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Ian Cook: To Succeed With AI, Start With Your Data

By Alex Larralde
February 5, 2024
3 minute read

On this episode of the People Fundamentals podcast, I’m joined by Ian Cook, Visier vice president of research and strategy. Visier helps organizations drive business impact and people impact through data analytics. It’s also the engine that powers Betterworks Advanced Analytics.

In this episode, we discuss everything around the power of data. Ian shares why solving for AI requires solving for your data, how generative AI can improve employee productivity, and how HR can use data to rethink performance management — and its strategic role.

HR must take the lead on data and AI at work. Our recent survey revealed that employees aren’t waiting for permission. This points to the need for better education, Ian says. “Company policy on company data does not change because of generative AI,” he says. “You, as a person in our company, need to understand how what you’re using will interface with something like GenAI and whether or not this is a safe use of that opportunity.”

Find out why Ian is excited about the workforce opportunities with AI and why he believes HR can elevate its strategic profile through data.

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‘AI Is as Much a Data Problem as It Is an AI Problem’

Ian underlines that “AI is a data problem,” as organizations must have the right data, organize it, and account for security and legal risks before leveraging AI. This is especially true of people data, which he argues is different and distinct from other forms of corporate data.

“If you haven’t got your data sorted right, if you don’t understand risks, privacy, ethics in data, then all your dreams about AI may crash,” he says, “because you will either break a regulation or you’ll do something that you don’t want your business to do.”

Visier has developed a technology stack with a common data architecture that emphasizes the significance of metadata in handling data effectively. This work embodies Ian’s approach at Visier, which is to help HR understand how data shapes its strategy so HR can help leaders and managers make better decisions and drive business performance.

Exploring Ways GenAI Can Improve Productivity

One of the most promising aspects of genAI for Ian is its ability to automate mundane tasks. You can get automated summaries from video calls, for example, saving you from taking notes and giving you instant recall of a meeting’s high points.

Visier deploys this kind of productivity through conversational assistants, to whom users can ask questions like “What’s my headcount? How did it change? Did anybody make a significant move in the last month?” and get quick answers from trusted data. 

These tools also can empower HR leaders at higher levels of thinking and strategy. “What are we doing with that data that tells the business about where performance is going?” Ian says. “Because there is a huge opportunity there. And again, that elevates the CHRO to the same level as the CFO.”

Rethinking Performance Management

People don’t trust traditional performance ratings, Ian argues. Thoughtful incorporation of more data and technology can help close that gap. “What are you actually producing, providing, making happen at a team and an individual level?” he says. “We have the data for that these days. It’s not so hard anymore.”

When HR develops data-driven performance management processes, employees get more out of performance management, and HR can stop being reactive and start being predictive. Instead of reporting compliance-related data like the number of performance reviews conducted, Ian says, use your people data to predict future revenue or highlight people-related risks.

“The CFO looks at spend, growth, and revenue and makes adjustments on growth because of how that cash is flowing,” Ian says. “The CHRO should be doing the same things based on how people and their capability [are] flowing.”

People in This Episode

Ian Cook: LinkedIn

Full Transcript

Ian Cook:

The paradigms around management come from the machine age, where you were making a car, you were making typewriters, you were making a physical object. And so the work you were doing was repetitive. It didn’t actually need your own energy or an interest or excitement. It was actually just repetitive. So a lot of the management practice was actually designed around, “How do I make a human behave like a robot?” Yet now, the majority of the way that we actually make — even car companies make revenue from software. But we haven’t upgraded our management theories and our management practices sufficiently fast.

Alex Larralde:

Hi, everyone. And welcome back to Betterworks’ podcast, People Fundamentals. I’m your host, Alex Larralde, senior director of corporate marketing.

Betterworks’ core belief in people fundamentals revolves around enabling everyone in the workforce to strive for excellence, to foster creativity, and to acknowledge each individual’s contributions. Betterworks translates these beliefs into business fundamentals through strategic HR leadership. And in this show, we’re diving even deeper into these principles as we hear from the experts about how you can make them come alive in your organization.

