Tech Insights: Reducing Technology to a Yes or No Proposition

One of themes in this years’ HR Tech conference in Las Vegas was that vendors were more inclined to say their software was simple rather than say it was powerful.

The winner of my “simplest in show” award is Celpax whose product is a pair of buttons: “Yes” and “No.” When employees leave work they are asked “Did you have a good day?” and press the appropriate button.

This is assessment is reminiscent of the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion where evil space aliens insisted on asking the simple Yes/No question “Are you an effective team?”

Of course, Celpax isn’t run by space aliens, it’s run by Swedes, however the company has hit upon the same powerful idea: That a single critical question captures most of what you need to know.

A simple question to spark a dialogue

We live in a world of long employee surveys and sophisticated analytics. It is a real shock to our thinking to be presented with the idea that a single, simple question can accomplish a great deal.

What does the question accomplish?

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First, simply by asking the question, management is signalling it cares. However the real intervention is that the results are meant to spark a dialogue.

If the number of people having a good day goes down, it spurs management to ask “Why are so many people having a bad day?” Sometimes a manager will be able to do something about it, sometimes not, but the mere fact they had that conversation will be helpful.

It seems strange to get excited over such a simple tool, but I’ll bet many a front-line manager will see its value.

What is interesting?

  • It will be interesting to correlate mood (as measured by this kind of simple test) with business outcomes like safety, productivity, and customer satisfaction.
  • One HR professional suggested (perhaps tongue in cheek) that the technique should be used when people first come to work with the question being “Are you having a bad day?” If people answer “Yes” this HR pro would say “Don’t even bother to come in.”

What is really important?

  • The most important tool in people management is dialogue. We need effective ways to spark that dialogue. Usually the only thing needed to spark an effective dialogue is a simple question and a caring manager.

Let’s not lose sight of the power of simplicity.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.



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