Employee Journey Analytics: Improving Your EX With Data
Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders.
Why is employee journey analytics important for successful companies? In this episode of All About HR season 2, we talk with Kevin Campbell — Employee Experience Scientist @ Qualtrics — about how you can create a great employee experience using data.
Kevin is an experienced people scientist who helps organizations acquire, train, and retain their most valuable asset — their people.
In this episode, we’ll discuss:
- What Employee Journeys Analytics is
- How to get started with Employee Journey Analytics in 5 steps
- HR & Employee Journey Analytics: Key skills every HR professional needs
Watch the full episode to discover how you can leverage analytics to increase engagement, improve retention, and help your business win in today’s marketplace!
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Kevin Campbell: They revised their onboarding survey to not just ask that question (Have you had a meeting with your manager?) but to ask about specific behaviors: Was that initial conversation with your manager over text? Was it in person? Was it over the phone? Was it over Zoom? And what we found was that when it was in person or over Zoom, those feelings of belonging are so much higher later on in that employee journey.
Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All About HR. My name is Neelie, I’m your host, and on today’s episode, I’m talking with Kevin Campbell. He is an employee experience scientist at Qualtrics. And we are going to talk about a topic I’m very excited about – employee journey analytics. What is it? How can you get started as a company? Perhaps Kevin has a few cool examples to share with us. Let’s see. But before we jump in, as always, if you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe to our channel, like this video, and hit the notification bell.
Neelie Verlinden: Welcome to another episode, All About HR.
Neelie Verlinden: Okay, Hi, Kevin. Welcome to the show. First of all, how are you?
Kevin Campbell: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I’m very happy to have you. Before we jump into the conversation, would you like to tell us a little bit more about yourself and also about Qualtrics?
Kevin Campbell: Sure, sure. So my background is as an Organisational Psychologist. So I studied the science of people at work and specifically positive organizational psychology. So I had the pleasure of studying under Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He’s the co-founder of Positive Psychology. And I did my master’s degree studies with him. And prior to going into this world of employee experience, I was actually a headhunter and a recruiter. And I finally landed at Google working as a headhunter recruiting the top software engineers from around the globe to work in the corporate office in Mountain View. And there I was working at the best place to work according to all the workplace lists at the time, but I still saw a high degree of variance in terms of how engaged people were in their roles. And that’s what made me even more interested in finding out what makes people truly happy at work. And the rest is history. I’ve worked at the Gallup organization, Deloitte. I was a people scientist at Culture Amp. And now I’m doing similar work as an employee experience scientist with Qualtrics. So to summarise what that means, because I know it’s not a very common job title, I study and help organizations identify and close gaps around the employee experience.
Neelie Verlinden: Nice one. Very nice introduction as well, Kevin, thank you for that. Okay. So, as I said in my very short introduction, what I would love to talk to you about today is employee journey analytics. I saw you recently posted about that on your LinkedIn. And I thought, okay, that could make for a cool topic to discuss on the podcast. Now I think some of the people in our audience, will know what employee journey analytics is about. But at the same time, I think it is still a relatively new concept, correct me if I’m wrong, so perhaps we can start with you telling us a little bit more about what it entails.
Kevin Campbell: Yeah. So it’s about being able to predict outcomes at one point in an employee’s journey by studying the drivers at another point of the employee’s journey. So if you want to know what it is about your onboarding experience that leads to higher rates of engagement and motivation and commitment, six months, a year, two years into a role, that’s employee journey analytics. If you want to know what training programs and leadership development programs lead to higher performance ratings, six months or a year later in a role, or if you want to be able to predict who’s going to accelerate faster within your organization, what’s gonna happen with regard to customer engagement and customer satisfaction, and Net Promoter Score. When you bring different points of the employee journey together, you get insights that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to have when you think about them as discrete separate pieces.
Neelie Verlinden: I think that’s actually a very clear explanation. You explain very well how it works, how you are collecting data on one point, and then you’re going to see the results at a later point in the employee journey. So I think that’s a nice way for us to start, Kevin, and why do you believe that this is important in today’s world of work?
