The Digital Revolution of HR?

Stefanie Stanislawski firmly believes that HR will become the next big thing – and this is why she founded PredictivePeople, a computing software analysing employees‘ level of (dis-)engagement, stress and satisfaction in a company. In this interview, she shares her views on the future of modern work, diversity and motherhood and entrepreneurship.

Heute ausnahmsweise ein Beitrag auf Englisch, denn meine Interview-Partnerin Stefanie Stanislawski kann zwar Deutsch, fühlt sich auf Englisch aber wohler. Sie ist die Gründerin des Startups PredictivePeople, das im Kern eine Software ist, die die Zufriedenheit der Arbeitnehmer misst. Woher diese Idee stammt und warum ihr die Weiterentwicklung von HR so wichtig ist, erzählt sie mir im Interview.

Sirona: I’ve heard you talk about PredictivePeople and done my research. But I’d like to hear from you again: What is PredictivePeople and why does it matter?

Stefanie: Well, first of all, thank you for taking the time to research about PredictivePeople!
PredictivePeople is a disruptive cognitive computing software which measures employees’ levels of engagement and stress, while suggesting a personalised approach to retain talent – which includes a detailed guideline for the manager and HR, and access to a tailored rewards platform for the user.
To do so it synthesizes data from various information sources, such as internal data (like corporate emails and chats) and publicly available information (such as social networks, blogs, job boards and others). Our algorithm weights context and conflicting evidence to suggest the best possible outcome. To achieve this, we use self-learning technologies that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing (NLP) to mimic the way the human brain works.

It matters because companies are facing a huge disengagement problem, according to recent studies only 12% of their employees are fully engaged, representing an annual global cost of $7 trillion. Nations are seeing a peak in healthcare costs due to stress-related diseases. And individuals like you and I are tired of working for a company where we’re not treated as unique, where no one has the time to know who we are, what we want and how we are feeling. And I really believe this will worsen with the Millennials and further generations.

Sirona: What sparked your passion for HR and talent acquisition? Has there been a key moment that you can connect to the idea of PredictivePeople?

Stefanie: I am an engineer, but I’ve been working in HR for over 10 years. I just knew it from the start – I tried other departments, but nothing made me as happy as HR does. I always used to say HR would become the “next-big-thing” in any corporation, and I guess I wasn’t wrong!
The connecting moment was back in 2015 – I was extremely disappointed, demotivated and stressed at work, and realized no one cared or noticed. And I wasn’t the only one, but managers didn’t have the time to recognize the problem, and there were no tools around to help them figure out things.

Sirona: „PredictivePeople has been created to help organizations get visibility of people who are disengaged in the company, predict who has the highest chance of success to perform in the role and to map the market for possible successful candidates.“ How does PredictivePeople even define engagement and disengagement?

Stefanie: We don’t, users do. We believe people are the main driver of business success, and that’s why we are building a dynamic algorithm which adjusts to the person, and not the other way around. What causes me to become disengaged, could be very different to you or someone else. Especially if you include things like cultures or locations, the algorithm needs to be smart enough to adapt and learn from individual behaviours.
Our system analyses over 200 weekly meta data to measure the variables that influence whether an employee is at risk of burnout or disengagement.

Sirona: „Disengagement in a company“ sounds really negative, it might even give the employee a bad reputation and negatively influence how their performance is seen. How does PredictivePeople deal with this problem? And what about „real-time visibility of an employee’s engagement“- this can sound rather intrusive and big brother-like. What are your thoughts on that?

Stefanie: Well, first of all, 88% of employees are disengaged – it is no longer the problem of 1 person, this is a global emergency! And because companies are really struggling to find and keep talent, which has become the scarce resource, I don’t see why being disengaged would give an employee a bad reputation! On the contrary! Companies are now being „pushed“ to do something to revert the situation and make sure they can offer the right challenges for all, a healthy level of customization, sense of purpose and appreciation for their people.
I honestly think in today’s workplace; a month is already a very long time. Not to mention a year or three! Today’s engagement surveys are usually done once a year, in an anonymous way, with no real actions afterwards. This doesn’t change anything, and that’s why people no longer believe in these measures. PredictivePeople provide ongoing, unobtrusive scores so that managers know how their actions impact their teams – for example, what’s the ROE (return on engagement) from a corporate event? Or how is the new MKT director impacting on the sales team’s stress levels? The only way to quickly do something about it, is of you diagnose it on time.

Sirona: Do you think that sexism, racism, ageism and other forms of any sort of prejudice could be avoided with the help of PredictivePeople?

Stefanie: Yes, in the end, all answers are weighted equally. And I believe the real impact of this will come in a later stage of development, in which we’ll include predictive recruitment to the mix. The idea is that this is done 100% bias free. We’re still working on this part, and we expect to have it ready by 2020.

Sirona: Doesn’t this make recruiting teams obsolete?

Stefanie: No! I don’t think AI will replace humans, from my perspective it just provides us with the right tools and data to make faster and more accurate decisions in different areas. The same applies to recruitment, people will now know when they need to start hiring for new skills, before a person decides to leave, giving them enough room to manoeuvre.

