Achieving digital transformation through better workforce intelligence


Thomas Davies


Jed Brown

Harness the power of workforce intelligence

To successfully transform your organization, you need to evaluate every employee journey. The founder of organizational intelligence provider Temporall joins us to share how to align distributed teams using an organization-wide view of employee data. He’ll also explain what capabilities companies must cultivate to achieve that goal.

Video Transcript

Jed Brown:

Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining Harness the Power of Workforce Intelligence breakout session. I apologize for the delay. We’ll talk about that in a little bit, but I’m incredibly pleased to introduce Thomas Davies from Temporall, who’s going to spend some time talking to us today about the power of workforce intelligence. Now, if you have any questions during our session, please put them in the chat box and we’ll make sure to address as many of them as we can as we go on.

For those who have not had the pleasure of meeting Thomas or looked at his bio here on the *attune website, he is an expert in the business use of machine learning, digital technologies and leadership. Thomas is a former global director of Google Cloud where he has held executive roles for over the last 10 years or 10 year period with over 25 years experience in enterprise technology. And he founded Temporall in 2017 where he now leads as the CEO. And so with that, thank you so much, Thomas, for joining us today. And I’m going to hand it over to you.

Thomas Davies:

No problem. Thank you, Jed. And just huge apologies everyone for running eight minutes late. I mean, if it doesn’t rain, it pours, right? So if anyone had seen that the panic that’s been going on in the last 25 minutes between me and Jed, I’ve tried two different laptops, 63 different settings, and it’s absolutely impossible for me to share my video, so we’re not in stealth mode.

So big apologies you can’t actually see me. Jed is actually also going to go through the slides. So thank you for being my kind of slide master this evening. But no, listen, thanks so much for having me. As Jed said, I’m Thomas Davies, I’m the founder and CEO of Temporall. Jed if you don’t mind go to the next slide. So look, I’m just so pleased to be kind of with you today at attune, I mean, to talk about the power of workforce intelligence.

All of us, right, everyone in business is trying to figure out what could, or what will the post pandemic organization look like? And having looked at the agenda and the speakers that have been involved in attune over the next kind of couple of days I’m really privileged to spend some time with you. So look, I’m going to run about probably 60 to 80 minutes. I’m probably going to truncate a little bit because we’re running late.

I first met Jed actually a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about today’s session and I’m really looking forward to continuing that discussion, because we’ve run out of time because we were talking about so much. But, look, as Jed said, I’ve been in the tech industry for about 25 years. I spent 10 years at Google Cloud, was very early. I was actually in Google Cloud when it was called Google Enterprise. Was one of the first 25 employees in Europe. Had a fantastic career there.

Honestly, the thing I enjoyed the most is, I just met thousands of executives. I spent a huge amount of my time listening and talking to executives from all over the world. I ran the UK business. I actually run a majority of the European operations commercially. Then finally it was kind of global partnerships. So I was very privileged to be sat at the seat when companies were trying to transform both at a technology and at an organizational level. Next slide please.

And look, it’s amazing. I’m here to talk to you about digital transformation and the journey to that. It’s a story well told, it’s a path well-trodden, but it is pretty extraordinary. Even today, 2020, 2021, the percentages of these efforts, the cost of those efforts actually continue to be very heavy. At a 30% failure rate, as an executive leader of a business, if someone were to put a proposal to me to say, we need to do this, I think it’s going to be wildly successful, but there’s a danger of it actually being at a 30% sort of failure rate, we would question it, of course you would.

But look, the reason why transformation in particular, digital transformation continues to be so important, is it ultimately is extremely profound because the competitive chasm that is created between companies that have incredible digital experience both internally and externally to those that don’t, the competitive chasm that is created can be actually catastrophic. It becomes a cliff edge. So my 10 years at Google was spent trying to help companies transform to compete and to innovate, to take advantage of these big trends. And ultimately I left after a decade because I became very fascinated with why is it that 70% of these efforts continue to fall short of their objectives? Next slide please.

