A tech start-up, Humu, founded by three former Google executives is using artificial intelligence (AI) to change worker behavior towards a happier workplace. Most people think AI is used to discuss some of the most complex problems. However, Humu was founded on the basis that using analytics and some proprietary communication tools, worker satisfaction and happiness could be enhanced at almost any company.
Humu’s CEO Laszlo Bach led many HR analytics efforts at Google and decided to tackle worker happiness using AI in his own startup. Humu aggregates data such as behaviors and success traits of great managers who foster better teamwork. Humu uses the information to develop a set of reminders to make behavioral changes that are likely to increase worker satisfaction at the job.
The concept behind Humu is to use machine learning to tailor the timing, content, and techniques of messaging on how a unique workforce will respond and to support particular managers in better decisions and more consistent actions.
Humu, started in 2017, has raised over $40 million and has 15 current customers ranging from 150 to 65,000 employees.
The company has developed a proprietary communication tool it calls a “Nudge” which is really a well-timed email giving a manager or employee a reminder to engage in the desired behavior. The tool is based on Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize winning research on how people make decisions. The Nudge is designed to help employees make the right kinds of decisions at the right times. Bach first experimented with a concept while at Google where employees were coached to save more for retirement, waste less food in the cafeteria, remember to take training courses, and other important behaviors. AI helps Humu tailor the content and the timing.
One critic of the concept states that only senior management knows the purpose of the Nudge, and it may be used purely for corporate interests as opposed to employee welfare and happiness.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sanjiv Rezdan, CEO of Sweetgreen, is one of Humu’s customers. He stated that if he had not been convinced with evidence of a successful track record at Google, he would consider the Humu’s concept a bunch of “hocus pocus happiness non-sense.” After signing with Humu, Rezdan has become a believer and reported that he received a Nudge and was encouraged to timely communicate, which he might not have done otherwise. When Sweetgreen suffered from high turnover, Humu used data to pinpoint employee retention as a key issue which reminded managers to focus on activities such as setting developmental goals for their teams.
AI is fueling what many call the next industrial revolution. With AI being used in most areas of our lives, some argue HR or People Operations is late to the party. Humu is an interesting new type of organization seeking to use big data and machine-learning to address some of the most slippery and vexing problems in human resources. Tangible financial measures, such as reduced employee turnover, are key to confirm the premise of Humu’s approach. In a highly competitive environment for talent, ideas like Humu are on the leading edge of concepts to increase retention and employee satisfaction by helping managers and employees make the right choices at the right time.
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