Sirona: You also call yourself an advocate for women and millennials. How come? Plenty of people would say that we already have all we need.

Stefanie: I am a millennial mother, an entrepreneur, a business advisor, ambassador for a global women initiative, and I must say my life is not easy. If I could summarize it, the moment women (at any stage of their life) have the same professional opportunities as men, the moment society respects equally the decisions that a woman takes, and in the moment that a man has the same responsibilities and rights than a woman to exercise their role at home, then we can say that we have everything we need. But according to recent studies we’re still 200 years behind.

Sirona: What would you say is the key difference between Gen Y and older generations like the baby boomers career-wise? Do you think one of these generations is more prone to leave a job because of dissatisfaction?

Stefanie: Two things: our education and the access to technology. I could talk about this for hours, it’s a subject I am truly passionate about. Millennials and Baby Boomers had both very different foundations, and that shows in how we approach our careers. Millennials want to experience and learn, they have the need to feel special and unique, and with amazing education and distinctive skills, we’re slowly shaping the future of work. We don’t believe in loyalty or retiring from the same company. We just want to use our job as a platform to acquire knowledge and new experiences. Baby Boomers were hard-working, they delayed rewards as much as possible, they lived in a very prosperous market, which allowed them to benefit from social security, low mortgages…things newer generations won’t see.
Millennials are extremely demotivated at work, especially in Western Europe; rigidity of current structures don’t allow them to experiment, grow, experience and practice what they know. And in return, there’s a really high turnover rate from people of this generation.

Sirona: You talk about your company’s unique AI algorithm, an expression that is often talked about but still seen as an intimidating concept with many companies admitting their confusion about AI and how to use it. Do you think that this fear of the – for many still – unknown will make it harder for PredictivePeople to gain foothold in the B2B market?

Stefanie: Yes, but these things happen when new disruptive tech appears. It takes time to understand it and use it. It also depends on the market, UK and US are usually very open to new start-ups, innovation and are eager to try new things – we’re working with companies there who understand what we’re doing, they will help us show the world that there’s a new way of doing things, placing individuals as the real driver of business success.

Sirona: What is your vision for PredictivePeople’s future? Where do you see your company in five years?

Stefanie: We are aiming to open a new market, driven by the employee experience and technology. We want to place the individual as the real driver of business success. We want to transform how people relate to the HR function. We want to grow globally – starting in UK, US, then moving to LATAM and Asia, and finally coming back to Europe. We want to partner with key players in the traditional HR world who need a tech boost like the one we can offer. We want to build a dynamic company, trust-based, global-based, and completely out of the ordinary.

Sirona: People are divided on what I like to call the mum question: Should you ask a female professional who also happens to be a mother how she „does it all“? You seem to have clear stance since you talked about your role as mother before and call yourself a mompreneur. So my question to you: How do you do it all? And what is your stance on that question?

Stefanie: Routine, patience, discipline, research, meditation, you name it! Basically it’s a mix between perseverance, living one day at a time, but never losing track of the big picture, trying your best every day, and loving your “tribe” with all your heart. I don’t mind about the question; I am actually eager to know how other moms do it! I know we never ask the same to dads, but maybe we should, and we would learn a lot from them as well – my husband is definitely better at getting our baby ready in the morning – I still don’t know how he does it!

Sirona: What is your advice for young professional women?

Stefanie: Fight every day for the world you want to live in and the one you want for future generations. Choose the “hard path”. Don’t feel pressured to get married nor to have kids. If you do get married, choose wisely – make sure it’s a person who will support you in every stage, from which you’ll learn, and who won’t try to change you EVER. Find mentors who help you deal with tough decisions. Never lose track of your friends.

Sirona: And to finish this up, here’s a not quite easy one: How would you describe PredictivePeople to a not-so techy grandparent?

Stefanie: I explained the following to my dad, who’s 76 years old: “Dad, imagine your iPhone (because grandparents now have iPhones) could have the possibility to understand you, what you do, what you search on Google, who you talk to… Now imagine he (let’s assume it’s a “he”), could use that information to make your life better. For example, he knows you like to read Historical Novels, so he’d weekly suggest new books which match your taste. Or he would make a reservation for you and your friends to go golfing next week. Or he’d remind you to take your pills, and once they’re running low, he would ask the drug store to send you more. Would you find that useful? Well, this is called artificial intelligence, and PredictivePeople is kind of the same, it is a smart tool inside people’s computers which understand how employees in companies behave and make their life, their manager’s life and HR’s life better. How? PredictivePeople knows how each user behaves, it has access to multiple data which gives the tool important hints, that it then turns into scores and personalities. It is able to identify when someone is becoming disengaged or stressed, then, because PredictivePeople knows who’s that person, it suggests a series of rewards or programs that match his/her personality and needs, which would make that person happier, for example, taking yoga classes, going on holidays or taking a day off. It also alerts his/her manager, and tell him/her what to do to help that specific person. Isn’t that amazing?”

His answer: “I want that on my iPhone! And better make it a she.”

Stefanie Stanislawski ist CEO von PredictivePeople.
Stefanie Stanislawski ist CEO von PredictivePeople.

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