And in this episode, we’re delving into the fascinating world of HR technology with a true luminary, Ian Cook, Visier’s VP of research and strategy. Visier helps organizations drive business impact by driving people impact through data analytics. It’s also the engine that powers Betterworks Advanced Analytics.

Imagine a world where AI seamlessly integrates with HR strategy, unlocking new dimensions of efficiency. Today, Ian will shed light on Visier’s approach to the GenAI era. With AI, technology and data intertwine to create a robust foundation for HR analytics. Visier’s work with Vee, its conversational assistant, is shaping interaction with data to make analytics more accessible. In the age of GenAI, data is supreme, and Visier ensures that the bridge between analytics and applications is not only seamless, but also fortified with the highest standards of security.

At Betterworks, one of our recent surveys uncovered a significant trend. More than half of employees are independently embracing genAI tools, whether or not their companies allow it. What does this mean for HR and business leaders? Ian elaborates on these insights and shares how this trend reflects human adaptability and creativity, emphasizing the importance of education on AI ethics.

Keep in mind the shift from transactional tasks to strategic decision-making in HR. This is exemplified by Ian’s perspective on predictive performance reviews and the notion of what he calls “people flow.” That is, making adjustments to your growth forecasts and other business metrics based on individual performance, just as one would from a financial angle.

Ian hails from Scotland and brings a unique flavor — both in his insights and quite literally in his mention of a legendary drink that he calls Scotland’s best-kept secret. Stay tuned to discover why this busy orange elixir holds a special place in Scottish culture. Our conversation was recorded live at HR Tech 2023. Listen in now as we explore genAI, Visier’s groundbreaking strategies, and the exciting future ahead for HR technology.

I am so, so happy to have my next guest here. Ian Cook is the VP of research and strategy at Visier, one of our partners. Ian, tell me about your role at Visier.

Ian Cook:

Great to be here, Alex. My role at Visier is two things fundamentally. Really, really smart technologists who built an incredible analytics platform that drives the kind of work we’re doing with you. And then deep domain expertise and, “How does data shape HR strategy, how do you deploy that to managers and business leaders so they make better decisions and actually make the business perform better?” And the second half of that business, I’ve become deeply alerted in the technology over time, but when I joined Visier 10 years ago, it was to bring that rich understanding of, “How does the people side of business operate? So that as we built out the capabilities, as we actually shaped the way the product worked, we weren’t doing it in a box. We were actually thinking about who’s going to use this, who’s the consumer, how do we actually solve the problem, not just make some stuff.

So my background to get there — serial entrepreneur in a couple of data businesses prior to Visier, and then 10 years consulting in people strategy globally. So with large corporations before that. Originally started in Scotland, now live in Canada. Yeah, it’s been a fantastic career journey.

Alex Larralde:

I bet.

Ian Cook:

But nonlinear.

Alex Larralde:

No, it sounds like it absolutely has not been linear. And it sounds like it has been anything but boring, especially now. And I will just say that this is the year of generative AI. Everybody’s talking about it. So tell me about what Visier is doing with GenAI.

Ian Cook:

Yeah, so we understood the opportunity of genAI fairly fast. We’re data people. One of the pieces that isn’t talked about AI is, AI is as much a data problem as it is an AI problem. If you haven’t got your data sorted right, if you don’t understand risks, privacy, ethics in data, then all your dreams about AI may crash, because you will either break a regulation, or you’ll do something that you don’t want your business to do.

So as data experts, we understood that really fast. We built our technology stack to have a common data architecture where we have what’s called metadata. So, data about data that allows us to do things that others can’t, because you can’t just dump your employee data into an LLM and have it tell you what’s wrong. That doesn’t work. And so we were excited about it because one of the classic impediments to analytics in general is the consumption problem, where people don’t necessarily want to look at a chart. They don’t necessarily have a mental model of “what’s my data trying to tell me?” And so asking people to interrogate a dashboard and find their way to their answer, it was the paradigm.

