IBM Kenexa Review

We liked the high-performance engagement model and the relationship between emotional engagement and rational engagement.


What is most valuable?

We chose Kenexa for a number of reasons. One was because of the science that sits behind our survey approach. What we liked specifically was the high-performance engagement model and then, over the course of the relationship, in helping us to understand much more than we've ever done before, the relationship between emotional engagement and rational engagement. This is where behavioral science and business psychology is really starting to play a much more important role in Lloyd's in helping us to be able to ask the right questions in the right way through the right channels.

How has it helped my organization?

Using Kenexa and the conversations I think that we have now had, we have focused and worked really hard with the team in London. They've been great. I think what they've done as well is they've really challenged the thinking. What we've benefited from is having a partner who challenges us, who is not afraid to call out stuff.

Basically you want a partner who makes you think. We don't need a partner who delivers surveys. There are numerous companies out there, suppliers, that will run a survey for us. It's about the ability for a partner to make a bank as complex and large as ours to really take stock and think about what it is we want, where it is we're going, and the progress we're making. I think that's really what we get from the IBM team.

What needs improvement?

Looking at IBM, it's working really well at the moment and we're just about to embark on another kind of agreement or contract with them as well that will take us up until the time at which the workplace would have changed again. It's right that we've got in place that kind of short-term contract as well. I think it keeps us and IBM on our toes in terms of making sure that we've got the best possible partner for where we are in our journey, but also understanding where we want to get to. I think IBM has taken a lot of time to really understand Lloyd's in a way that other providers possibly wouldn't have. We really, really value that.

In terms of where it can improve, as of late summer 2016, we had two large surveys running at the moment. We've got a culture survey, which we introduced in 2014, which enables us to be able to assess and measure company culture to the extent to which an individual is connected to the purpose, vision and values of the group. It's a big survey. It's almost like what you compare with an annual company-wide survey. Later in the autumn, we were about to launch our engagement survey back in the UK. That's also another big event as well. I think the challenge for us as well is that we know that the external market is changing. If we think about what's happening from a consumer or customer experience, we see that they are getting feedback at the moment. There's constant feedback, constant dialogue, and there's more transparency around the data.

The organizations are then having to respond back whether it be through social, through mobile or some other form of giving back, giving feedback or giving a response back as well. I think we've got these two main vehicles in our organization. I think they work really well. Where we need IBM's help is to understand. We don't need to identify. We understand the value of social, mobile and now cognitive. It's been really important for me to hear over the last few days what the era of cognitive will now look like; what are the opportunities that are now opening up for us.
I think the challenge for me is that we've got to use social more. We've got to use mobile more, but I need it to be connected. I think this is a challenge for IBM. These tools and products and solutions are great, but I think from a partner's perspective, we've got to make sure that we have that connected view because what we don't want to do is introduce, get more into the ecosystem. What I want to be able to do is look at what I've got so far, understand how I can move from data to insight, and I think I'm kind of getting there, but it's now from insight to answering the 'so what' questions that I get asked all the time. For me, it's about deriving even more value from what I've got already and then to be able to connect social, mobile and somewhere in there, build cognitive into it into creating a kind of connected environment which enables me to do data, analysis and insights in a more transformational way.

I argue that we're doing that already, but I think we've got loads more to do. Where I'm looking is, for example, retailers; how they work and the extent to which retailers know about their customers and their customer behaviors. It comes back to the science behind it as well. I'd argue that they are light years ahead. I get a real sense of frustration when you see the kind of customer insight teams and what they can do and then you look at the colleague insights teams, which I'm leading on as well, and seeing there's a gap and we need to close that gap. What I don't need are more solutions. What I need is more of a connected view and have an ecosystem that enables me to be able to measure the colleague experience at the key moments of truth, but to join those dots up to then answer the 'so what' stuff.

For how long have I used the solution?

