dollars on this new campus, people really want natural light, they really want they want lights, if you can give them any lights, but it really wants some natural light. So have a filter. And what was hilarious to me is when they went back to the they did their architectural plans and all that stuff. There was an announcement that finally came a communication that finally came from the CEOs. That was Milan at the time, and towards the very end of the communication that said, "And yes, there will be lots of... there will be lots of lights." you know, people had a chance to see what the architecture plans look like. And it was hilarious to me because it was just a random thing that I threw in there because of all the things that I had analyzed. And it stuck with me that there was this weird pattern of people constantly talking about darkness. Right? It was just a weird pattern of people talking about it. And it was me listening to things that under normal circumstances, somebody would have just said it's not important that it felt important, important enough to that addressed it and it felt like a win. You would think this is something that's not important. It's not something that you think about, but in people's want to have a good experience and be productive in these offices. They just wanted something as simple as one light. So now, in this multimillion dollar plants that you're doing, you're like, yo, let's make sure we have some extra windows. Let's make sure there's light let's make and that's the CEO listening and the real estate folks listening and the operations people listening and the finance person listening, that there is this thing that our employees are asking us for and I was able to be the vessel for it. And for me, that was a huge win. Under normal circumstance, you think, can't you think equity, you would never think just late, which also goes to show you that sometimes the things people want is not a lot. People sometimes ask you for what they consider to be the smallest thing. But we're so busy trying to create these programs that are intricate and complex. And then we wonder why we're not moving the needle, because that's important to us as leaders, not to our employees. And I think shutting up and listening is what we need to do. So more. So that's a weird example. But it's one that I absolutely love sharing, because it's so practical, that you don't think about it.

Russel Lolacher 
So an organization might kind of sorta collect data, or they don't really at all, do you start... Like, where do you start? Is it pulse surveys? Is it take a crack at what a survey is?

Kalifa Oliver
I'd say if you want to just start somewhere, start with a sitting start. And that's like, what, two points, we're just trying to start to an anonymous survey, to start testing waters, that's your capacity test your analytic skill. Start with to start with a survey. The problem is, of course, with anonymous surveys, if you're really trying to get some demographic data, you're gonna have to lengthen the survey and ask those questions. So anonymous surveys really should be longer. But start with a survey only, because from a logistic standpoint, it is much faster and easier for you. And so that's why I always say just start with a survey, right? Surveys can be your best friend. But don't lean on it. As you mature, several other ways to use technology in your favor. There are more ways to really advance and get more analytics and, and get fancy and do more or less. But if you're just starting out, my rule, just asked the question, just ask the question. I won't say focus groups as a start, because focus groups can be unwieldly. And one of the side effects of focus groups. And sometimes the loudest person in the room is who dominates your focus group. If it's not well, if it's not well managed. And sometimes that's hard when you're just starting out to understand how to manage because it means a new people doing this new thing. And you don't always want to bring out an outside facilitator to do that, you may not have the funds for it, you know, a well designed survey, if you're going to invest in something, a well designed survey, or if you need me to build one for your people, I can do that.

Russel Lolacher
Oh, there'll be links in the show notes.

Kalifa Oliver
I can do a well designed survey for you.

Russel Lolacher
What excites you? Technology is such a big part of this. Humanity is such a big part of this. So we're looking more organizations, suddenly, I mean, I don't know what the hell happened. Maybe a pandemic, where suddenly organizations start giving a shit about employees... So what excites you about the future of people analytics?

Kalifa Oliver
Two things. I think during the pandemic technology advanced in such like... people technology, communication technology, asynchronous technology it advanced at such a rate, that it's allowing us to do so many other things, and people started to pay attention, to really try and use technology, which makes me incredibly happy. The nerd part of me is just happily dancing and singing, that there are different ways to collect data. So I love it. I think also, what really excites me right now about the future of work is people can't ignore people anymore. The people aspect of work cannot be ignored. We're trying, as you can see, now we're trying to go back to it. We can't, we can try. We can. It's archaic. HR moved into the future, just a little bit. HR has been a dinosaur for a very long time. I'll say it a minute. Okay. And I can talk about my people. We've, you know, we've we've been dinosaurs, everything is one correct way to do it, which is not the truth. You know, I think what people discovered very quickly is when a company has to do something, they can do it. If you need to work remotely, I can see you have all these people, for example, people with different abilities and disabilities who found out that all of these accommodations that they had asked for, they could have gotten if companies had just tried there's no going back from that. There's no going back for people realizing that they don't have to stay in traffic if they don't want to there's no going back to realizing that people can spend time with their families and work right. There's no going back from that and, and honestly, with all these layoffs, there will be no going back from that either. When the market swings in the other direction. The trust is broken. Right so a lot of these giants that people like I must work for them, they're great. You realize that they they're just companies to write and they thought I'm happy with what I call a little bit of an awakening. You know, I don't want to call it the greed, anything because I'm sick of the great stuff, you know, label and everything. But there just seems to be an awakening where people are realizing that work is a part of their lives. And companies are realizing that these are humans. These are humans. And I think those two things together, then you mix up some new technology. The future's bright for us.

Russel Lolacher
So I got to ask the last question, Khalifa which is, and I think it's a perfect time for it. What's one simple action people can do right now to improve relationships at work.

Kalifa Oliver
So this is going to feel very counter intuitive. Do it, do it, take a break from work. And I just, I mean, like, like, don't stop working. Like, take your PTL. Take the days off, take a take a couple of days. And don't just try to do one long, let me just take two weeks off. Because you'll find at the end of that you're not as relaxed as you think you are, you need to take multiple times the time that you've given. And the reason why I'm saying that is you need to fill yourself up. You need to take care of yourself. What I found is when you fill yourself up and take care of yourself, you can go in and be great at work and you will you're willing to help you have more room for empathy and care. And for building relationships and for being a good cook. And being a good manager. You have to take the time to fill yourself up relationships that will depend on your relationship with you. And I think that is what I really want people to know. And if you don't remember anything that I said this entire time, you gotta take care of yourself.

Russel Lolacher
That is Dr. Kalifa Oliver, who is the founder and managing partner of Deep Dive Consulting, which is all over those people analytics to make the employee experience so much better for those who are responsible for Yeah, thank you so much, Kalifa.

Kalifa Oliver
Oh, thank you for having me. anytime. I appreciate it.