Use of Technology at Work: Counter-intuitive Findings

Data Point TuesdayA recent Pew Research Center report examines the impact that technology has on workers and provides some counter-intuitive data. “Digital Life in 2025: Technology’s Impact on Workers” looks at a representative sample of adult Internet users and the role or impact of digital technology on their work lives. The report helps to identify the role of technology in different areas of business, what certain workers find most valuable, and provides surprising perspective on the discussion of whether technology is keeping employees productive, or spreading them too thin and negatively pressuring them to stay constantly connected or “plugged in.”

Among online workers, the Internet and email are deemed the most important information and communication tools, though it may be surprising that social media was ranked very low in importance. 61% of American workers who use the Internet stated that email is “very important” for doing their job, while 54% said the same about the Internet. Only 4% reported that social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn were “very important” to their work.Email Importance

It may also be surprising that for online workers, landlines outrank cell phones in use and importance. 35% of workers surveyed say landline phones are “very important” to their work, compared with 24% who say the same about cell phones. Internet and email are ranked as highly important for those that work in traditional “office jobs,” and ranked as critical for the 59% of employed adults who work outside of the office at least occasionally.

Many reviews of the impact of technology today argue that technology can distract as easily as it can be used as a productivity tool. However, Pew Research’s data found that only 7% of online adults feel that their productivity has dropped because of the Internet, email, and cell phones, and 46% report feeling more productive. 51% of Internet using workers cited that the Internet, email, and cell phones notably expand the number of people they communicate with outside their company. 39% of online workers say that the Internet, email, and cell phones allow them more flexibility, and 35% say it increases the number of hours they work.

Impacts of digital technologyWhen it comes to the question of productivity, the vast majority (92%) of working adults say that the Internet has not hurt their productivity (including 46% of those who say it has not changed their productivity and 46% who say it has increased their productivity). Those in office jobs are twice as likely as those in non-office jobs to say that the Internet has increased their productivity.

Many employers are being proactive regarding the perceived tendency for the Internet to “distract.” 46% of workers surveyed state that their employer blocks access to certain websites, and have rules about what employees can say or post online (a figure that has more than doubled since 2006). Despite this, 18% of working adults report being unaware if their employer blocks sites and 27% are not sure if their employer has rules about what they can say or post online about their workplace. On the flipside, 23% of working Internet users report that their workplace encourages them to promote it online, and 59% say this is not something their workplace encourages them to do. Overall, Pew Research’s data show that more and more employers are implementing policies – “social media policies” – covering what employees can or cannot say about their employers online.Rules of online presentation

While we seem to read daily about the threats of digital technology from hacking and spam, phishing scams and warnings about loss of productivity and work/life integration, this data indicate that email remains just as important and used by American workers as when it first became of workplace tool, and is likely to continue to be a vital tool across the workforce. Pew Research Center’s report highlights that employee productivity may not be as negatively impacted by distractions from the Internet as some managers assume, but rather points to some other potentially problematic areas that organizations should be conscious of as they continue to increase their use of technology. Specifically, these concerns include the difficulty from employees in being able to “unplug,” as workers report the Internet and email are reasons for an increase in the numbers of hours they work. Additionally, organizations should check in with employees about their social media/internet policies. If they have policies in place, are employees aware of them? If organizations don’t have policies in place, giving thought about how to provide guidance to employees may be warranted – especially for organizations that are heavily dependent on technology and the internet.

More than anything else, this report should cause us to consider whether, in fact, email is truly dead – as many Millennial watchers believe; whether everyone is dying to use their smartphones at work, and how big a productivity threat popular social media sites really are. Admittedly, this survey’s sample was not enormous, but a 95% confidence rate might provide motivation to take a closer look at the impact technology is having on the productivity, work/life integration and lives of our employees.