Kevin Campbell: Well, you don’t want an employee engagement survey as an example or any kind of an employee survey. It tends to be a point in time survey. You’re measuring how people are feeling, and their appraisal and subjective experience of what it’s like to work at your workplace at that point in time. But things are changing so quickly. Think about the way we work now, just compared to a year ago, compared to two years ago, and all of the different things that happen throughout your day that can either engage you or disrupt you or disengage you or make you consider, is this really the right role for me? Is this really the right place for me? And if you’re not thinking of yourself as an organization, or as a leadership team, the opportunity to see those changes over time, you’re going to be making decisions based upon a slice of data from a point in time that might not necessarily be relevant. And what bringing those different touchpoints together allows you to do is see the whole landscape of that employee journey, and be able to understand what are the moments that really matter? And what’s going to be the best return on the action that you can take? Because there are so many things that you can do to try and improve the employee experience. Is it going to be, you know, giving people swag and perks and different benefits? Or is it going to be some sort of an event or training? The opportunities are endless, but not every single action that you can take is going to get you the best return on your investment. So this allows you to really have the gift of focus.
Neelie Verlinden: I like that. The gift of focus. Beautifully put. And I think a little bit later on, I would like to come back to how companies can actually do that, how they can get started. But before we get there, Kevin, I wanted to ask you something else. And this is about the actual collection of the data. So how do you collect data on the different experiences within the employee lifecycle without drowning employees in surveys?
Kevin Campbell: I love that question. So, yeah, so one thing I’ll say is that you know, I was working with a really large organization that said: people don’t like taking surveys, and I said: You’re right, people don’t like taking surveys, but they love having their feedback given and taken into account, they love being heard. So, a lot of times, there’s fear of survey fatigue. And it’s a valid fear. But most survey fatigue is actually a lack of relevance fatigue and a lack of action fatigue. People don’t think that the time that they’re taking to take the survey is relevant to what happens to be happening to them at that moment. And they don’t think it’s really going to do much of anything. But if you look at every business trip I’ve ever gone on in the last several years, I’ve probably taken like five or six surveys along the way. But I never thought about it right? Like I take a survey on the Uber ride to the airport. And then at the end of the Uber ride. And then I take another survey as I’m checking into the plane and going through customs. And then I’m listening to an audiobook. And as the audiobook finishes, I give my feedback on the audiobook and then I take a Lyft ride back to the hotel, and then I ordered DoorDash. And at the end of my DoorDash experience, I rate that experience. So a big part of it is embedding the feedback into the experience itself. So as you’re onboarding, as you’re using the employee intranet, and then, also if you think about it, feedback and employee listening should really be more conversational. So if you and I are in a relationship, and I’m the only one that’s ever initiating conversation, and I’m the one that’s only asking questions, that’s not a real conversation. So those listening posts organizations have, where people can have digital suggestion boxes of sorts, where people can at any time, submit questions or suggestions or ideas, like frontline employees being able to see opportunities to improve the customer experience. So to answer your question more succinctly, I think it’s about embedding the feedback into the flow of the experience and making it relevant to what’s happening, and most importantly, actually doing something about the feedback that people give.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, totally. And I love, by the way, how you make that comparison with you know, going to the airports and then being on the plane, reading an e-book on your e-reader, etc. That is almost a seamless experience. As in like you don’t really even realize that you’re giving feedback. I was also thinking actually here in Europe at least what you see a lot is when you go to the airport, when you go to the restroom, they also ask you for feedback afterward about how your experience was, but it is completely integrated into everything that you’re doing. So it’s not something that at least I personally do not experience as something like, Oh, God, I need to give my feedback again. So I love that example that you gave there, Kevin. And I think if we could create a similar experience in the workplace, that will be awesome.
