In the age of remote working, quiet quitting is a phenomenon that companies all around the world must grapple with. Alejandro Martinez, CEO and Co-founder at Erudit, tells Mrigaya Dham about how having the correct employee feedback tools in place can empower organisations to retain and motivate their top talent, and stay ahead of their competition.
Recent years have been difficult with the pandemic, rise in burnout, remote and hybrid transitions, the Great Resignation and an incoming recession. What’s your biggest learning in the last two years?
My biggest learning is that it is vital to have a better understanding of people and equipping managers with new feedback tools that save time and help them make better, less biased decisions. This is an area that has been neglected and the last few years have shown us that companies need to understand their people in a new way.
In the middle of the pandemic, the Great Resignation and shift to remote working, you decided to launch Erudit in the US market. What are the biggest challenges for an HR Tech Start-up like Erudit?
I’ve learned that it is not enough for HR tech start-ups to simply provide good learning about people for HR teams; every manager needs to be involved. Focusing only on HR will have a negative impact on the business. This was true then, and even more true now that the workforce is moving to a remote set-up. So this is one of the main challenges for our start-up, to build our platform to add value, not just for HR departments, but also for people leaders, managers and C-levels.
Another major challenge is managing our team that is from different time zones because we have people in Spain, France, Brazil, Andorra, the U.S. and more countries. This is a challenge for everyone building a company that has adopted a remote or hybrid work culture.
With an increase in the adoption of remote or hybrid work culture, how do you think companies can establish a better culture for their employees?
Simply listening should be the starting point of all companies. Everyone is talking about how employees are important; for example, they are the core of the business and how companies are adopting an employee-driven culture. The reality is companies are not listening enough.
Listening is a silent action. It is best performed when you are quiet. If you are asking or posting surveys the whole day, that’s not listening, that’s interrupting and bothering people. The remote world is a game changer for everyone. You don’t have your colleagues in front of you and it’s not always necessary to speak to them.
As a manager, you have to give up the control that you normally have when you are in the same space and the same room. Management needs to mature and delegate more efficiently. As we give workers more autonomy, the focus should be on creating better tools to listen and understand their needs and motivations.
Could you tell us more about your remote team and the people behind the AI technology?
We have around 30 employees and we expect to be over 100 in the second quarter of 2023. We are fully remote and you’ll find team members across the globe. Our philosophy of hiring someone is based on their talent and attitude, it does not matter where the person is based.
Our AI team in particular is a mix of male and female engineers and psychologists who are based in Europe. It’s led by Ricardo and Alexandre Denis. They have extensive experience in NLP and AI research. My co-founder, Ricardo Michel Reyes is one of the world’s best AI developers. He is only 28-years-old but is a brilliant results-driven individual. Alexandre also has a wealth of experience, with over 50 papers related to NLP applied to understanding human behaviour. Our AI team gives us a lot of confidence in the technology and their skill sets.
There has been a rising concern within organisations regarding a ‘quiet quitting culture’. What is ‘quiet quitting’ and why is it important?
I find the term ‘quiet quitting’ problematic. No one quits a company quietly. Maybe they said something or gave signs, but leadership just wasn’t listening closely enough? The rise in quiet quitting can be attributed to managers not having the correct tools to listen successfully and understand what’s happening inside their companies, especially when the team is working remotely. Erudit has the solution.
Quiet quitting is not new. The difference before was that people were physically present, so it was not quiet; it was something that you noticed. People have always quit or stopped being motivated to work or were too burnt out to put any more effort at the office, but maybe being in the same room helped us notice. Where Erudit can help is bringing awareness to this issue and the true needs and motivations of employees, even when you’re working from home.
Why is the ‘quiet quitting’ approach disruptive to the company besides losing an employee? How can Erudit help navigate this?
It can be a huge pain point when people either quit or when they silently stop working and delivering on their responsibilities. However, this is also something companies can use positively, by learning from the experience. The goal for employees is to be happy, motivated, grow professionally and be in the right company. When an employee quits or ‘quiet quits’, companies can dig deeper on the reasons why, the motivations behind it, and then use this information to improve the work culture. The problem is that companies are not having these conversations and not getting this feedback. Plus, by the time they realise that an employee is unsatisfied, it is too late. This is an increasing trend that will arise as we transition into the remote world.
Many people are working from their homes in today’s digital economy. Quiet quitting is a good opportunity to put all the necessary tools on the table to unearth the reasons behind this phenomenon. A major obstacle for many managers is that they don’t have the correct tools and once they are aware, it is often too late and proves too costly.
How can employees and business leaders oversee the wellbeing of their staff? In previous years this has been done through surveys, but why is this no longer a proficient way of collecting wellbeing data?
Surveys are outdated methods and can no longer be considered proficient ways of collecting data. For example, when you are posting a survey you are asking for language. Language is key to understanding people and it’s what differentiates us from animals. Language is the basis of human culture.
Many tech companies are already working with Google, Microsoft or Slack. Companies are using two or more of these internal communications. These companies are already storing your aggregate conversations by default. It is simply not necessary to ask for the same aggregate information that you already have. By using your Gmail, your emails are being stored; if you’re using Zoom, your conversations are being stored; by using Slack, your messages are being stored.
Companies already possess this information but must learn how to better process it so that the insights are unbiased and anonymous, but still actionable. This information shows if the marketing team is worried about payroll, if your sales team is worried about a territory, or if everyone loves the tech manager. We can discover if people are worried about growth or learning opportunities too. You already have the data; you already have the answers. You just need the AI tool to bring them to light, and that is where Erudit comes in.
In a recent LinkedIn post, you mentioned that true listening happens in silence. What do you mean by this?
When a person is listening, talking is not possible. Listening and being preoccupied with other thoughts that bother us are mutually exclusive. Great companies are still not listening but interrupting their best performers with survey loops. But listening should be done in silence.
How does Erudit’s AI People Analytics work? Why should AI solutions be seen as a supportive tool rather than a means of surveillance?
Erudit’s AI sifts through your textual communications data like Slack, G-Suite and Microsoft Teams to serve you actionable people metrics, analytics and insights. For example, you’ll get each team’s daily engagement levels and burnout risk. Every month, you’ll get a report that helps you understand the needs of every department and how they are doing. Plus, you get to dig into the reasons why.
All the people analytics are anonymised by the AI so you can make unbiased decisions based on organic, instead of survey data. So managers never see messages or names, they only see the insights that will help them improve their management style and better support their team members. HR can use this tool to design initiatives based on their unique workforce, plus they can track the impact through the metrics. We believe our approach is more efficient, more effective, more inclusive and less biased.
What is your dream for the future of workplaces?
It’s the same as my company’s mission; to help every business manager in the world to understand their people better. Companies are investing heavily in this area and there is still room for improvement. But listening to your employees in real-time, in an unbiased way, and without bothering them with yet another employee survey is the way forward.
My mission is to empower business managers with the tools to better understand their people and business so they can make data-driven and people-centric decisions. If you want your employees to listen to you, stop bothering them with surveys and come and try Erudit for game-changing insights.Click below to share this article