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Social Recruiting: It’s All About the Mobile

Data Point Tuesday69% of recruiters expect competition to increase in 2015. The demand for highly skilled workers is on the rise, with no indication of plateauing anytime soon. With the fiercely competitive nature of talent acquisition, what can organizations do to make sure their recruiting and organizational talent management functions are up to speed? JobVite’s 2014 Social Recruiting Survey highlights trends, tools, and practices that are making a splash in recruiting effectiveness right now. The annual survey was completed by 1,855 recruiting and human resources professionals across most industries. To succeed in this hyper competitive market, JobVite found that recruiters plan to invest more in social recruiting (73%), referrals (63%) and mobile (51%). JobVite’s key message however, may be that recruiters won’t find just one platform that overwhelmingly wins the quest to engage with candidates. Rather, successful recruiting efforts will involve showcasing the employer brand and engaging with candidates across multiple platforms.

We’ve said it again and again at Great Place to Work®, and JobVite says it also: culture matters. When recruiters were asked what steps they take to compete against other employers, the #1 response was that they highlight company culture, followed by better benefits, and flexible hours. Dec 23 2014 Highligh Company CultureRecruiters stated that they would increase their investment in a number of recruiting platforms in 2014, with the biggest investment in in social recruiting (73%). This will continue be an important area of focus as organizations move into the New Year. Investment in Recruiting Platforms73% of recruiters report that they have hired a candidate through social media. 79% report that they have hired through LinkedIn, 26% through Facebook, 14% through Twitter, and 7% through a candidate blog. It’s also absolutely true that employers will review candidate’s social profiles before making a hiring decision, with 93% of recruiters surveyed doing so. Candidates’ social profiles carry weight, and unfortunately it appears more negative than positive. 55% of recruiters state that they have reconsidered a candidate based on their social profile (up 13% from 2013), however, 61% of those reconsiderations have been negative.

Postive Negative Neutral ChartSocial recruiting delivers results, so if your organization hasn’t seriously invested in this as a method for finding talent, it should be considered. Recruiters surveyed stated that since implementing social recruiting, quality of candidates has improved (44%), time to hire (34%), and employee referrals (30%). Despite the success of social recruiting, only 18% of recruiters consider themselves to be experts at social recruiting.

Social recruiting skill level chartInvesting in social recruiting doesn’t necessarily mean investing large sums of money either. 33% of recruiters surveyed stated that they don’t spend anything on social recruiting, and 41% state that they spend between just $1-$999.

Monthly Spending Graphic

JobVite also notes that recruiting is “going mobile” as much as every other B2C activity is. 51% of recruiters stated that they plan to increase their investment in mobile recruiting in 2015. They report using mobile across all aspects of recruiting, from posting jobs, searching for candidates, and contacting candidates, to forwarding candidate resumes to colleagues. Job seekers are heavily mobile too, but there is a disconnect between their mobile usage and recruiters. While 43% of job seekers use mobile in their job search, 59% of recruiters report that they invest nothing in mobile career sites. Those that are investing in mobile though, are seeing the benefits. Investing in mobile improves time to hire (14%), improves quality of candidate (13%), improves quantity of hires (19%), and improves quality/quantity of referrals (10%).

So. The lessons to be learned here for talent acquisition professionals are pretty simple: social, mobile recruiting provides higher quality candidates, reduces time to hire and increases employee referrals. Bottom line? It’s all about the mobile.

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Global Workforce Gender Diversity: It’s Not Happening

Data Point Tuesday

Focusing on diversity in the workplace is an essential step in building a great culture. Advancing gender diversity is a key focus area that organizations should look to, armed with the knowledge that there is still significant progress to make before most workplaces achieve true gender equality. Women are still significantly underrepresented at all levels in the workforce worldwide. Mercer’s 2013 Human Capital Report found that only 60%-70% of the eligible female population participates in the global workforce, while male participation is in the high 80’s. In a recent diversity study by Mercer based on 178 submissions from 164 companies in 28 countries covering 1.7 million employees, Mercer explores this issue and proposes solutions. Three key facts emerged from Mercer’s data:

  • Women continue to trail men in overall workforce participation and in representation at the professional through executive levels
  • Current female hiring, promotion, and retention rates are insufficient to create gender equality over the next decade
  • Current talent flows will move more women into top roles over the next decade but not in North America

Labor Force ParticipationHow can organizations change their approach to diversity in a way that effectively combats these gaps? Mercer’s study highlights the current key drivers of gender diversity, aiming to help organizations understand what drives diversity the most and help focus their approach.