We took a decision in 2011 following the appointment of the new CEO, to take a step back from what we were always doing. At that point, we had a survey in place which was deemed to be more of an HR instrument. It was 13 questions and the feedback that we got from the business was that they bore very little resemblance to the strategy that we were trying to operate as a group. You had this kind of disconnect between a series of HR-related type questions and a business strategy. In 2011, following the CEO's appointment, we took a decision to stop doing that. We'd run it on a quarterly basis, so we were very good at running surveys and getting good response rates, but the challenge was how can we close the gap between the survey instrument that we had and the business strategy.

What we decided to do is - at the time the CEO was appointed, he undertook a group strategic review, and what that enabled us to do is - to identify the key questions that would help us to measure the progress that we're making in developing and embedding and delivering on the group strategy. That's where we saw our fundamental change. At that point, we went into the market. What we were also keen to do is to move the focus of the survey from being an HR instrument to being a business instrument and providing the business with real intelligence and helping it to drive up performance and deliver better outcomes for our customers.

As a result of that, we worked very closely with Kenexa.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

When we first moved to Kenexa in 2011, at that point they were Kenexa and there was a certain type of culture and a way of working. I think since then, they're coming together with IBM. We've seen that at our own organization as well. You see the culture change, but for us I think it's going to change for the better. I think what we're now seeing is the ability to be able to look at IBM, who are a much bigger organization who are offering us the leadership and the insights that we never had before. It enables us to share that information with leaders, line managers, and HR professionals, all of whom are learning from a partner as well. That's a real benefit for us as well. That's where it's working very well.

From a survey perspective as well, obviously, learning the survey on day one, when we launch it, that's the moment of truth. Colleagues, leaders, line managers, even HR professionals would not be aware of the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to be able to get to that day. I'm pleased to say that on every single occasion, we've been able to land the survey in the right way at the right time. It's been an increasingly positive experience for colleagues as well, and that's reflected in the huge amount of people, typically one out of five people in our organization of 80,000, are responding on day one. I think that's testament to the work that goes on behind the scenes.

For that to happen, you've got to have good project managers. I think what we've found over the last few years, since being with Kenexa, is a really strong project management team. They work with us very closely, we're having regular calls with them, regular meetings, specifically about the projects. I want to have an ongoing dialogue with IBM. For me, that's very different to the conversations we need to have with the project team. We have been working with the project managers, who have done a brilliant job in really getting to know us and to know how we work. The PM may have a project plan of 10 or 100 actions, but understanding the time it takes us to turn things around in our own organization as well has been really important. That's been very good. If there have been any issues, not with the downtime, but in terms of the project management, IBM have been willing to have an open conversation about what we can do to improve it.

For example, in my team, the number of people isn't increasing. The amount of work that we've got, however, is. We need to be much more efficient and much more effective in how we're delivering these. One of our ambitions is to run more research and to have more continuous-listening type dialogues with the business. If we spend that amount of time and use all our resources focusing on these huge surveys that we have in the organization, we're going to leave ourselves with little or no time to really focus on building that continuous listening program out into the wider business. We're constantly looking at how we can make the process, how we can make the project management, more efficient. IBM and the Kenexa team have done a brilliant job in helping us to do that.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Since 2011, we've never had an issue with scalability. We have been able to survey. At the time we first used Kenexa to run the group survey in 2011, we had an audience of around 110,000 people. We ran it in 4 different languages. We did that across 32 different countries. Now, as the strategy has changed to become more UK-centric, the number of countries has reduced significantly from 32 down to 6. We've also seen the number of languages that we use reduce, as well, based on the information and insight that we get back from IBM, helping us to simplify the way that we do colleague research in Lloyd's. So, scalability has never been a problem.

Interesting to me as well is that they work very well with us in terms of producing the group outputs, which obviously is really important for our CEO and his team and the board. Equally important is the individual report that goes to the local line manager as well. I would say scalability works both ways. In terms of running a survey across a group as complex and large as ours made up of multi-brands, across several different locations, different businesses with different cultures of their own, it's worked really well. Equally, the local line manager who's interested in receiving his or her report absolutely get that on the day that we promise it to them.

How is customer service and technical support?

