We sat down with Alan Ross, a seasoned senior HR executive who held executive roles at large companies including Dun & Bradstreet, Nielsen, Trizetto, Matrix Medical, and US Anesthesia Partners, and is currently advising several PE firms on topics of leadership, organizational effectiveness, M&A and change. Alan represents a progressive HR executive who thinks about a human capital approach as a key differentiator in the effectiveness of company’s strategy and execution. Since his early interactions, Alan was excited about the potential of Entromy, and is currently a senior advisor and investor in the company.
1. “Alan, can you describe some of the key challenges that companies face when trying to rapidly transform either through hyper-growth or M&A?”
When companies are going through rapid change, one of the critical challenges is ensuring alignment: alignment between strategy and execution, alignment within the leadership on core priorities, and alignment between the executive leadership and the rest of the organization.
Most companies struggle with communicating a clear and unifying message to employees and in coming up with a way of collecting, prioritizing and responding to employee concerns, risks and significant opportunities. This results from the company evolving fast, new people being hired, processes rapidly changing, and organizational structures being stretched.
Only few years back, when the pace of change was more gradual, organizations were more hierarchical, and the business environment more defined, managing by walking around was an effective way to stay on top of managing change. Things are different now. Digital transformations are accelerating how quickly companies must adjust. Virtual organizations and the emergence of the gig economy are necessitating more agile ways of staying in touch with employee insights throughout the organization. Given that over 80% of M&As fail to deliver their anticipated benefits, having the right information and being able to act on it fast is crucial.
2. “You mentioned that leadership often struggles to get the appropriate information to make the right decisions. Why is that?”
During a major change in an organization there is a high degree of uncertainty and a critical need for information flow.
This rapidly changing and fragile environment combined with typically higher attrition magnifies problems that impact processes, organizational effectiveness and the ability to collaborate between teams. It creates the need to have a way to systematically collect, analyze, prioritize and respond to concerns by employees who are closest to customer lines, solution delivery, and general operations. Leadership often gets caught in urgent fires of the day, which are not necessarily the most important ones. Employees at various levels fear raising the right issues early as it would only create additional tension and unease for them. Problems rarely go away, and ultimately the issues explode where they could have been prevented with an effective early warning system and clear communication.
Leaders need to move from responding to anecdotal feedback to addressing critical concerns in a timely manner by focusing on formulating messages and actions closely aligned to the realities and expertise from the source — their employees. Being focused on top priorities makes it easier for the company to act faster. Companies truly need an effective employee sensing system.
3. “Why should organizations use an employee sensing system like Entromy?”
It’s about real-time access to the most sensitive and important information. We are not talking just about employee experience, but mostly about feedback related to value delivered to customers, quality of work priorities, organizational effectiveness, communication, leadership and ability to drive change. An employee sensing system like Entromy enables a much more meaningful and targeted response to employee concerns and feedback and allows the company to keep the discussion in-house vs. leaving employees going to social media or message boards with their concerns and ideas. This is especially the case when organizations are going through rapid and deep change, or when the employees that are vital to the success of the organization work in virtual or remote arrangements. Traditional systems fail to match the speed and agility of a solution like Entromy.
4. “What are the short falls of current systems and alternatives?”
Dashboards and current analytics reports alone just cannot tell the depth of the story, and as a result, we are often reactionary. For example, a traditional employee engagement study takes too long and produces information that is either stale or obsolete by the time the results are tallied and shared with leaders. Entromy, on the other hand, can provide real time feedback which is essential for leaders to use in navigating an organization through the change process.
The most powerful functionality of Entromy is the synthesis of unstructured information — the true insights from the organization. When engaging consulting companies in my prior roles, I would often get a 150-page report with piles of verbatim comments. After reading 4 or 5 pages you throw it down, because you can’t do anything about it. The clear messages just don’t come out.
On the other hand, Entromy organizes the open-ended comments and feedback into clear themes supported by strong illustrative points, which changes the discussion from “ what are the real issues?” to “ what do we DO about them?”
5. “When is the right time to begin using an employee sensing solution?”
The right time to begin using an employee sensing solution is NOW. More and more leaders should be turning to Entromy to leverage a solution that is valuable during every stage of an organization’s life cycle. Especially in times of significant change, the right employee sensing solution becomes indispensable. When a PE acquires a company, or significant restructuring is happening in a business, this introduces tremendous strain on the business as new leaders will be inevitably trying to shape the progress. They need all the help they can get in terms of getting a crystal clear picture to speed up effective decision-making.
6. “Why would employees spend the time to provide input?”
Look at the robust growth of Glassdoor and other social media sites that employees frequent to either vent or boast about their employer. The fact is that most employees are highly invested at both an emotional and personal level in their jobs, and want their concerns and ideas to be heard . A sensing solution provides this forum, and the bond between the employee and the organization is only strengthened when leaders act on the feedback.
7. “How can you ensure successful adoption of a solution like Entromy to help accelerate results?”
To be successful, every level of leadership from the C-suite to first level leaders must be committed to organizational improvement. It is also critical for the solution to provide a safe environment that will foster transparency and trust. Any technology solution must be able to handle the complex nuances of sensitive information being shared.
Once the right commitment from leadership exists, and an effective solution is in place, the leadership must hold themselves appropriately accountable to deliver on the results. Being able to listen to the feedback, create achievable and focused action plans, and ensure that the energy is being spent on the right priority initiatives will deliver the results. The actions from the leadership set the tone for the rest of the organization.