The data show that organizations who have broad and holistic approaches to support female talent have more comparable talent flows for women and men than those who do not. Additionally Mercer finds that formal accountability has little significance on increasing gender diversity when removed from real leadership engagement. At organizations where leaders are active and engaged in diversity programs, more women are present throughout the organization, in top leadership roles, and there is more equality in talent flows between men and women. Another key driver of gender diversity is that active management of talent creates more favorable results than traditional diversity programs that are put in place to support women’s needs. Organizations that actively manage pay equity vs. making passive commitments ensure that women and men have equal access to profit and loss responsibilities, and proactively support flexible work arrangements driving gender equality at a greater rate than those with traditional diversity programs. Nontraditional solutions and innovative programs impact organizations long- term ability to retain female talent. Specifically, customized retirement solutions and health related programs have been successful in helping organizations to better attract, develop and retain female talent.

Mercer points out a disappointing statistic from the World Bank, which reports that global labor force participation rates for women ages 15-64 have actually declined over the last two decades. The discrepancy between female and male representation is even higher in top roles. Women make up less than 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, hold less than 25% of management roles, and just less than 19% of board roles globally. Since the 1980’s leap in pay equality for women things have since stagnated. Clearly new strategies are required. Making sure that women are equal participants in the workforce has broader implications than just fostering great culture. Economists have predicted that eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost GDP in the U.S by 5%, in Japan by 9%, in the UAE by 12%, and in Egypt by 34%.

Organizations can take reports such as Mercer’s and use them as a roadmap. The key drivers of gender diversity listed there can easily be leveraged as a reference when identifying you own diversity strategies and areas of focus. For a more expanded list of ways organizations can create greater diversity, take a look at Mercer’s full report.

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Flexible Work Arrangements Fever

Data Point TuesdayHow would you describe flexible scheduling? Does a standard definition come to mind? In a new SHRM survey on FWAs (flexible work arrangements), which surveyed 525 HR professionals from a randomly selected sample of SHRM’s membership, “FWAs,” “flextime,” “workplace flexibility,” “flexible scheduling,” etc. are defined under the following definition: “… a dynamic partnership between employers and employees that defines how, when and where work gets done in ways that work for everyone involved (including families, clients and other stakeholders).” This seems a definition with an interesting amount of ambiguity to describe a practice that ultimately, is extremely different from company to company.

For organizations that responded as offering FWAs, 54% offered sabbaticals, 51% offered paid time-off for volunteer work, and 46% offered part-time/reduced hour schedules on a formal basis. Other FWAs were more likely to be offered informally.

FWA Options Graph

Additionally, among organizations that reported offering FWA’s, more than 50% responded that the following FWAs were available to “all or most employees”: paid time-off for volunteer work (82%), unpaid time off for volunteer work (72%), break arrangements (61%) a part-time transition after a major life event (58%) and flex time with “core hours” (54%). Fourth-fifths of responding organizations reported that 13 out of 17 FWAs were somewhat or very successful (80%-90%). The four FWAs that responding organizations reported finding less successful were unpaid time off for volunteer work (78%), phased retirement (74%), shift arrangements (73%), and sabbaticals (66%). Despite the availability of FWAs at responding organizations (both successful and less successful FWAs), the majority of organizations were likely to report that only 1%-25% of their eligible workforce used each of the FWAs offered.Success of FWAs

If an organization does offer flexible work arrangements, how are their employees finding out about these programs? According to SHRM’s survey, responding organizations that offered at least one type of FWA indicated employees most often learned about their organization’s FWA options from:

  • HR staff (15%)
  • Employee handbook or policy and procedures manuals (18%),
  • During orientation/onboarding (19%)
  • Line manager/supervisors (27%)
  • During the recruitment or interview process (30%)
  • While on the job (50%)

SHRM’s data highlights not only the rise of FWAs within organizations but that they are an increasingly desired organizational practice amongst employees. 32% of responding organizations indicated that requests for FWAs at their organization had increased in the past 12 months, while only 3% indicated those requests had decreased.