So look, for those that are not familiar with Temporall just very quickly look, this is what we do. We pioneered the organizational intelligence industry. We are a data analytics technology company, and we have a very simple mission, to bring clarity to leaders. We’re really good at two things, helping companies transform their organization decision making and helping them deliver real time insights. When Jed and I were talking about the session today, we were talking about the difference between using traditional methods and data that was determined by maybe employee voice or the employee life cycle to those that are nonlinear, but are real time, that are instantaneous. And that is what I’m going to talk through in the next 15 minutes. Next slide.

So look, let’s look at the kind of pre pandemic. I don’t know about you, but that kind of feels five years ago, but it was only last January and February that we went back to work at the beginning of the year thinking, we have another year on the treadmill ahead. There were lots of pre pandemic workplace trends. And I’ve simplified this down to three that I think right now have had actually more of a profound effect than we realized actually at the time. For those that are familiar with this term called asynchronous, asynchronous tooling is more sort of channel-based.

And that was driven by consumerization, right? And consumerization has been around for an awful long time. But really neat tools and technologies like Slack. For those that use Slack, very prevalent engineering and DevOps and customer success. And actually now, a lot of companies are using it really more as not investing, but the operating system of their company. And we’re seeing, and had seen a move, not from synchronous to asynchronous, but this kind of hybrid environment. And that had a very important effect on when people were trying to deploy technology when the big moment happened last March.

Second one, obvious, data, data, data, right? We’re just swimming in data. Again, what has happened to us in the past 12, 15 months is that has absolutely exploded again, exponentially beyond what we thought we had at our disposal. The third one I love, I love talking about organizational clock speed, right? As a much younger man, I’m 46 now, a few gray hairs, with quite a few gray hairs, I worked for a software company called Vignette for those that remember it, it was actually acquired by OpenText.

And, we had three year planning cycles. You’re working to three year planning cycles. And we had one major software release every year. And let’s look at what’s happened in the past 10, 15 years. We’ve gone from genuine strategic corporate planning from three to two, really now to one, there’s possibly many companies less than one. And actually I’ve got to know some of the Vodafone crew, the Vodafone engineering crew who do the software releases. They release a hundred software releases a day, they’re not all critical. But if you just think about the organizational clock speed that we actually are operating in, then gosh, we have absolutely changed hugely.

If you could just click. Jed, you’re going to have to do a few clips the next 50 minutes. I’m sorry, but listen, you’re going to earn your cold beer tonight. Hey, and then COVID, right? Everything changed overnight. And look, again, I’m not going to talk through what that journey has looked for each of us individually at an organizational level, next slide, but ultimately, this is where companies have to turn to real quick. They have to trust the technology that they had at their disposal. Go and invest in Zoom, go and invest in Teams and these brilliant messaging communications platform to try to find a way to engage people within this distributed environment.

And it was response to societal change, not just the need to work differently. If I can look back to early in my career, Y2K, for those of you that are old enough to remember Y2K, Y2K we had years to prepare. We had years. 2001, .com crash. Come on, we saw it coming. Everyone knew it was coming, right? It became a bloated kind of financial environment. 2007 to 2008, we had line of sight of that economic crisis. We simply did not have it when COVID hit the shore. And what’s happened is that what we thought was going to take potentially kind of quarters or years we managed to find a way to get that done.

We’re all taught to think about this sort of there’s the adrenaline starting to drop from all of our work. If you could just build, please Jed. But this is what we are hearing right now is that leadership teams are trying to do two things. They’re number one, trying to understand what is actually going on in their companies and deliver business and organization impact simultaneously. This is just not linear. And the real pinch for leaders is that the sands continue to shift.

We have all used probably at least once in our career, the analogy of, oh, it’s like changing an engine whilst trying to fly a plane. And I would possibly use the same concept, but in a slightly different way. I think what we have seen most companies try to do is to fly the plane while actually rewiring it. And that’s really hard because I didn’t do an MBA in post pandemic organizational planning, right? I just didn’t do that. I’m not familiar with everyone who kind of saw that coming, but this is really where a lot of companies are right now? Next slide.

So big question, how can we operate, and the key word is operate, at a speed that meets the needs of our customers, our organization and our people within this incredible hyper transient world, which also happens to include the hyper transient world of work? This is where we are used to go into work distributed. And now we’re moving into this kind of hybrid environment. Next slide. And look, I’m a huge believer in really understanding the context around you. So rather than diving in, my thinking is always, what are others doing? What are others choosing with intention to focus their attention and spend on?