Technical support is interesting. Like many organizations, we've found value in looking at structured and unstructured data. Over the past few years, we've been increasingly using open-ended questions to collect the base comments. We've been quite successful at it as well, to the point where we have received 67,000 or even 80,000 comments, as well. We get those comments, which is great. What we've been doing over the last few years, as we see an increasing number of comments coming through, we're having to think differently about how we're going to analyze all this information and remove the bias and the personal interpretation out of the process to really get to the insight.

Up until last year, we basically pulled together a group of willing HR graduates to work with us for a certain period. We got some fantastic insights. What that showed us is the power of really looking at this data in a different way, not just allowing 80,000 comments to kind of go out and dissolve into the business because you'll never really understand the collective value and insight that can provide.

What we've been doing over the last 2 or 3 cycles is to use the verbatim analysis tool. It's still a learning process for us as well. What we have found is the ability to be able to analyze the data in no time. If we're asked a specific question, and what we've found as well is that the more specific the question can be, the better the outputs from the survey tool. We are now at a point where we don't use any extra resource.

We don't use anything at all so we've been able to stand those HR graduates down from the process. We can stand leaders and line managers who are enabled to read all their comments. What we get is, what are the questions you want to answer out of the structured data? We'll go down the structured data and find out the answer. What we're doing increasingly is linking them together. How do people feel through the numbers they give us? What is it they think and say in terms of the words? Drawing that together has been incredibly powerful for us.

Which solutions did we use previously?

We had used another survey provider, a great survey provider, Willis Tales Watsons. We'd used them for several years and they provided an excellent service to us as well. In 2011, with the appointment of a new CEO, with a slightly different focus, with a very clear vision of becoming the best bank for customers, with a very clear strategy and a series of values, it just kind of opened up our minds to saying, "We need to think about science, so we need to think about engagement or research in a much more scientific way than we've done before." Therefore, and it was not a decision that we took very lightly, we really challenged ourselves to make sure that we got the right partner. That was a change as well.

For us, I think in the past, so many organizations you speak to today, have got a supplier relationship going with someone. This is what we want. I think with a partnership, it enables us to be able to develop a two-way dialogue. A survey partner, whether it's IBM today or another provider in the future, that really challenges the way we think about, the way we conduct research. However many surveys we run, whether we go out to new joiners, whether we go out to leavers or somewhere in between, we've just got to make sure we've got a survey, a really robust process, and we go out and ask the right questions to really get the truth.

What you want is for people to be open and honest. You want the truth and you want to be able to understand the reality of what it looks like and what it feels like to work in an organization.

How was the initial setup?

I was involved in the setup. As part of that relationship as well, I was really keen for us not to agree to a long-term contract or a long-term relationship without really understanding what the benefit and value was to Lloyd's. What we decided to do is to put in place an agreement for a period of time. What that enabled me to do is to take stock again. I think what one thing that we've maybe struggled with in the past is the ability to challenge the provider or the partner to say what you're going to do for us now, because we got into a cycle with a previous provider where it was working well, but I think what we wanted to do with this relationship with Kenexa is to push it harder. We knew we had to go harder and faster than before and to be much more dynamic as well. We wanted that science element. There were lots of different facets, so we decided on a short-term arrangement which would be regularly reviewed. We've kept that kind of approach alive today, and it's working well.

I think what's working well for Lloyd's Banking Group is that we get the opportunity to regularly look around the external market to see what's out there. It's a changing marketplace and there are some great providers out there with some great tools. We're constantly speaking and talking to other providers to understand what the emerging trends are out there. At the same time, we want to be able to have good, honest conversations with Kenexa and IBM about where we want to take this in the future and really challenge them, but at the same time allowing them to challenge us and our thinking as well. It works as a partnership and hopefully it will continue for some time to come. At the same time, we've got in place now another agreement for several years, but again we'll be looking both now and also in the future to make sure that the partnership is still the right partnership for Lloyd's Banking Group. I think that's important.

The implementation or the transfer from one provider to another, I think the providers did a brilliant job. If we moved from one provider today to another tomorrow, I think they'd do an excellent job. I think they are getting better at being able to take on new clients and to help them make that transition. We're a large organization and a very complex organization as well. At the time of moving across to IBM, to Kenexa at the time, we were also going through a huge transformation program of bringing together two large banks, which added to the complexity as well.

