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article imageOp-Ed: HR is not a dirty word — TINYPulse breaks through Special

By Paul Wallis     May 1, 2015 in Business
Seattle - In the job market and the workplace, there’s one continuous factor — aconstant scream from employees about workplace problems. What you don’t see are the people trying to fix the problems.
I was lucky enough to get in contact with one of the new firms working to find the right fixes.
Let’s set the scene — the global workplace is in a state of massive change. Whole new employment models are entering the job market. Real problems, ranging from massive staff turnover to serious business cultural failures, are rampant. Employee misery is easy to find online, on any job site, anywhere on Earth. People move, fast, to get out of hostile work environments. Employee turnover is colossal around the world.
Employer angst is less visible, but it’s there, it’s grim, and it’s incredibly costly. Employers don’t like getting hit with daily sledgehammers while watching the ship sink, either. An article I did recently, Apple — a hell of a place to work, is a virtual verbatim recital of workplace woes for many employees, even at senior level.
Metrics matter. This is the information generated by TINYPulse s methods.
Metrics matter. This is the information generated by TINYPulse's methods.
Lose employees, and you’re going to be spending a fortune replacing every single one of them. The job market isn’t anyone’s idea of efficient, in terms of getting good fits, let alone new staff when you need them. You get what’s available, and that’s often not a great deal. Employees, in turn, may enter a dysfunctional work environment, and may not come back next day.
Then there’s the workplace environment —OHS, HR, Equal Opportunity, it’s a lawyer factory. The businesses that don’t know how to fix the problems are the ones which get incinerated in the resulting firestorm of lawsuits and compliance enforcement.
Not fixing problems is the other common characteristic of workplace disasters in progress. Failure to act can be truly catastrophic. Changes must be made, and obstacles to change removed. That’s where TINYPulse comes in to the picture.
TINYPulse is the brainchild of David Niu, a man who left his original career and took a working sabbatical to address workplace problems at the coal face. He talked to CEOs around the world, asked them about their issues, and found a range of factors which were creating systemic problems. He also found a very good market sample base for his new venture TINYPulse in a couple of years of hard work. David graduated from Berkeley, studied at Beijing University, has an MBA, and had his own entrepreneurial business prior to TINYPulse. He’s also the youngest recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, among other top awards.
TINYPulse is new in more ways than one. They have one of the best market presentations I’ve seen in years, explaining in business language how they work to find and fix workplace issues. One of David’s first comments to me was “HR is not a dirty word”. A lot of people, employers and employees, would be only too happy to believe that.
TINYPulse uses anonymous employee surveys to map workplace issues. These surveys are full spectrum health checks for businesses, as well as identifying and dealing with specific issues. This is a systematic process, with a lot of depth, sensitivity, customization, and metrics built in.
Core questions  core information
Core questions, core information
You’ve probably seen something a bit like these methods in miniature, but TINYPulse creates a full analytical framework, several leagues above and beyond typical workplace survey dynamics. The analysis, which seems very simple, is actually quite stringent and generates a lot of information very quickly.
What surprised me, a confirmed cynic regarding the many long epics of verbose HR propaganda over the years, was that TINYPulse has an extremely practical, “do it now” approach. No babble, no hype, real numbers instead of drivel, no mega-BS about how wonderful everything is; just results-oriented work.
That’s very different from the “Band Aids R Us” approach of many firms in this field. I really couldn’t resist the chance to interview David after all my years listening to people all over the world screaming about their workplace horror stories:
David Niu TINYPulse Interview
-Can you give us a brief overview of what your company does?
From a structured survey method  a structured result.
From a structured survey method, a structured result.
TINYpulse is an online employee survey tool used by over 500 organizations across the globe to gather real-time feedback to boost engagement and retention. TINYpulse enables leaders to send weekly, anonymous, one-question surveys that probe on how happy, frustrated, or burned out their employees are.
-What are the major category issues you’ve encountered in the workplaces you deal with?
Consistently, the top three major issues are 1) how to attract top talent, 2) how to retain talent, and 3) how to improve workplace morale.
-How do businesses retain employees in this job market? Is there a formula for staff retention?