Next slide. So this kind of got our curiosity juices flowing throughout last year. We kind of got to November and we’re like, listen, we really, before we start advising other customers of what we’re hearing is, is to do some proper research around it. So we actually designed a research project with a very well-known professor. His name is professor Julian Birkinshaw, he’s director of strategy and entrepreneurship at London Business School. And we kind of sat down and we were talking about, look, everything is important right now, right?

There’s a long list of things that are really important to us. What are people actually going to lean in on? You have to make the hard decisions. What is it that they’re going to do? If you could just build, Jed. So what we did is we actually set out in November, we interviewed 20 business leaders. These are chairman’s, CEOs of DAX, FTSI, Fortune and just basically shut up and listen and just try to understand what are you trying to grapple with? What is on your mind?

We then in January and March surveyed a hundred leaders and we asked them is four questions. What you can see here is question one. And it was very much about within the context of organization effectiveness, what are your key priorities? And I’m hoping that some of you can kind of, I’ve got my glasses on and hopefully some of you can see sort of these 10 themes. They are all really important. What we didn’t do was to ask them to stack rank it one, two and three, because we felt that was slightly unfair. We just said, name three. When we’d finished that we then did another 20 executive interviews. And what was really interesting is that even the voice, the feeling from November to March had already started to change, what people were concerned with, what they were thinking they have to focus on.

We’re going to be publishing this research at the end of April. Please, I would implore you, go to LinkedIn, go to Temporall, we’re actually tagged Temporall UK, follow us on our Temporall LinkedIn page because we’ll publish the research there. That is where we will go first with the research. But if you could build the slide, what I’m going to do is I’m going to give you a little snapshot of what we are going to be talking to in our research. So there are three things, three research highlights that I’m going to talk about. The first one is alignment.

Alignment, the number one priority for over 50% of people. Remember these are executive leaders of big companies. If you could just build, Jed. Now, this is incredibly important for us, in the distributed teams, when we are managing distributed teams, alignment means different things to different people. For any CEO board member out there, when we talk about alignment, if we have acuity of vision and strategy, so we’re articulating that with precision, what we’re actually looking to do is to have people aligned behind the vision and strategy itself, to have people facing in the same direction.

But what we uncovered is that, that is a little bit different as you go further down the organization, alignment for a majority of people in companies is actually about connection. It’s about being aligned and connected to the organization, but also other people, to our teams, which of course now has been very difficult for us to do. So, alignment was a huge theme, that is actually top to toe important across the company. If you could please build. The second one, this cannot be a surprise to anyone certainly at this event, communication. 70% state internal comms and engagement as being critical and a priority for 2021.

Please build. Now, it gets a little bit more interesting because I think if we were to poll everyone at the event over the next two days, everyone would say, it’s hugely important for leaders to get reach and diffusion of what they are talking about. But again, there is a middle bind, the bind is connection, and what we’re starting to hear and see from the data is that actually we’re starting to see a link between companies that are effectively communicating with tone in an engaged fashion, with the result and impact being people feeling and being less isolated and feeling less burnt out within their distributed teams.

This is a very significant piece of data that I think is going to play out massively in the next one to two years. If you could go to the last piece, please, Jed, and just build that third piece. People again, I’m not sure this is a surprise, over a third will prioritize investment in workforce. Of course, we have to, but again, there is something a little bit more interesting above the stat. Everyone knows that we are … automation, the way we’re working is changing. There’s a very interesting McKinsey report that I’m going to talk to Jed about a bit later on actually in our Q and A, but there is a real, I think, acceptance that trying to retain and develop a data literate and skilled workforce is super important.

But actually what we’re also hearing from people is, that they want that leadership teams, they want their managers to be deeply empathetic at a time where it’s extremely hard for managers in particular to do that. And I’ll share something with you actually, just which I was going to talk about later but I think it’s very important is, all of us that I know in the last 20 years have spent a huge amount of our time and effort investment, trying to move managers, the bedrock of a company into active coaching, active listening, just the modern manager.

And again, some very interesting academic research has just coming out saying actually it would appear that managers not by their own fault, have started to default back to task management because they can’t pick up the social cues, the context of the environment, of the office. So again, I think this entire people thread is something that will play out and we haven’t really got to this position, this point of really understanding what burnout is and the impact of burnout will be very difficult retention for a lot of companies.

