Making Work Better: Reflections from Humanyze’s CEO

Reflections from Ellen Nussbaum, CEO

Since joining the Humanyze team as CEO, I wanted to take some time to reflect on why I’m here and why I’m so passionate about our technology’s potential to Make Work Better.

I’ve always taken great interest in the ways that data and analytics can improve different aspects of our lives, particularly within the workplace. Regardless of what industry or function you are in, today’s increasingly-digitized society mandates the use of data to help us assess performance and support decision-making. While there is more data available to us than ever before, companies still struggle to measure and understand key elements of their business, and have thus historically relied on subjective and/or incomplete information to drive their decisions.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked at companies that focused on bringing a more quantitative lens to corporate decision-making. During stints in Retail Analytics, Fraud Detection, and Cybersecurity, I worked with companies that provided technology to help customers make sense of the data that they were generating. It was really gratifying to watch our customers grow and improve their results, and even more fulfilling to be a part of digital innovation that was helping reshape the business world.

Humanyze takes this one step further. Using technology to improve performance and productivity will always be important, but Humanyze places an equal emphasis on improving results for employees. In order to keep employees happy and engaged, companies must understand different work styles and collaboration needs within the organization– they need to focus on areas beyond just performance. If we know how, where, and with whom successful teams work, we can design better workspaces and more effective processes, as well as workplace guidelines that help both the bottom line AND employees.

We’ve all heard the assertion that as companies become more data-driven, the importance of the employees will inevitably dwindle or that decision-making will be less “human”. I find it really rewarding to be a part of a company that’s fundamentally challenging this narrative, and using the power of analytics to enhance the foundation that supports every company: its people.

How About An Example (or Three)?

I’ve spent my first couple of months learning about our technology and the ways that collaboration data can be used in the workplace. The more I learn, the more I have been floored by what the company has already accomplished with its customers.

A few examples:

  • One customer, a multinational technology firm, wanted to better understand the connections between their physical workspace and sales team performance. With the help of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA), Humanyze was able to demonstrate that salespeople who spent more time collaborating with the engineering team generated higher sales results. Based on this insight, the company made changes to their seating chart and space layout to increase proximity (and therefore collaboration) between engineers and salespeople. This seemingly minor change led to a measurable increase in sales, because the company had created a more collaborative workspace for its people.
  • Another Humanyze customer, a Fortune 500 energy company, had acquired a much smaller organization, but didn’t want the acquired company to lose its nimble, entrepreneurial environment that allowed for rapid innovation. Humanyze worked with the acquirer to understand the different collaboration behaviors of the two organizations, and make recommendations which would help strike a balance between assimilation and independence.
  • In another scenario, we helped a team address a concern that younger employees at the company lacked access to tenured, senior leaders. The fear was that as the senior leaders approached retirement, the “next generation” would lack key organizational knowledge required to manage through the transition. Humanyze helped the department reconfigure their space, and situated employees in ways to maximize interactions and professional development needed to retain junior employees, keep them engaged, and grow their careers.

Where Have You Been All My Life?

Looking back on the different organizations I’ve been a part of over the last two decades, I can’t help but reflect on the many ways I could’ve benefited from ONA– both in leading teams, and in serving customers.

Managing Remote Teams:

I worked for an early-stage company (M-Factor, acquired by DemandTec) about 10 years ago where I lived several thousand miles from company headquarters, as did my boss and the rest of the Sales team. Aside from quarterly team meetings at HQ, there wasn’t much opportunity to see each other in-person often. This made it challenging for us to gauge how “connected” the team was – were they communicating regularly enough? Were the right people being included in meetings and decision-making processes? If only the company had access to ONA capabilities, it would have been much easier to make sure that the team was communicating efficiently, and no one was being “left behind” in the rapidly changing startup environment.

Customer Success:

Most recently, I ran Services and Customer Success at Veracode, a cloud-based cybersecurity company. As the company grew rapidly, so did the scale of our Customer Success team, with over 175 employees located throughout North America and Europe. Given this large population, with a diverse range of skill sets and tenure, it was sometimes challenging to onboard new employees, and set adequate expectations around things like:

  • How should employees split time between customers and internal collaboration? Does the amount of time spent with a customer correlate with high Customer Satisfaction rates? What about Renewal rates?
  • Which internal teams need to interact most and where are they located? Are we doing a good job of connecting remote employees to those at HQ?

Mergers & Acquisitions:

Throughout my career, I’ve worked at companies that both acquired and were acquired by other organizations. To be precise, I’ve experienced being acquired (and the accompanying challenges) a total of 6 times in the last 20 years. In one particular situation, I stayed with the acquirer for 5 years after the acquisition, which suggests that they did a good job of integrating me into the company. At another company, the total opposite unfolded where every member of the Sales team, myself included, left the company within just a few months of the deal closing. While I can’t speak on behalf of everyone, I would say the team never felt truly embedded in the new organization and therefore didn’t establish connections with their new peers in a way that would make our work feel valued (or inspire confidence in the path ahead). Little did I know at the time that ONA could have been used to help companies better understand the organizations they are acquiring, and how they align with their own culture and organizational behaviors. Perhaps these insights could have helped the latter company take proactive measures to identify potential areas of misalignment and help the team get connected to the organization, before it was too late.

A Few Parting Thoughts

I’m realizing that while Humanyze has been around for a few years, we are still at the beginning of our journey. Companies are starting to prioritize the value of understanding the social networks inside their organizations, and employees are now able to experience the (measurable) benefits that this technology can bring to their workplace. The list of questions that ONA can help answer is a lengthy one, but I’ll leave you with a few in particular that I think will heavily resonate in the marketplace:

  • Does the company culture and physical space support employee collaboration?
  • What are the work styles or behaviors of top-performers? Can this insight help other team members improve?
  • Where should we locate our teams so they can do their best work?
  • Which parts of our business are at risk of employee burnout or attrition?
  • Has my agile transformation been successful? Which areas are struggling with the change?

Most of us spend the majority of our lives at work. While that may not change anytime soon, it makes me even more passionate about the Humanyze mission, and confident that our science can shape the future of the workplace to Make Work Better. If organizations can empower their people to collaborate more effectively, then the sky’s the limit in terms of employee satisfaction and company performance. In my mind, that’s a win/win!

– Ellen

Last Updated 21 September 2021