Again, we instantly recognized how these kinds of tools can just help shrink that gap to use. So we built Vee. Vee is a conversational assistant that allows you to literally talk to your data. Things like, “What’s my headcount?” “How did it change?” “Did anybody significant move in the last month?” “Any pay changes I should be aware of?” Those simple text questions can be asked of the application. It will securely return you an answer.

It’s one of the other key pieces about AI, the security. An LLM doesn’t come with security. If you’ve got data you need to secure — which most people data, you do — then you need to have a security system in place before you play with your LLM. So in the same way as you can have the conversation with Vee, if I ask it, “What’s the CEO’s salary?” That data may be in my stack, but it’s not going to tell me. And that’s, again, everybody listening will understand the fundamental importance of that. What people suggest can happen sounds wonderful, but you got to have security in place. You got to make sure your application won’t hallucinate.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely. We call that at Betterworks “responsible AI.”

Ian Cook:

Great word. We’re fully on board with you there.

Alex Larralde:

Yes. And it’s so essential. We just did some research, and I’m curious about your take on this. We found a pretty significant number said that they’re already using genAI tools outside of what their employer has provided them.

Ian Cook:

Interesting.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah. So they’re figuring out these efficiency hacks with these tools. What do you think that means for HR leaders and business leaders?

Ian Cook:

It’s one of the things that has pulled me into working in the human space and business in the first place. Humans are so creative and adaptable that often we just need to get out of the way. There’s all this, “How are we going to make lots of genAI engineers?” You know what? I think they’re going to make themselves. If our business is anything to go by, every single one of our developers has basically built the knowledge base, explored, downloaded stuff, made their own things at home because they’re just fascinated by it.

We’ve given space, permission, and encouragement, often important things, but there is no kind of paternalistic, “Thou shall become an AI developer,” because they just know that’s their future, and they’re pulling themselves there fast anyway. So I think that’s one of the messages: “You know what? We don’t have to control for everything.” Often, to move fast, you actually have to remove controls.

But the second piece would be then a massive need for education because I hope we’ve all seen the stories of. if you are dropping company secrets into OpenAI, that is no longer a company secret.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah.

Ian Cook:

That now could get returned as data to your competitor.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah.

Ian Cook:

And so I think there’s an education level that people need to understand, company policy on company data does not change because of generative AI. You as a person in our company need to understand that what you are using will interface with something like a GenAI and whether or not this is safe use of that opportunity.

Because I use it. If I have to put together a short spiel for a presentation, I will get started with OpenAI. I’ll just use the free version, “Give me 200 words on X,” and then I’ll adjust. But it gives me a 40% lift because I’m not having to start from scratch. It doesn’t have to get that initial spark. So all of those hacks make sense to me, and I’m not surprised people have adopted them. People will find the shortest path to success themselves if you let them.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely. Yeah.

Ian Cook:

So I love it. I think it’s a great story. I think the key parts from an HR perspective are, we need to educate you on safe and appropriate use, understanding company data and what these things are doing, because it isn’t entirely benign. Copyright issues, security issues, who owns the data issues. There’s a bunch of stuff that hasn’t been said that, as an employee, you should be well-versed in before you go just randomly doing stuff.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely. And the reality is some may not be, right?

Ian Cook:

I suspect some aren’t. We’ve come across some interesting stories out in the world where, I won’t name the organization, but we were talking about our capabilities and analytics and all these things, and the CIO of this company said, “Oh no, I’ll just get a version of GPT-4, and I’ll throw all our company data in, and it will tell us what we need to know.” And that’s a CT, a C-level executive. And looking at people data purely as bytes and bits, not as the privacy and the ethics and the fact that some of this belongs to the human, not to the company. 