So this is third, but it is incredibly important. And frankly, I think a lot of people are trying to figure this out, alignment, communication, and people. If you could go to the next slide, Jed. So more build I’m afraid, but listen, this is really important for us. What we’ve talked about is there is a need for companies to develop the muscle memory, the habit of operating at speed with data and doing so in a way, frankly, that they probably not had to do in the past. So the first attribute and capability that we’re advocating companies to invest in, to take advantage of workforce intelligence, but respond to the needs of industry.

The first one is treating data as a canvas, by embedding and infusing fast data driven decision making. You cannot do that using employee engagement data. You cannot do that by just taking data traditionally associated with the employee life cycle. I would describe that as because I can’t see you, I’m trying to use my hands, that’s horizontal, right? And what we see is something that is more vertical at play, whereby you may intersect with data across the employee life cycle, but ultimately there is a huge amount of data that can be utilized to make really fast, effective decisions. Data that sits in MS Teams, in SocialChorus, in Slack, in Workplace, there is this wonderful tools that frankly have yet to be really harnessed. Second build, please.

The second one, second or third is fine. We’ll go back to the second is make it applied, right? Analytics is nothing unless you’re applying it to real, tangible business outcomes. And this is in no way lessening the value or the impact of people analytics, but people analytics in its own right is quite immature. We think there is a slightly bigger opportunity at play here, but consume some of people analytics and what they’re trying to achieve, which ultimately is around people processes, HR processes. And that is looking at strategic processes and opportunities driven top down and bottom up and being able to do that application almost in real time to drive the intervention, to drive the actual, the recommendation into the business. So, that’s the second one.

The third one is building connectedness into the fabric of the company, driving this kind of cohesion at all levels. I think it’s fair to say and I am slightly biased on this, that if you look at how asynchronous tools are used versus traditional synchronous tools, the latter tends to be very one-to-one, very DM focused and asynchronous tends to be more open, to be more collaborative and to be more naturally network connected.

We would expect to see asynchronous tools continue to explode within the enterprise and workplace over the next decade. Next build. The fourth one and the fifth one is the fourth one to be change ready, right? And again, I’ll talk about this maybe slightly later on, there’s a brilliant McKinsey article that was written in March about transformation and technology. And would it be a surprise to anyone listening that even now in March, 2021 from 453 people surveyed by McKinsey, the number one barrier to success for technical transformation, has got nothing to do with technology, it has everything to do with culture.

And I’ve talked about this extensively, the last kind of three or four years, everyone talks about, oh, we’re trying to develop a culture that can absorb change. And I would go that one step further and say, no, you want to be building a culture that is not just change ready, but it can actually proactively generate change, is looking to generate that change and innovation and connectedness interning and into the edge of the company, because that is where innovation happens.

And then the fifth one goes all the way from data and using machine learning and AI, that’s great, but you know what? It’s a very humanistic agenda, right? We’re all globally dealing with huge societal and workforce change. And leadership have got it real tough now, but what we are seeing is that really tremendous leaders are leaning very intentionally into deep listening and empathy. We’ve all talked about inclusivity for really, many years and there’s a long way to go. But what we now know, is that to have an inclusive culture, to treat people in an inclusive way, you have to trust them. One build, please. And look, this is something I feel very strongly about.

People and teams responded to the pandemics because there may be more, it’s not companies and I love this position of using the very best sophisticated technology within a humanistic philosophy and agenda. And I feel it’s that combination of attributes, capabilities, and tech that will win. Next slide. And the good news is that the tech is out there, it wasn’t a few years ago, but it is now. Take a look at it, right? If you have the skills, the capabilities, you’ve targeted the tangible business outcomes, there are three on the left. For those of you that are familiar with organizational network analysis, it is a, excuse me, it is a killer technique to accelerate and visualize the value that you’re trying to demonstrate.

Collaboration patterns, deeply understanding I call it, onboarding 2.0, onboarding when you’ve never met the person. How do you help that employee actually understand how connected they are into the organization? How long is it taking? You could also use these techniques for something that quite frankly, right now, I cannot think of anything more important than isolation, both at an individual and at a team level. Go check it out, network analysis, but you have to hit the business outcomes.