SHRM’s data also indicates that telecommuting as an FWA option offers potential increases in employee productivity. Of the 39% of responding organizations that indicated they offered employees the option to telecommute, one-quarter indicated the productivity of employees who were previously 100% onsite increased, and one-third indicated absenteeism rates had decreased. When SHRM asked organizations about changes in FWAs and telecommuting over the next five years, the overwhelming majority of organizations stated it was somewhat or very likely that FWAs (89%) and telecommuting (83%) would be more commonplace in five years. Nearly half (48%) of these organizations stated it was somewhat or very likely that FWAs would be available to a larger proportion of their organization’s workforce in five years, while 39% indicated it was somewhat or very likely that a larger proportion of their organization’s workforce would be telecommuting.

SHRM’s FWA survey points to a number of important take-aways for organizations’ flexible scheduling policies, such as the reported positive impact of FWAs on productivity, job satisfaction, retention and employee health. This indicates that more organizations could benefit from offering FWAs, and those that already offer these options may find themselves with a competitive advantage. Despite the positive outcomes of flexible work arrangements, SHRM’s survey also highlights the low level of utilization by many employees. Organizations should make sure the decision to not partake in FWAs does not stem from job security fears, or culture perceptions that may make using FWAs seem like career limiting moves. Managers must remember that as employees are most likely to learn about FWAs on the job, their role is vital to the success of FWA programs. HR needs to ensure that managers are aware of all available FWA options, have proper training on how to inform employees about FWAs, and that they “practice what they preach” by utilizing such programs themselves.Next 5 Years Graph

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Supply Chain Management: Closing the Skills Gap

Data Point TuesdayIt’s an issue that organizations seem consistently faced with today: a lack of skilled workers that can further their growth, success, and ability to compete with competitors. This “skills gap” is explained by the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation | Center for Education and Workforce’s new report, as a result of education and workforce systems in the U.S that are failing to keep pace with the changing needs of the economy. So how do we remedy this talent shortage and close the skills gap? This is a hot topic among organization leaders and management, and USCCF’s report offers an interesting strategy that, while different, may be an actionable way for organizations and institutions to start remedying this challenge. The strategy proposes to apply a supply chain management approach to talent, leveraging lessons learned from innovations in supply chain management and engaging employers to expand leadership roles, acting as “end-use customers” of education and workforce systems. USCCF’s approach, dubbed talent pipeline management, is expected to provide more effective transitions for students into the workforce and improved career advancement for current workers. Talent pipeline management foresees a demand-drive approach to closing the skills gap. This approach is intended to create and share value among all partners in the talent supply chain.

USCCF’s report states that 92% of executives believe there is a serious gap in workforce skills, and nearly 50% are struggling to fill jobs. If left unaddressed, they hypothesize that the skills gap could cause more than 5 million positions to go unfilled by 2020, an issue likely to be exacerbated by increasing retirements and a shrinking workforce. Employers, however, have substantial resources they can leverage to engage this demand driven system. Employers invest upwards of $486 billion each year on training that is almost exclusively focused on upgrading the skills of their current employees.Investment in Workforce Education and Training

USCCF points to a supply chain management approach to talent recruitment and development to help organizations stay competitive in today’s economy, explaining that, “The conditions driving that perspective—such as growing business uncertainty and longer lead times to fill positions—are similar to the challenges that led to innovations in supply chain management”.

Three key foundational principles are identified as forming the basis of a demand-driven system, and provide the framework for the “talent management pipeline”:

  1. Employers Drive Value Creation—Employers play a new leadership role as the end-customer in closing the skills gap for those jobs most critical to their competitiveness.
  1. Employers Organize and Manage Scalable Network Partnerships—Employers organize and manage flexible and responsive talent pipelines in partnership with their preferred education and workforce providers.
  1. Employer Measures and Incentives Drive Performance—Employers work collaboratively with their partners to develop measures and incentives designed to reinforce and improve performance across all partners.