Kevin Campbell: Absolutely. And then, you know, imagine the power that comes from that, the insights that you have, you know, how many horrible experiences there are at work, that if somebody was just able to give their feedback, there’d be some sort of a mechanism to do something about it, you know. I’m working with this woman who is an account manager at a large tech organization, and her company was acquired by another company, and the sales operations team was doing integration of Salesforce. And to make a long story short, they completely screwed up the integration. These frontline employees, these account managers, these customer success employees who are supposed to be spending the majority of their time helping customers be successful, are spending the majority of their day fixing problems in Salesforce. But because that experiential feedback is not making its way back to company leadership, the team that did that merger on Salesforce got a huge recognition right from the very top of the company, and congratulations for how amazing of a job they did. Because from an operational perspective, they brought the databases together, like, check the box, that’s done. But there’s a whole other experiential, subjective component to what they did, where if you’re not actually collecting that data from people, you’re really blind to what’s happening in your organization.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, totally. You really only see one part of what’s going on, which in this case, gives you not the entire picture. Now, coming back to the employee journey, Kevin, how do you determine which aspects within the employee journey are most crucial to, for instance, employee retention and performance?
Kevin Campbell: Great question. So let’s start with retention. On most surveys, on most employee listening programs, there’s going to be a question and there are a couple of different ways you can do it that measure somebody’s intent to stay. Some questions are: I rarely think about looking for a job at another company. Do you see yourself working at XYZ company two years from now? Or at Qualtrics, we’d like to directly ask people who do tend to be here for six months, a year, five years. And then the best of all, is that the actual operational data looking at whether or not somebody resigned, and essentially what you’re doing, and I’m not going to bore you with the statistics of it, but you’re doing a correlational analysis of that outcome, whether that be people actually resigning, or someone giving their rating on one of those intensive state questions. And you’re looking at all the other questions that you ask. And you’re saying, which question has the strongest relationship with that outcome? So the idea is that if you can improve those other questions, those drivers, those things that are being asked about on those other questions, then you’ll be able to improve whether or not people intend to stay or whether or not people remain with the company and don’t turn over. And a lot of those questions go back to things like my performance evaluation was fair, or my performance is evaluated fairly well. If that’s the strongest driver from that survey, then maybe the other point in the employee journey that you want to measure is that performance cycle. Or let’s say another thing that surfaces as a top driver is, that I have the learning that I need to do my job really well. If that emerges as a driver, then maybe you want to analyze the employee touchpoint related to learning and development and training. Or if there’s something about systems and processes, well, then maybe you want to start to measure your IT experience to make sure that people are using the right tools and equipment and having good interactions with the IT Helpdesk. But back to that idea of being conversational. You want to think of it as a back and forth conversation where you do your baseline survey, you understand what that top signal is, and then you act on that top signal by actually following up and saying: Okay, well, how do we dig even deeper into this part of the journey and be able to make those cross journey analytics to be able to find out where that connection point is and what we can do to improve the experience.
Neelie Verlinden: All right, thanks. Very, very clear. Okay. Now, before we move on to the next spot, I have one last thing that I was wondering about. So, and again, correct me if I’m wrong, but I have the feeling that a lot of the time when we’re talking about employee experience, it is often about knowledge workers. And it’s about, okay, let’s see if our knowledge workers are having a great experience. But there’s a really big part of the workforce that are the deskless workers or our blue-collar workers. And sometimes it feels like they are not necessarily always a part of this because the payoff between employee experience and their productivity is less tangible. What are your thoughts on this?
Kevin Campbell: That’s changing. That was true, just a few years ago. But I think with so many of the changes that are happening from the perspective of employee values, what people value ay work. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that who we used to think were essential, weren’t really the people that are essential. The people that are essential are really at the frontline of everything, making the world work, and we all discovered just how important they are. And I think it’s been a great reckoning for a lot of organizations. And when you think about the connection to real business outcomes, right, like your experience at a retail organization, or a grocer, or a quick-service restaurant, yeah, you know, the software developers that are designing the app have an influence on that employee experience, no doubt about it. But the person delivering your food, the person making your food, the person that you’re interacting with, that human-to-human connection can’t be replaced. And if you want to really delight customers, if you want to create a truly world-class experience, that’s mostly going to be done through these people. And getting that engagement from people at the frontline is absolutely critical. And a lot of organizations are waking up to that fact. And the ones that wake up to that fact the most are going to have a huge competitive advantage when it comes to winning business.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I believe that’s the case as well. And really great to hear that it’s changing, which is, I think, a good thing. And it probably also was about time, to be honest. Okay, so let’s move on a little bit and take a look at employee journey analytics and practice so to speak. Now, I know that in your LinkedIn posts, you talked about how companies can use employee journey analytics, and I believe that you mentioned five steps. So maybe it could be interesting for our listeners to briefly describe these five steps, and then, maybe each step can be accompanied by an example.
