Meet Robert Smith Ph.D, Founder and CEO, The Change Shop

Robert Smith
July 19, 2021

This article is part of our new State of Employee Feedback Series which will interview a diverse mix of HR experts and thought leaders with a goal of better understanding their perspectives on the current state of and future of HR.

The following is an interview we recently had with Robert Smith Ph.D, Founder and CEO, The Change Shop.

What is the state of the human resources industry today?

The industry is undergoing a massive shift with the support of technology and big data. Skills are the currency of the new workforce and those skills reside in people. As the people-oriented function of organizations, HR is figuring out new and better ways to identify people with the right skills and match them to the best roles and opportunities. While doing this has always been HR's charge, never before have HR leaders had access to so many tools and so much data to do this well. As a result, we see HR people increasingly taking their rightful place as the stewards of their organizational talent and now-- more than ever--they have the tools to perform well in that capacity.

What are the most common challenges you face when managing employee feedback and reporting?

The biggest challenge our clients face is getting people to take the time to actually complete surveys. There's a level of survey fatigue that is common and people often do not want to take the time to complete them. As a result, employee feedback--the lifeforce of a positive and productive work culture--too often goes unheard. This is especially troubling in this particular moment where people are choosing to make decisions with their feet instead of sharing their ideas via meetings with managers or survey-based tools.

What are 3-5 pieces of advice for organizations in your industry looking to improve their employee feedback culture?

The first is to use data to support people-related decisions. In an era of big data, organizational leaders can but are no longer required to solicit data from surveys. Instead, big data options are available to model likely feedback and scenario options based on different organizational decisions. This way, HR leaders do not have to fly blind, they can plan for certain outcomes and eventualities based on 'most likely' data and 'most likely' scenarios.

The second is to foster conversations. Several of our clients are being purposeful and intentional about fostering a "conversation" culture between employees and managers. Because so much of the workplace experience is about an individual's relationship with their manager or managers, our clients are finding creative ways to bolster those conversations.

 Finally, I'd say that increasing the focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is absolutely essential. Diversity is about increasing the representativeness of the workforce in ways that reflect both the broader population as well as the organization's customer base. Equity is about ensuring a fair shot at pay and opportunities for advancement. Inclusion is about creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong. If you really think about it, these were the things that HR should have been doing all along. 

What’s the future of HR? 

The future of HR is better, more informed support of core organizational capabilities. By that I mean that every organization has something they are good at. HR is at its best when it is supporting and enhancing those things in meaningful ways. Sometimes that looks like sourcing and identifying the best talent, at other times that means ensuring people have access to the best developmental opportunities while on the job. In all cases, that means using people analytics and insights to drive engagement and effective talent-related decisions.

How do you see your role evolving over the next 3-5 years?

As a CEO and design lead, my role is to regularly engage with our clients to ensure they are getting the most out of our offerings. I do not see that changing in any meaningful way. Over the next 3-5 years, my goal is to expand our offerings in ways that help our clients meet their people's goals and strategy.

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