For employers to be successful in this strategy for talent acquisition and development, they must link their talent strategy to their business strategy:Identifying Core Capabilities

Each capability may require a different sourcing method, and USCCF’s report urges organizations to move away from talent acquisition strategies of the past like “spot marketing” through job posting and screening:Talent Pipeline Strategies

Once organizations have developed talent pipeline strategies, they should decide what can be done in-house and what should be done through external partners:Simple vs. Extended Value Chains

Once a talent pipeline network and demand planning system is in place, organizations must measure performance the of this system based on whether they are meeting the needs of the end-customer and creating value across the full network of partners, looking at factors such as time, cost, and quality across all internal units as well as education and workforce partners. Organizations can additionally support their leading providers through incentives (such as work-based learning opportunities, performance-based funding, and equipment) as well as through continuous improvement strategies.

For more detailed information on the implications of the talent management pipeline on key stakeholders such as education and workforce providers, students and workers, and policymakers, make sure to check out the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s full report.

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CHRO to CEO: Stairway to Heaven

Data Point TuesdayThe Korn Ferry Institute recently released a report that looks at the leadership traits of “best-in-class” executives, and the important relationship between Chief Executive Officers and Chief Human Resources Officers. The report “CEOs and CHROs: Crucial Allies and Potential Successors” confirms that for C-suite roles technical skills are just a fraction of what makes for successful leadership, and that executives in the top 10% of pay for their function tend to have leadership styles that motivate employees, develop future leaders, and create appropriate cultures. The workplace today is shifting to place greater value and more intently evaluate leaders on such areas as how they treat people, foster the right work environment, and encourage future leaders. As Korn Ferry’s report asserts, this type of evaluation is warranted because “well-managed talent, leadership, and culture are what enable sustainable customer, operational, and financial results.”

After analysis, Korn Ferry found that across functions, best-in-class leaders have greater levels of emotional awareness and competence in six key areas:

  • Tolerance of ambiguity
  • Empathy
  • Confidence
  • Composure
  • Energy
  • Adaptability

These best-in-class leaders are “change champions” who are comfortable not having all the answers as well as being around a diverse group of people, enabling them to see from perspectives different than their own. They are empathetic towards others and quick to read a room, have the confidence to take risks and make decisions, remain composed in high-pressure situations, are energetic and enthusiastic, and are adaptable and easily able to accommodate others methods.

Korn Ferry emphasizes the importance of CEOs having allies that will tell them more than “what they already know” and allow them to leverage deep insights on culture, leadership, and talent. CHROs are uniquely positioned to fill this ally role because in many organizations, a great deal of expertise on the importance of leadership, culture, and integration is concentrated in HR. CEOs are increasingly seeking broader insight from their CHROs. This touches on the expanding or redefined role of HR in today’s workplace. In recent years, HR has moved away from being solely an administrative function that defined terms and conditions of work. HR practices now often help to implement strategy at the organization level, and as organizations seek to match their brands with their organizational culture, CHROs find themselves in an expanded role uniquely suited to support their top executives.

After looking at research from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the RBL Group, Korn Ferry determined that high performing CHROs master six competency domains that are also essential to CEO success:

  • Strategic positioner
  • Credible activist
  • Capability Builder
  • Change Champion
  • HR innovator and integrator
  • Technology (information) proponent

These HR professionals “go beyond knowing the business to helping CEOs focus strategic direction and align choices that create value for investors and customers and respond to changing external conditions.” They are able to build trusting relationships with key stakeholders like customers and investors, initiate and sustain change, recognize the importance of culture and foster theirs, innovate and integrate HR and people practices, and use workforce analytics and technology to enhance HR practices and make informed decisions.

Over the last several decades, Korn Ferry has profiled leadership styles of thousands of senior executives, including CEOs, CHROs, CFOs, CMOs, and CIOs. Their assessments gauge how much importance an individual places on 14 attributes that have been sorted into three categories: leadership style, thinking style, and emotional competencies. While the graphs below show that most best-in-class executives have a similar leadership profile, it’s clear that CEOs and CHROs are very much “cut from the same cloth”.
thinking styles chartleadership styles chartemotional competencies chartWhen Korn Ferry calculated the Euclidean Distance from the profile of the best-in-class

CEO (in which a lower number indicates more similarity), they found that overall, best-in-class CHROs (distance .735) are closer to CEOs across 14 traits than are CFOs (.82), CMOs (1.039), and CIOs (1.031).