Kevin Campbell: Yeah, that sounds great. So the first step is to actually think about what are all the projects that you have, or you want to have, that are the listening touchpoints that are happening across the employee experience. So many organizations already have an onboarding survey, or they might have post-training feedback. Or you might have an exit survey, you might have your employee engagement surveys. So the first thing is to just get a lay of the land, taking an inventory of all the different projects and listening touchpoints that you have. Once you’ve done that, you really want to identify – and this is all step one, by the way. Once you have that lay of the land, you want to determine what your Northstar is. Or what are those key performance indicators that are important to you? Obviously, employee retention is a big one these days. Yeah, feelings of belonging and inclusion are also important ones. Engagement is a classic. But it’s important to really key in on what are the outcomes that matter to you? Because that is going to be the linchpin upon which every other thing is is evaluated. So what are those key outcomes? What are those key performance metrics? Align on what those are and look into where you have data on that among the employee journey. And also, related to that, what are the key employee segments within that? Is it your knowledge workers? Because they’re so hard to replace? Because there are so few of them? Or are you discovering that it’s actually people that are in more traditionally thought of as blue-collar positions where they’re interacting directly with customers? What’s going to be the key place in that employee journey? The next step is to really think about hypotheses. And as a scientist, this is the part that is near and dear to my heart. Because with all of this data, you can throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. You can run an analysis with every driver against every outcome and eventually we’ll find something. But whether that thing is real, interpretable, or makes sense, is going to be questionable. So it’s important to actually say, and speak with your stakeholders, speak with your employees and say, Okay, well, what do we think is happening here? Right? If we say belonging and inclusion are important outcomes, what other parts of our journey do we suppose relate back to that feeling of belonging? Well, maybe it’s something in the onboarding cycle, maybe it’s whether or not they meet their manager, whether or not they meet their team. Okay, well, let’s test for that. So be really intentional about what are the hypotheses that you’re going to build. And the next step is to really stay focused on that hypothesis or those hypotheses and figure out what are the key drivers? What are the most impactful places where that happens? And keep it radically simple. Start with one key outcome, the two places or three places in the employee journey that you think impact that outcome, stay focused on that outcome and say, Okay, where can we have the biggest impact on what we’re doing? And then the next piece is to communicate the findings. So get that information out to people. And right now, at Qualtrics, we’re actually doing a lot of work around how do you make sure that all of that great analysis that’s done lives on in a dashboard somewhere, so that people can go back and reference it later? Rather than what tends to happen in organizations, there’s some sort of project, there’s a deck that gets presented, and then maybe some action will be taken as a result of that presentation, but oftentimes, it kind of floats off into the ether. But having it live on so that people are constantly reminded about, hey, this is something that needs to be done. And then the last piece of that is to really start that journey all over again, and to say, Okay, what information did we gather? And how do we want to do a deeper dive to revise the way that we’re measuring this information? So I’ll give an example. You will find that feelings of belonging on your engagement survey tend to be driven by something that happened in the onboarding experience. So you discover that within the onboarding experience, the degree to which people agree with the statement that they had a conversation with their manager during their first week, has a relationship with that feeling of belonging. But maybe you go back and do a deeper dive into that. And there was one organization or retail organization or brochure, actually, that found that they revised their onboarding survey to not just ask that question (Have you had a meeting with your manager?) but to ask about specific behaviors: Was that initial conversation with your manager over text? Was it in person? Was it over the phone? Was it over Zoom? And what we found was that when it was in person or over Zoom, those feelings of belonging are so much higher later on in that employee journey, versus just having a conversation over text, which was actually the worst. It was worse than not doing anything at all.
Neelie Verlinden: Oh, wow.
Kevin Campbell: But by being able to drill into specific behaviors, you now have information that every manager knows. By making that small adjustment in that first week, what the impact is going to be on how employees feel, in terms of whether or not they belong at the organization six months, maybe years later?