Within the group, it is complex, and I think we needed a strong partner who really understood us, understood where we were in our own journey and then helping us with our stakeholders to make sure that we put in place the right building blocks to create a great experience for colleagues come the day the survey goes live, which, for us, is always the key moment of truth.

What was our ROI?

We are a large, complex organization. First and foremost, I think in terms of identifying the right vendor for us, it's a vendor that has the availability and the ability to be able to operate in that environment. It's not just one size fits all and so understanding how a large organization works is really important. Kenexa were able to do that in the discussions we had with them. That's number one.

Their ability to work with us and to develop an efficient and effective process, is also important. We don't have huge amounts of resources to be able to run this, so what we're looking for is an organization that understands us and is willing to work with us as well. We need an organization that's very structured, that's strong on project management, that's strong on stakeholder engagement, that understands the IT environment in which we operate as much as them and understanding and providing workarounds so that the colleague experience, the leader or line manager experience is the best it can possibly be. They're typically the kind of criteria that we're looking at. It's about understanding us not as a client but as a partner. That's what really came through in the conversations we've been having with the IBM team recently.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

It's part of the formal tenure process. We would've considered several different providers and both the large players that all of us, the suppliers that you would typically expect a large bank such as Lloyd's Banking Group to consider, but also a number of players that were slightly new to the market as well because everyone comes with a different model. It was understanding at that point in time which is the right model for us and the high-performance engagement model and the kind of connection between emotional engagement and rational engagement made it a very difficult decision for us, but in the end it was the right decision for the group.

What other advice do I have?

When I'm speaking to my peers and other organizations, what's interesting is that I get asked, "Can I see a copy of your survey questions?" As if that's the absolute answer that they kind of need. I always challenge them to say, "Well, not really. I don't really see that you're going to get much value from that. It's not about designing the perfect question. For us, you take a step back. It's, what do you want to know? The questions that I've got in my organization are aligned to my strategy, my objectives, my purpose, my vision and my values. They may or may not be right and relevant for your business."

What I would say first of all is, understand the framework in which you're going to operate, how are you going to construct and design research that's relevant for you? There's no perfect answer. I don't think there's another company out there that's got my perfect survey. I think I've got it within our team and my business to be able to develop that. What IBM bring is the framework, so that the high-performance engagement model is really important and the tools that help us to understand the relationship between emotional and rational engagement are really important, a portal that enables line managers to prepare for the conversations they're having with colleagues that provide sample action sets and focus existing questions.

On the one hand, they encourage the conversation. Secondly, they help drive the right actions in the right way. I think having a framework is about applying the science, but most importantly it's about developing an approach that absolutely supports your strategy and your business objectives. That would be my biggest advice. Talk to another person, another company tomorrow, it would be, "Where's your strategy? Where's your vision? Where are your values? What behaviors underpin them? Right, let's get to work. We've got a high-performance engagement model. We've got the relationship." Who's to say that Kenexa or IBM are right for them? I think whatever your strategy, you'll need to find the partner that best reflects where you are in your journey and can help you as well.

As I said, IBM are doing a great job with us at the moment, but we're always looking and speaking and open to having conversations with other people because the market's changing and IBM are aware of that. It's an increasingly competitive market, particularly as the solutions become more technology-focused.

I think in the past, the relationship organizations had with survey partners or research partners would be based more around the relationship you have with that particular team, but now it's much more in the solutions. It's the same as banking. The banking industry or the banking sector has got new and emerging players. People in our space now, with Apple Pay and PayPal, they're not typically what you would kind of call the traditional banks. I think the same is going to happen in the survey space as well. I think you're going to see new and emerging players who have got better, stronger technology solutions and that's what I'm really excited about as well because that's going to push IBM and Kenexa. It's going to push others as well. More importantly, it's going to open up spaces for me to play in. It's going to help me get from that analysis to insight to the so what much quicker.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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