First, make sure you’re hiring employees who are a good cultural fit. Support your employees’ ambitions at work by nurturing their professional evolution. Provide a space for employees to recognize each other – peer recognition is a huge driver of workplace happiness. Finally, create a culture of open communication. Clearly communicate expectations and find opportunities to share challenges and opportunities facing the company.
-How much does bad workplace culture and/or bad management contribute to employee churnover?
We’ve found that management transparency is the No. 1 driver of employee happiness. And, when we asked employees what drives them at work, the top answer was their peers and colleagues. Leaders that fail to embrace open communication and fail to recruit the right type of talent will experience negative retention. Culture directly affects whether an employee will stay or go.
-Is churnover as expensive as many employers say it is?
The cost of replacing an employee varies from organization to organization, but there is no question it’s costly. It is expensive to go out and do the legwork to find someone, but the cost of losing someone with institutional knowledge is extremely high. No matter how talented a hire is, every new employee needs training, and training is expensive. In the U.S., it can cost about $10,000 to replace an employee who earns $50,000 or less.
-Does Generation Y really fit their media image of high maintenance, low tolerance employees?
Generation Y is really a more nuanced group than we regularly give them credit for. In our recent guide to recruiting and managing millennials, we uncovered many striking findings about them. For instance, they are so committed to professional growth that 72 percent would sacrifice a higher salary for a more professionally fulfilling career. They crave flexibility so much that 45 percent would choose that over higher pay. And, they are socially conscious, with 79 percent saying they want to work for an organization that cares about its affect on society.
The thing is, all of us, no matter what generation we’re a part of, can empathize with this. Who doesn’t want to grow professionally? Who doesn’t want a flexible schedule? The trends we’re seeing in Gen Y and our ability to answer them will actually make workplaces better for everyone, no matter their age range.
-A lot of people are highly critical of the “meetings culture” and see management as a remote control function, out of touch, and not connected with workplace realities. Is this issue a major factor in workplace issues?
As a driver of transparency and open communication, meetings done correctly can be great. When they are incredibly structured, relevant, and there are clear goals you’re trying to accomplish, meetings can be efficient ways to get a team aligned and on the same page. And, they can be ideal for sharing vital information.
Now of course, when let out of control, “meetings cultures” can develop. If you’re meeting just for the sake of meeting, then you lose vital productive time, bore your team, and lose the value of meetings altogether.
-How do employers react to negative feedback? Is there much resistance?
Negative feedback is, and has always been, a part of the workplace. True professionals are ready to listen to feedback and react to it, good or bad. It is a positive thing to embrace asking your employees what is on their minds. And, you cannot change what you do not know about.
We also educate employees that just because you have an anonymous forum doesn’t mean that one should be mean spirited or provide unconstructive feedback. In fact, we encourage them to include solutions for every suggestion they provide. It’s not management’s culture – it’s everyone’s culture.
-How important is career mobility to college grads? Is it the defining factor as it was, or has that changed?
Over half of millennials say that the opportunity for career progression makes for an attractive employer. So yes, this is still a vital element that any employer needs to keep in mind when recruiting younger talent.
It’s critical that employers support their employees through natural professional evolutions. Employers should take the time to learn about their workers’ interests, and work with them to help them reach a job that fits those interests. That kind of proactive approach improves productivity and engagement, and ultimately retention.
-If an employer finds a problem, what’s the best practice solution to fix it?
Definitely evaluate the merits of the problem first. Then acknowledge the feedback regardless of whether you can implement it or not. Finally, let the employees know what the timeline is if you are going to implement solutions based on their feedback.
Some solutions are very challenging, and others can be very easy / low hanging fruit to take on. For example, one of our clients had a standing 8 a.m. call-in meeting every day. Most of the employees were calling in on their cell phones from their car. Through TINYpulse, the CEO learned that many people wanted to change the meeting time because they felt it was dangerous to be driving while, technically, in a meeting. So, the CEO changed the time of the meeting – it was a simple fix with a big benefit.
TINYPulse is the new face of practical HR. This is the way out of a decaying, obsolete range of methodologies which will be totally useless in the emerging job market of the next 10 years. These methods can manage big issues, workplace meltdowns, and even basic functions. No bureaucracy, no top-heavy dynamics, no mindless busy work, just practical business solutions based on hard facts.
This is a breakthrough, and it’s likely to be the breakthrough that makes working in the 21st century bearable for employers and employees.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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