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I find this super interesting, Kevin. It really is a bit as if you can keep peeling off layers and go deeper into each specific, I’m going to call the touchpoint for now because of lack of a better word in my vocabulary at the moment, but I hope you get what I’m saying. I really like how you can just go at a deeper level every single time and then make improvements that have had a big impact further down the line. So yeah, I think that is super interesting. What else did I want to ask you about? Yeah, of course. I mean, the podcast is called All About HR. So make sense that we also touched on the role of HR in all of this. How do you see the role of HR in this, Kevin, and maybe a little bit more of a specific question, what type of skills do you believe that HR professionals involved in employee journey analytics needs?
Kevin Campbell: I think that’s a great question. And it’s almost this paradox of being much more empathic and having great storytelling skills, interpersonal skills, and persuasion skills. So-called soft skills. But I think data analytics and people analytics not only require that you get even more skilled in those areas and data sapping the ability to interpret statistics. But it’s not just the ability to interpret statistics or understand these analyses. It’s how do you explain that in an empathic way to your internal customers whose job it is to take action based upon this information? And how do you simply and powerfully and emotionally explain the impact of those connections in a way that moves people? So it’s interesting because there is this need for data-savvy, and people-savvy. And it’s not either-or. I think there’s a big misperception out there that it’s either-or. It’s both. Because the power of both is where the magic really happens. And yeah. it’s about storytelling with data in many ways.
Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, that’s beautifully put again, and this is also actually quite cool to hear this coming from you. Because here at the Academy to Innovate HR, we’ve also identified skills or mindsets that are important for HR professionals, and one of them is indeed data literacy. But that’s not the only one. There’s also the part where people are able to translate that to internal customers. So very, very cool to hear it from somebody else as well, Kevin. Now, when we talk about employee experience, traditionally, creating a great employee experience can be quite operationally heavy or labor-intensive. Now, what is the role that automation plays in EX? Is there a role for automation in your opinion? And if so, have you seen some successful examples of it?
Kevin Campbell: Yes, I think there is a huge role for automation, especially when the point of the employee experience the touchpoint that you’re trying to improve is operational in nature. So the onboarding experience is an example. There’s an emotional, subjective human component to that, which is the conversations that you’re having with people and the enablement that you’re getting. But there’s also a huge operational aspect of it, you know, signing up for benefits and perks, getting your direct deposit information and getting your tools and equipment, and having that deliver on time and working well. And with workflow automation partners, like ServiceNow, or integrations with different HR is systems, you can make it so that when there’s an immediate need and operational need on the part of an employee, that automatically puts a ticket into the HR HelpDesk to be able to make some of those more operational things happen automatically, without necessarily having to get a human involved, or at least not having to get an HR VP or an HR strategist who would probably much rather be working on those strategic things than having to make a phone call or place an email to it. So I think those partnerships with ServiceNow, and others, you know, ServiceNow, is really famous for saying, if you have to send an email or you find yourself repeatedly sending an email to facilitate a process, that’s when there’s time for workflow automation. And when you embed that into the employee journey analytics, you can make it so that those things just happen. And you can close that loop in a really quick way.
Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic. I think that is probably good news. I think for a lot of people who might be listening, and about those people who might be listening or watching Kevin, let’s say they are super enthusiastic about this topic of employee journey analytics, and they’re thinking, okay, we really want to get started with that within our organization, how can they get started? Do you have any advice on that?
