Podcast: UKG’s Cecile Alper-Leroux on Life-Work Technology



Mark Feffer: Welcome to People Tech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. My guest today is Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of products and innovation at UKG. She’s going to talk with us about Life-Work Technology, a new basis, if you will, for HCM products. Essentially, UKG aims to bring people and technology together so that employers can better support the balancing of work with personal life. We’ll learn more on this edition of People Tech, brought to you by RecruitingDaily. With more than 100,000 people in its network, it provides recruiters with useful real-world information. Without compromise, the community comes first. Visit www.recruitingdaily.com. And with that said, Cecile Alper-Leroux, welcome. Could you explain to me the idea of Life-Work Technology? What is it?

Cecile Alper-Leroux: There is nothing that I would rather do. Life-Work Technology is… It’s almost what it is in contrast or what it isn’t that brings to light what it is. So first and foremost, what Life-Work Technology is, is it is technology that does more than the traditional tracking, process improvement, even pattern recognition, data storage, all of those things that are traditional what systems of work and people systems traditionally do. They look at policies. They facilitate. They bring to life process improvement. They expose information. They track information about people. They help with management. What Life-Work Technology does is it adds a layer essentially of a deeper understanding of people and a deeper understanding of patterns of work. But most importantly, it does this to serve people. So it is designed and exists to serve people rather than work itself.

And traditionally, if you think about what work tech is, and you’ll hear a lot of talk about, “Oh, we’re doing work tech, and it’s going to help enable people.” The thought behind work tech is always the work. It’s always the business. It is in service of businesses, organizations instead of being in service of people. And the reality is, is that over the past… I mean, this has been happening for some time, but over the past 18 months, the shift whereby individuals and the agency that they have is so, so much more important. And the preferences that they want and the way that they want to work and live or co-exist with their work has changed so much so that it’s a disadvantage to not be focused on life-work tech and to be focused on work tech, because just serving the business is not enough anymore.

Mark: That sounds great, but it does beg the question of how do you turn that philosophy into product?

Cecile: It’s a wonderful question. It requires a couple of things. Number one, it essentially takes the idea of productivity and the idea of understanding people, and so it requires actually… There’s sort of a platform layer that is required with Life-Work Technology or Life-Work Tech such that you have… You pick up on human signals. So that means artificial intelligence that understands human signals, human interaction. That is then interpreted and specific recommendations not focused on work, but focused on a number of different aspects. And I’ll give you a few examples of that, because there’s the individual, but there’s also where the organization is. So it’s not serving people at the exclusion of organizations. It really brings those things together.

So you have to be able to understand human signals. You have to be able to deeply understand work patterns, and you also have to deeply understand what stage an organization is in so that the right workforce and the right capabilities and the right skills and the right people are brought to bear at the right time for the best possible outcomes that are inspiring and also that help people and organizations thrive. Sort of the hallmark is that you want systems that help people, that inspire people and that help organizations and people thrive.

An example of this would be, if you have, for example, a shift… Let’s take something as sort of tactical as scheduling. And you give people an opportunity to understand that if they take one shift or another over another, that it actually could help one of their colleagues through a difficult time in their life, because there’s information about the individual and the shift there that actually will elevate it, saying this has a community impact, versus you picking up this other shift. So that is something that’s very humanizing when it’s a pretty tactical example of that. But that requires understanding human signals. This isn’t about sharing HIPAA information necessarily. But it is… It’s humanizing, and it’s bringing the humanity into every aspect and into every transaction.

Mark: Can we go a step further? And you’ve described in the past life-work tech as a vision.

Cecile: Yep.

Mark: And we’ve talked about how you apply that to product generally. How will UKG apply that vision into your roadmap? How is it going to impact your products?

Cecile: Yeah, so right now what we’re doing is we’ve… And this is something I’ve talked about for a while. The Life-Work Tech was sort of born of the idea of really having an understanding of an individual’s life-work journey. So the life-work journey itself is a combination of platform capabilities. So we call it the Life-Work event engine, is one of those aspects. So picking up on events that are meaningful, that information is then fed into that event engine that will indicate whether or not a particular recommendation would be impactful or not for an individual.

So you start with this idea of the individual’s life-work journey, and then we bring in a deep understanding. So these events that will actually lead to specific actions or specific recommendations being presented to an individual based on where they may be on their life-work journey. So again, human signals are important, but also being able to listen to the voice of employees and their leaders. So we have a new capability, the one-on-one meetings, where we’ll actually interpret feedback. That feedback that’s interpreted, and this is sort of ongoing coaching and development feedback that can come from multiple sources, that’s actually run through our AI engine, and we can interpret what’s happening with an individual to enrich a conversation that a manager and an employee might have, as an example. So that deeper understanding.

So that’s a great example. Normally, a one-on-one meeting is like, “All right, what’s your list of things you want to go through?” But if we can understand where an individual is on their life-work journey, Life-Work Tech then is being able to meet the needs of the individual and inform the conversation so that it is not only more humanized, but it’s more targeted and it’s more meaningful, and ideally, it leads to better outcomes because the manager is more informed when they have a conversation with an employee. So those are a few examples of how we actually bring that to life.

Another one of those areas is if you think about the transitions that individuals go through, be that onboarding or you’re promoted, we often will promote people, but not necessarily provide them with a true transition experience. So you onboard them, and then two years later, they move to another job, and there’s nothing. It’s like, “Hey, here’s your new manager.” Well, Life-Work Tech then takes that same idea of onboarding, and it brings it into any transitional experience that an individual or any sort of stage of an individual as they’re moving through their work life.

Mark: Does the whole concept apply to the corporate world in general?

Cecile: I think it should. I think it should. Our focus is on not just the world of HR, but even think about it from the context of recruiting. If you were thinking about an organization that is in high-growth mode and needs to fill 200 openings, 100, 50, it doesn’t matter, in a course of two weeks, if you knew a little bit more about candidates and you could bring that knowledge of candidates who can share information with you before they actually interview, and you know that this particular candidate has been through… Not just through work history, but if you knew something more about their life and where they were, it would absolutely have a huge impact. So that’s the recruiting context, but why would it not apply in the rest of the corporate world?

I think we’re going to need this notion of technology that serves in service of the people, rather than just in service of organizations across the board. For travel and expense, it would make perfect sense to have that same knowledge of the individual as well as where the organization is, because those kinds of recommendations are not that hard to pick up on anymore. We actually have technology to do that. We’re just not necessarily applying them in a way that serves people. So instead of being focused on cost-cutting, instead of being focused just on efficiency, why not think about truly what’s happening in the world?

And one of the ideas that’s a bit of an obsession for me right now is this idea that we’ve got a lot of individuals who are in the workforce, who are going to be coming back into the workforce, who are going to be experiencing more intermittent productivity, because if they have had long-haul COVID, if they are going through bereavement, this can apply across the board. It’s something that we should all be thinking about because, at the end of the day, to me, business continuity is workforce continuity, and workforce continuity comes from truly humanizing and infusing that humanity in all technology or digital interactions or even corporate interactions.

Mark: Cecile, thank you.

Cecile: It’s my pleasure.

Mark: I’ve been talking with Cecile Alper-Leroux, UKG’S vice president of products and innovation. And this has been People Tech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of RecruitingDaily. Learn more about them at www.recruitingdaily.com. People Tech’s a part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com. And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news for the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.

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