I would’ve anticipated a higher level of education in that population. Our experiences is it’s not necessarily catching up. And that is very much about people data is distinctive. You cannot just assume people data operates like all your other data. It doesn’t. And again, that’s where that sort of communication, education, messaging. I’m a CHRO, but actually about four months ago, I put out a piece, the CHRO should be connected to everybody else on the genAI strategy. And there’s a whole bunch of reasons why. Because the impacts on people are substantial, and if they’re not engaged, we can get that rogue CTO doing the wrong thing.

Alex Larralde:

Exactly, exactly. Yeah. It’s interesting too, that same survey that we ran had some data around people’s fears and anxieties around it. There’s a little bit of that, not as much as I expected. But what do you think the biggest benefit of genAI is for your average employee?

Ian Cook:

I think the biggest benefit for your average employee is a productivity lift and a productivity lift on some of the boring stuff, like the generation, creation, curation. I’ll give you a simple example. Zoom has integrated a summarizer in its back end. There are issues with that, because that is legally discoverable data. So you need to be aware of the conversation you’re having, because if you have a conversation and it’s recorded, even if Zoom gets it wrong, that will be seen as the truth.

Alex Larralde:

Oh, boy. Yeah, yeah.

Ian Cook:

So my habit with that is I basically run — when I need to run the summary, I run it, and then I flag it as not an accurate representation. I’m gaming Zoom’s system, but what I get is a summary. So I don’t have to take notes. I don’t have to go back to the note. If I’ve got a meeting that I want to track, it’s automated for me. It’s a time-saver. I love it.

So I see lots of opportunities, lots of spaces for those kinds of things. And again, I think that’s when people have those experiences, you know what? This is just going to save me doing not necessarily boring work, but kind of not necessarily value-add, either. So I think it augments an individual, and many of the good opportunities are how it can augment an individual. So I see that as a positive thing.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah. Makes total sense. And I agree. I mean, I’ve been using — I’m in content marketing, and it’s a lot of blank-page anxiety. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

Ian Cook:

In many technical spaces, it’s actually reducing the barrier to access for non-technical people.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah. Great points.

Ian Cook:

Somebody else was sharing. So there’s this language called SQL. It’s basically like Excel formulas on steroids.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah.

Ian Cook:

And so that creates a barrier to access to data. It’s like, “Oh, I know SQL. I can get the data you need.” It’s like, “Well, now you have a Gen AI. You can actually ask the Gen AI what you want. It will generate the SQL statement for you. You can then inject that into the data.” So there’s other opportunities where some of that specialty, like “I know stuff that you don’t know,” actually goes away because you train the bot to do that work. So I can see being able to operate a lot more fluidly on those kinds of intelligence tasks with fewer barriers where you need to work through a specialist, an individual with specialist knowledge.

Alex Larralde:

That’s a great point. So moving on from AI. I could talk about it all day because I’m fascinated because I also just had this childhood obsession with the Terminator. And I grew up in Florida, really close to the theme parks. I’ll never forget the Terminator.

Ian Cook:

Mine was Lawnmower Man, so nevermind.

Alex Larralde:

I just remember this, it wasn’t a ride, it was a show, but there was the Skynet takeover in the beginning. You’re herded into this room. And I was just so freaked out as a kid. It was so exhilarating and fun. And then they had the — but oftentimes I think about that in the modern era.

Ian Cook:

Yeah. There’s actually a really good podcast on that. Skynet presumes sentience because it’s prefaced on the fact that the AI is trying to protect itself. AI has no actual sense of its own identity. It isn’t sentient. We make the mistake of thinking it behaves like a human, so we gift it sentience.

Alex Larralde:

Yes.

Ian Cook:

But it isn’t. It has no awareness of itself. It is simply math.

Alex Larralde:

Yes. You’re right. I feel better now. But moving on from AI, what else are you seeing here that excites you? Have you seen anything cool, innovative, anything that made you go, “Wow, that’s original, that’s unique?”

Ian Cook:

The stuff that I find inspiring and exciting is the stuff like Betterworks, which is really helping an employee understand how to build their performance. I’ve studied engagement for a really long time, and the notion that the company has to engage the employee, I think, is the wrong way around. I think companies create circumstances that enable an employee to engage themselves.