Kevin Campbell: Yeah, start somewhere. So I think anything that you do will be important. So you know, if you don’t have any employees listening at all, I always suggest starting with a baseline survey, or an employee engagement survey. For your first one, it’s counterintuitive, but it might actually be longer than what you might do on a more ongoing basis. Because at this point, you’re trying to understand all the things that are important and you don’t want to miss anything. So it’s going to be a bit of a kitchen sink exercise where you’re throwing in all your educated guesses into that survey. And then I think you’re going to inform the rest of your journey based on that. And really listen to what the top signals are, understand what the main thing driving the outcomes that you want are going to be, and then take action on that. And actually, now that we’re talking about it, it’s a great conversation because you know, the canned answer that you normally give, as you’re starting to explain that you’re like, Wait, there’s another step in this that I think is important. And I think that the first thing that you want to align on is what do you want to know? What do you really want to know about your people that you don’t already know? Or what are the things that you think you know, but getting some data around, will help either confirm what you think, you know, or dispel some myths? Because a lot of myths hang around organizations, you know, one big myth is that people are leaving because of pay. Now, there might be truth to that ỏ there might not. Pay might be a factor. Is it the most important factor? To what degree is it a factor? Right? So one example is a hospital system that wants to pay all of its nursing staff double what it’s currently paying them, which you know, as somebody who wants to improve people’s lives at work, I’m like, yes, go for it. And is that going to be enough? If you’ve spent all that money, encouraging people to stay, but they still leave, then you’ve spent a lot of time and resources implementing something that may not have gotten you where you want to go? So what are the questions that you really need to ask and answer, and really tie that back into your business outcomes? And I’m very business oriented with this not because I think business is more important than employees or the employee experience, but, if you want to sustain this over the long haul, if you want leaders and managers to be able to feel like the work that goes into these programs is irrelevant, then you have to tie it back to the things that matter to them and to their work. So I think I scratch my initial answer. I think the first thing that you do is really sit back, take a step back and say, what do we need to know? What do we want to know? What are the hypotheses here? And then once you have that really clearly in mind, then you can start to think about where and when and how do you measure?
Neelie Verlinden: Again, I think that makes complete sense. Thank you very much for that, Kevin. Now, on to, well, one of my favorite parts of each episode. This is the part where I get to ask my guests of today – that’s you, obviously – about what they believe is the biggest cliche about HR. That’s the first question. So I’ll throw that in there.
Kevin Campbell: Oh, gosh, the biggest cliche, there are so many cliches about HR. I’m going to answer that question with an answer or with another question first. So what are the most creative answers you’ve heard to that to that question?
Neelie Verlinden: Oh, I had some good ones to that to be honest. But one that I hadn’t heard before was that HR is not much more than a cost center. And then, of course, the one that I heard a lot, which is a cliche in itself, maybe is that HR people are in HR because they care about people. So that gives you an idea, perhaps?
Kevin Campbell: Yeah, I think the biggest cliche, is that people in HR, this is a fun one. And I think people in HR are guilty of this, for lack of a better term, that HR is separate from the business. And sometimes people in HR even referred to other parts of the business as the business. And it’s just an interesting use of language to think of, there’s HR, and then there’s the business.No, no! In many organizations, your only asset is human capital, right? Like if you think about so many kinds, like a law firm or a recruiting agency or a consulting firm, right? Like, it’s all just people. You don’t have heavy machinery and other assets, except for maybe intellectual property, like it’s all just the people. So to say that human resources is this other entity, and then there’s the business is really a huge cliche and wildly inaccurate and almost laughable to think of it that way.
Neelie Verlinden: I think that’s a great one, Kevin, and is definitely one that I haven’t heard before. So thank you very much for that. And that also brings us to the end of our conversation. So I really want to give you a big, big thanks. I’ve learned a lot. I hope you enjoy the conversation as well.
Kevin Campbell: I absolutely did. This was great. Anytime you want to come back. I’m really looking forward to it.
Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic. And maybe one last thing before I wrap this conversation up, where can people best reach out to you if they want to connect with you?
Kevin Campbell: Yeah, great question. I think the best way is just through LinkedIn, follow me or connect with me. I haven’t gotten to the point where people are only able to follow so I welcome requests. Also, looking at my personal website, aside from the work that I do at Qualtrics, is Lifted Leadership. I have a very small coaching practice. I can only take on one or two clients at a time. But in terms of the employee journey analytics, all that work would be done through and with Qualtrics. And the best way to connect with that would be through LinkedIn.
Neelie Verlinden: Fantastic. Thank you so much. Thank you. And thank you everybody for tuning in today. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. Again, if you haven’t done so yet, don’t forget to subscribe to our channel, like this video, and hit the notification bell. Thank you so much for watching, and see you soon. Bye!