The similarity in profiles between CEOs and CHROs helps to support the earlier explanations as to why CEOs may turn to CHROs as a main strategy ally and leadership/talent coach. Korn Ferry proposes, too, that as we continue to see these more rounded and fluid HR roles, CEO successors may come from HR in addition to more traditional areas like finance, marketing, operations and IT. As CEOs increasingly manage organizational challenges as well as customers, products, and financial concerns, CHROs may offer unique skills as a successor that others do not. Already we see that CHROs match CEOs’ leadership profiles as well or more than any other executive:Score Difference by Executive chart

Korn Ferry points out that of course, CHROs will not be considered for succession without experience in business operations. With this foundation though, top CHROs could excel as CEOs, bringing specific desired attributes such as: deep insights about their organization, high self-awareness, excellent people managing skills, and the knowledge of how to serve external stakeholders through internal actions. In short, don’t be surprised if savvy, best-in-class Gen X CHROs start replacing the aging Baby Boomer CEOs.

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Peer Recognition, Culture and Going the Extra Mile

Data Point TuesdayWhat motivates employees? It is money? Feeling valued at work? Connecting with a company’s social mission? All these are good answers, but a new study from TINYpulse that analyzed over 200,000 employee responses relating to organizational culture found that peers and camaraderie are the #1 reason employees go the extra mile. While peer recognition and camaraderie might seem like two aspects of company culture that happen (or need to happen) organically, there are ways organizations can promote a culture that fosters peer recognition and camaraderie. As a potentially overlooked area of focus for organizations, peer recognition is a valuable way to foster a positive culture and create one where employees regularly “go the extra mile.” 44% of employees surveyed report that when they are provided a simple tool to do so, they will provide peer recognition on an ongoing basis. The happier the employee, the bigger the praise: 58% of “happy” employees report giving regular peer recognition, compared to 18% of the least happy employees. As TINYpulse states, “Professional happiness encourages 3X more recognition!”Nov 18 2014 HappinessThinking that money motivates employees seems an antiquated line of thought when looking at TINYpulse’s data. In fact, money isn’t even among the top 5 factors that motivate employees to go the extra mile. Out of 10, “money and benefits” ranks #8. The top 3 motivators for employees to go the extra mile are:

  • Camaraderie/peer motivation
  • Intrinsic desire to do a good job, and
  • Feeling encouraged and recognized

Motivation ChartFeeling encouraged and recognized at work can stem from a number of different sources, but regardless of where recognition most often occurs, TINYpulse’s data show that employees feel significantly undervalued overall. On a 1-10 scale, just 21% of all employees gave a score of nine or ten for feeling valued at work, meaning that 79% of employees feel undervalued, or not valued at all.

Value ChartCamaraderie and recognition have broader implications than just creating a more motivated workforce. Workplace cultures that embrace these are no longer expected to be just the few and far between: job seekers expect this of organizations, and they are ways to not only attract talent, but to retain it. Millennials especially (as I’ve discussed in past posts) place a high value on camaraderie and actively seek out such work environments. TINYpulse sites a recent report by Bersin and Associates, which found that employee engagement, productivity, and customer service, are about 14% better in organizations where recognition occurs.

Consider how your organization recognizes its employees – how do you recognize peers? Do employees at your organization feel valued – do you? Maybe it’s time to institute some formal recognition programs, which we here at Great Place to Work consistently see as best practices at organizations on the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For list. “Ramping up” recognition programs doesn’t need to mean excessive time or investment either. It could be as simple as instituting a gold star program, installing a white board in the break room for “biggest save of the week” comments, or having an employee mentor another for an hour on a specific skill. Our advice is to start small, and build on positive outcomes.

But by all means, provide formal and informal ways for your employees to recognize the contributions of their peers – that is, if you’d like more of your employees to go the extra mile for your customers!

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