And so again, technologies like Betterworks, like some of the other capabilities where an employee can express an intent, can express the desire, can look to learn, grow to be their best, and they’re supported in their time, with their needs, with some degree of awareness of who they are — I think that’s the right way to unleash human performance.

Alex Larralde:

I agree. I mean, we love to start with the premise that everybody wants to do their best work. They come to work wanting to achieve. You don’t need to make them achieve. You just need to create those conditions that allow them to do that work well and recognize them, make them feel appreciated. Very simple, basic human stuff. But we kind of lose sight of that in the workplace, right? It’s like we walk in, and we kind of dehumanize the experience a little bit sometimes.

Ian Cook:

Absolutely. And a lot of the old paradigms — again, the paradigms around management come from the machine age, where you were making a car, you were making typewriters, you were making a physical object. And so the work you were doing was repetitive. It didn’t actually need your own energy or an interest or excitement. It was actually just repetitive. So a lot of the management practice was actually designed around, “How do I make a human behave like a robot?” Yet now, the majority of the way that we actually make — even car companies make revenue from software. 

Alex Larralde:

Right.

Ian Cook:

But we haven’t upgraded our management theories and our management practices sufficiently fast. A lot of people still struggle under that machine rigmarole of like, “I’ve got to make you work hard.” It’s like, “No, you don’t have to make me work hard. You have to make it worth my while to work hard.”

Alex Larralde:

Yes, I want to work hard.

Ian Cook:

And want to work hard.

Alex Larralde:

Because I chose to be here.

Ian Cook:

And give excitement. Because yeah, I am 100% with you. Some people really don’t want to work, but trying to make them work is just like, why waste your energy on the 10%?

Alex Larralde:

Exactly.

Ian Cook:

The 90% are just trying to understand how they thrive. And anything you can do to help lift, encourage, guide, support, redirect those folks is time and energy well spent.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely. And to your point about outdated processes, the performance review process. I was fascinated when I learned that the Army invented it. The American army invented it over a hundred years ago. And what a strange legacy to carry forth into our modern business practices, something that was very specific to a certain population, a certain way of working. It’s fascinating.

Ian Cook:

Yeah. I suspect you’ll find the Army has dropped that particular practice.

Alex Larralde:

Probably.

Ian Cook:

Probably like 60 years ago.

Alex Larralde:

The Army’s like, “What are you guys still doing that? What? We quit that.”

Ian Cook:

I asked a question today in my sessions, “How many people in the room would trust the performance ratings in your business?” Nobody put their hand up. So again, a real signal of a broken process that we keep repeating because we kind of feel like we have to. And there is a better way. Throwing away ratings is not the better way, but actually digging into true delivered performance. Like, what are you actually producing, providing, making happen —

Alex Larralde:

Exactly.

Ian Cook:

— at a team and an individual level. We have the data for that these days.

Alex Larralde:

Exactly.

Ian Cook:

It’s not so hard anymore.

Alex Larralde:

We do have the data. And actually that brings me full circle to Betterworks’ new AI capabilities. But one of the things that it does allow managers to do is use data to inform a performance review. Trying to remove a lot of those biases, like the recency bias. Maybe I had an incredible first quarter, but the last quarter, my kid’s not sleeping anymore, going through a sleep regression. Somebody on my team left, a little bit — and that often is what people bring up when they’re sitting down to write those reviews. And we can help eliminate some of that.

Ian Cook:

Which is huge because again, put yourself in the seat of the manager. They are busy. They’ve got somebody breathing down their neck to get them completed. They’re like, “What do I remember? I’ve got five minutes to put this together.” They’re doing their best, but they are overloaded with so many other demands. Again, I don’t know exactly the data, but there’s a fairly large amount of evidence that managers are completely overloaded right now. And so supporting their work with evidence, shrinking their decision space, speeding their effectiveness. So I think all the things are what HR should be focusing on.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely.