And then also using augmented analytics to deeply understand engagement, workplace technology utilization and of course work-life balance. This is about telling people when to stop working. This has got nothing to do with productivity and tracking and monitoring people’s workload. If you want to go and use command and control leadership styles, go ahead. It is dying. It will eventually become the edge case. There is time right now for serious change within leadership teams. Next slide.

And look, I think I have a couple of slides left and I’m going to hand back to Jed, but for me it is not about trying to solve for something that is a moment in time. We form habits by doing things repeatedly and those companies that have the ability to operationalize what we’ve just talked about, I think are going to be in a much better position than some of their competition. This is McKinsey last May wrote this, go and have a look at what Gartner are now writing about this space as well. It’s very interesting.

When I was a younger guy, CRM was done on a notepad and on databases and on lots and lots of conversation. And then the CRM as an industry came about, right? And my hunch would be whether it’s called workforce intelligence or whether it’s called organization intelligence, it will become BAU in a decade. And those companies that can grapple with it, get familiar, generate value, they’re going to out-compete the guys, the girls that are actually kind of sitting within their own industries. And I truly believe that. So I think that is my last slide, Jed. There we go.

Jed Brown:

Excellent. Thank you so much for that. I do have a few questions and there’s a few coming in a private chat, so I’ll try to get those as well. So the first one, you mentioned really in the beginning, 70% of digital transformations fail. I wonder if you could elaborate a little bit more on what your take is there and based on some of the items that you talked, maybe dig a little deeper on what are the successful companies doing that’s different from those who are running into some [inaudible 00:28:23]?

Thomas Davies:

Look, I’ll try to truncate my answer so we can get some lots of questions in, but it is a really interesting question, right? Because everyone is still trying to do it, right? If you’re not running at tech transformation, then everyone else is. So actually in the past, running was seen as, oh God, that’s risky. I think you now have to run. What I can tell you this is, in a decade at Google, the first five years was spent working with companies who were basically trying to transform using tech.

The second five years, those companies that focused on the organizational side of it, as in setting the company up to take advantage of the technology, seem to be the ones that were getting it, right? And then the third element of that, which I talked about very briefly is do not underestimate how hard it is from my cultural perspective … You’ve only got to look at the difference between Waterfall and Agile, right? It’s just hard, right? Skills, capabilities, mindset. I think if you were to ask a thousand CEOs, what is the one thing they’d like to change culturally? I want the team around me to have the right mindset and that cultural work is tough, but essential.

Jed Brown:

Fantastic. Couldn’t agree with you more. Excellent. And kind of reading between the lines of some of the items that you said there, how would you define from a … If we think about the best companies out there aren’t just data driven, but they also use judgment, right, and experience, and there’s a combination there, but what is the right balance from your mind in particular when something like last year happens that takes away from some of that experience or in fact some of the previous data doesn’t necessarily line up to?

Thomas Davies:

I can give you my personal experience of, I think doing this really well, it’s very interesting about Google, it’s again, data-driven decision making and there’s judgment, but there’s also debate. That’s the third element is debate. You have to work not to create echo chambers and you do that by having a very inclusive culture whereby you’re bringing different people, different mindsets, different opinions into the room to have the debate. But the thing that goes around it is the operating speed of the company.

Because if you’re not going to do anything with the data or the decisions or the debate, you’re kind of wasting time. You may as well do something different. So I would say that of the characteristics that we have seen companies that appear to be doing pretty well, there’s one, I won’t mention the name there, but I know the [inaudible 00:31:24] very well, it’s a huge German manufacturing company. They moved their strategic decision-making process to a matter of one to two weeks within two months of the pandemic. And that is decisiveness.

And I think they were prepared to be decisive, to basically roll the dice and not be on the wrong side of history. And I think that combination of data judgment debate, but ultimately be decisive, go for it. It appears to be some characteristics that other companies are following.

Jed Brown:

Interesting. That’s really good insight and interesting. A few more questions here. And I know we only have a few minutes left, so do a quick one. The Richard re research that you mentioned, and I think in our conversations, you also talked and you touched on it here. Some of the research coming from McKinsey as well. Are there any other nuggets not shown in your slide that could be relevant for this audience?