Ian Cook:

And that’s why, again, I’m excited by those systems. Forget the announcements from the big HRISs. It really is literally whatever. It’s like, the transactional world is done. That’s not helping me drive performance in my company.

Alex Larralde:

Exactly. And it always amazes me how something as essential to your existence as a business, as your literal performance, often becomes an afterthought or just a box to check. “We did the reviews, great, now we can rate and comp and move people around.” But at the end of the day, it’s just such a — it’s just such an opportunity for people to really affect business outcomes.

Ian Cook:

100%.

Alex Larralde:

And I don’t think they see that sometimes.

Ian Cook:

I see organizations moving towards that. I’ve seen some good examples of people striving for that, but it is — it’s one of the ways I think we’ll know we’ve been successful is when people aren’t counting how many performance reviews have been completed, and they’re actually saying the performance review process indicates that our future revenues are predictable, or our future revenues are going to go up, our future revenues may go down, or we’ve got risks in certain areas. It’s not, “Oh look, yes, we’ve got compliance on time.” I do genuinely think that’s becoming irrelevant, much as it might annoy some folks. But it’s the “What are we doing with that data that tells the business about where performance is going?” because there is a huge opportunity there.

And again, that elevates the CHRO to the same level as the CFO. The CFO looks at spend, growth, and revenue, and makes adjustments on growth because of how that cash is flowing. The CHRO should be doing the same things based on how people and their capability is flowing. This notion of people flow. So I see that world. I’m glad we’re working towards it.

Alex Larralde:

Yes.

Ian Cook:

Can’t come fast enough for me, but that’s why I do what I do.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely. Yeah. Right. Sometimes it really is about going back to the basics. What are you trying to do? Are you doing it? And if you’re not doing it, why? What can we do to intervene or support? And we tend to, I don’t know, overcomplicate things sometimes.

Ian Cook:

I think that’s a great perception, Alex, because often people are like, “Well, we’re so busy.” But are you busy doing the right things? Often, the excuse for change is like, “Oh, we’re just so busy.” But then you’re telling me it’s not working. It’s like, “But I’m so busy.” So are you busy doing the right things? And sometimes stopping is actually the right answer.

Alex Larralde:

Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But let me ask you some fun questions that we can get to know Ian. You’re from Scotland.

Ian Cook:

Yep.

Alex Larralde:

Tell me about Irn-Bru.

Ian Cook:

Oh, so Irn-Bru is Scotland’s best-kept secret. It is a fizzy orange drink with a high iron percentage that is renowned across Scotland as a hangover cure.

Alex Larralde:

It sounds awesome.

Ian Cook:

It is pretty awesome. It tastes pretty great. And then the best thing, when I was growing up, it had a whole ad campaign called “Made in Scotland from Girders” — girders being big pieces of steel — and associated video footage with that, which it’s hilarious. It’s a fun part. Quite often if I go home, I will either have an Irn-Bru or I’ll bring a couple bottles back to share with the family.

Alex Larralde:

I love that. What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?

Ian Cook:

I ride a bike a lot.

Alex Larralde:

Nice.

Ian Cook:

So it’s been kind of part of just staying healthy, keeping my brain focused. I live in a nice part of Vancouver, so I get to ride in the forest, which is —

Alex Larralde:

Oh, you’re in Vancouver?

Ian Cook:

I’m in Vancouver.

Alex Larralde:

I’m in the Pacific Northwest. I live in Portland.

Ian Cook:

Cool.

Alex Larralde:

Yeah.

Ian Cook:

And then my other hobby is a hockey dad. One of my sons plays competitive hockey, so I spend a lot of time —

Alex Larralde:

Yeah, that’s awesome.

Ian Cook:

— getting him places, helping him perform.

Alex Larralde:

Very cool. Your take on remote work. Here to stay? Is hybrid the way?

Ian Cook:

Hybrid is the way. Certain roles can be done remote. I think you have to work harder at that, and you need a certain character. So remote, small percentage, probably not the baseline, but hybrid baseline. I’m like an individual called Nick Bloom. I follow him. The research, the thought, the kind of the way he’s explained and engaged in that whole debate is fantastic. There is so much benefit from hybrid, and it gives you the chance to do the right work in the right place.

Alex Larralde:

Yes.

Ian Cook:

And we’ve all had the experience of fully from home, fully from the office. We, again, individuals invariably know how they work best.

Alex Larralde:

Right.

Ian Cook:

Forcing them back to a suboptimal workspace just because you want to look at them is so arcane.

Alex Larralde:

It really is.

Ian Cook:

It’s just so arcane.

Alex Larralde:

It is.

Ian Cook:

At the same time, bringing people together to do — there’s things we’ve done collectively together around a whiteboard that we just couldn’t do virtually. We couldn’t do remote. We tried to do them remotely and they just didn’t have the same juice. So understanding what those are, setting up the spaces to make that work, getting the ways to bring that together. And then just, again, the casual stuff in the office, the water cooler stuff counts.

Alex Larralde:

It does. Absolutely.

Ian Cook:

I know the people who built Vee, and so after a show like this, I’ll often go back and say, “Hey, I was talking to these people about Vee. They love this. They were questions about this.” So it just closes that cycle where the person who’s making it isn’t always the person who’s presenting it.

Alex Larralde:

Right.

Ian Cook:

And so they get to feel how their work is touching the real world, which is, again, hugely important.

Alex Larralde:

Absolutely.

Ian Cook:

So I’m fully bought into hybrid. I think most organizations, unless they have a reason not to, will stabilize out to some form of hybrid. And I wouldn’t focus on a certain number of days. It’s what’s right for our different work units? I’m so against this notion of single HR policy.

Alex Larralde:

Yes.

Ian Cook:

Maybe it was the world when we were making cars. It’s no longer the world when we have got such a diversity of people and spaces and talent inside a business. So it is fair to have different approaches for different populations.

Alex Larralde:

Exactly. Equity. It’s equity, right?

Ian Cook:

It’s equity. Exactly.

Alex Larralde:

I think that’s brilliant. Amazing. You’re so fun to talk to. Thanks for coming by.

Ian Cook:

No worries.

Alex Larralde:

Ian highlighted the importance of understanding that AI is as much a data problem as it is an AI problem. The people at Visier recognized this early on and developed a technology stack with a common data architecture, emphasizing the significance of metadata and handling data effectively.

Our conversation with Ian provided valuable insights into the evolving landscape of HR technology and the role of GenAI in shaping the future of work. Let’s discuss three key takeaways and some practical information for your organization.

First, embrace GenAI with caution. Organizations should ensure their data is sorted correctly, considering factors like risks, privacy, and ethics. Implementing security measures is crucial, and employees need education on the safe and appropriate use of generative AI tools.

Second, empower employees with productivity tools. GenAI can significantly benefit employees by automating everyday tasks, assisting with strategic ones, and boosting productivity across the board. Tools like conversational assistance allow individuals to interact with data effortlessly, saving time and improving decision-making. Organizations should invest in technologies that enhance individual productivity, focusing on removing barriers and fostering creativity.

Lastly, rethink performance management. Ian advocates for a shift in performance management practices. Instead of focusing on traditional methods like performance ratings, organizations should leverage data to inform meaningful performance reviews. The goal is to create a process that not only ensures compliance, but also helps predict future business performance, elevating the role of HR to that of a truly strategic business partner.

As businesses implement these changes to adapt to the evolution of work, these takeaways underscore the importance of data-driven HR strategies. They also address the need for continuous education on AI usage and the potential of innovative tools to enhance employee performance and engagement in the coming years.

Be sure to stay tuned for our next episode of the People Fundamentals podcast. We’re hearing from June Bower, leadership expert and founder of TalkShop. She’ll explain the feedback formula that empowers managers to inspire their teams, drive performance, and foster a culture of continuous growth. Subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google to find out what’s in store. And if you like what you hear, share us with your friends and colleagues. We’ll see you again soon.

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