Thomas Davies:

It is incredible and I tend to follow Fortune, a little bit of HBR, McKinsey and Gartner. I’ve got to say the quality of some of the writing right now around the post pandemic is absolutely sky high. If you are not investing the time to read what other industry leaders are writing, it’s definitely a missed opportunity. So I think there is a broad range of very interesting articles that can genuinely help shape strategy, which is quite unusual.

There is something actually, which I’ve just recently read, which is again, it’s by McKinsey. It’s about technology transformation. I think it’s seven lessons. I’ll send the link through Jed, and perhaps you can share that with people, but it is very interesting around where successful transformation of technology level appears to be breaching that failure rate.

I actually read it again this afternoon in preparation for thinking, oh, so what’s the stat, right? Where are people investing in this technology kind of space? And number one, end user experience, right? It’s about that digital experience, they’re piling high on that. Number two, data and analytics. Number three, IT architecture. Wow. Well, you know what was 14th or 15th or 15th? It was talent.

At a time where we are facing work-life balance, burnout, well, we know we’re about to hit multiple ways of talent, talent linked to technology investment was second last. That for me was a complete eye-opener. And that’s just one of the things that I think. I’ve got used to sort of trying to read one or two things every day, just to make sure that I’m up to speed with what’s going on. So definitely I would read that one. It’s pretty neat.

Jed Brown:

Great. Thank you so much. I know we’re out of time. And we started a little bit late so I’m going to squeeze in one more question there. And so Thomas, from your experience, in particular from the data side, there’s a lot of, what’s the right way to say this, old ways to collect data out there today. And when you talk about kind of your three pillars there and in particular speed, how has that changed? And could you elaborate a little bit more on, what the novel ways are maybe in particular, what has happened over this last year for data collection and how people can apply that to make better business decisions?

Thomas Davies:

Yeah, well, just used the term, right? I think we’ve moved from data collection that is asking people to solicit feedback. We’re all familiar with the employee engagement industry, which has been around for there’s probably somebody who’s going to correct me, but I’m going to shoot at 20 years, maybe longer. Look, the clock speed of engagement has got quicker, right?

We know that you have this pulsing, brilliant, right? It is still a moment in time. And I don’t think it cuts it in the modern workplace. There’s a different paradigm. And I think it’s connect. I don’t think it’s collect. I think it’s connect. I’m not saying collect doesn’t work with connect. There’s a very big difference to what people say they do and what they actually do. And actually there is such incredible usage of these wonderful tools that everyone is using every day.

The difference in the data, the data canvas that is available to you to deeply understand is at a magnitude different. And that is why I think it will become BAU just like CRM, because once that data is understood how to pipe it in, oh, so this is what it looks like. This is what it means that what will happen is there’ll become a syntax, a familiarity. And then that data will be used just in like sales forecast meetings, which I’m sure we’ve all been part of at some point in our career, but I think the moment of real time intelligence connecting to data sources and making use of it fast decisive decision-making to solve real business outcomes, time is now.

Jed Brown:

Perfect. Great. Well with that, I know we made everyone got a little bit late, so I want to thank you once again, so much Thomas Davies from Temporall, up here on the slide. Thomas, if attendees would to get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that.

Thomas Davies:

Sure. I mean, it’s actually really, I’m I’m very accessible. If you prefer to DM me on LinkedIn. And again, if I could ask, if people want to take a look at the research, then go and find us on LinkedIn, Temporall UK, tag us in and then I’ll make sure that you get access to the research, but let me just finish off, Jed. It’s really great to be invited to spend some time with you and the audience.

Thanks so much to everyone. Apologies we ran eight minutes late. I’m absolutely blaming technology on that, not end user incompetence, but just to everyone, have a fantastic rest of the day. Enjoy *attune, thanks for having me.

Jed Brown:

Thank you. Thank you so much, Thomas. And coming up next, we have, well, what was a 15 minute break, now about a 12 minute break. Our second yoga session followed by Dom Price’s keynote. So feel free to check the agenda below for more information. And lastly, if you heard anything and I know you did because at least I did some great points, takeaways or something that resonated with you from what Thomas discussed, please feel free to share it on social using our hashtag attune 2021. Thank you all again, so much.


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