Employee Experience

Stop Beating the Human Out of HR

An Interview with WorqIQ CEO Mark Babbitt


Job boards, employee engagement initiatives, and technology have all driven some of the human out of HR. And, despite billions of dollars in HR Tech investment, there has been no real improvement in employee experience. 

However, a focus on workplace intelligence and social intelligence can help employers begin creating the nurturing and rewarding workplaces that their employees deserve. Not only is this the right thing to do, it can help employers create a loyal workforce with better retention rates and higher productivity. 

But still, nothing will really change unless organizations can bring inspiring and authentic leadership back to the workplace. We must see more leaders living the values that they espouse, and who are eager to connect employees with ongoing training and mentoring to ensure their careers are successful.


In Ahead of the Curve: Normal 2.0, Ira and Joyce Gioia talk about the value of thinking like a futurist and what we can expect hiring practices to look like in the future.


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[8:33] “After decades of talking about company culture, workplace fulfillment, and so-called employee engagement–which we have spent billions of dollars on over the last three decades–we haven’t moved the needle one bit.”

[9:00] “Workplace intelligence is all about how we work together to solve the challenges in front of us.”

[12:50] “We are trying to encourage employers and leaders to get prepared for the next wave of normal–get out in front of it and enjoy the ride.”

[16:25] “We have lost our American spirit of leadership.”

[17:00] “We’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our moral compass. Which means we’ve lost our way as leaders.”

[17:14] “Leaders must model the values they espouse.”

[22:13] “The workforce is going to go to the company that puts good first, a company where they can trust and believe in the leader and mission, and everyone else is going to get left behind.”

[25:56] “Online recruiting was literally taking the human out of human resources!”

Podcast Notes

Moving the Needle in the Employee Experience [8:17]

Mark S Babbitt got the idea to start WorqIQ from a moment of frustration. He realized that after decades of talking about employee fulfillment and company culture, and billions of dollars in investment, no real changes had been made.

Babbitt and WorqIQ coined the term “workplace intelligence.” Simply put, he says, “what emotional intelligence is to an individual, workplace intelligence is to a work team.” This idea is used to help better understand what employees experience going in to work day to day.

Much like WorqIQ, the idea of workplace intelligence was born out of another frustrating experience. Babbitt saw young people finding their dream jobs, only to find out that their dream job sucks! Workplace intelligence helps define why that happens.

As we emerge from the pandemic world, Babbitt believes this is the perfect opportunity to focus on workplace intelligence to finally move the needle on employee experience.

Predicting Employee Experience with Social Intelligence [13:25]

Alongside workplace intelligence is social intelligence, which is the alignment of a company’s values and culture with the image they are projecting to the public. For some companies, their culture does not align with their marketing. Social intelligence is a company’s ability to recognize where they are and what they are promising, and starting to work towards aligning those things.

Other companies have a high level of social intelligence. For instance, some companies use the power of social media to show the public fun or humorous sides of the company that already, in reality, exist in the workplace.

This social intelligence is one part of the universe of things that all work together to create a good employee experience. All of this depends on having people within the company that are willing to call themselves and the company out to recognize that something isn’t matching.

The Greatest Shortcoming of Today’s Workplace [16:18]


Babbitt sees a decay in leadership as the greatest weakness of today’s workplace. He believes that leaders don’t have the same perseverance and grit as they used to, instead opting for flashy appearances over hard work.

Leaders in the workplace must practice and model the values and morals they espouse. They must be the coach, the mentor, and, at times, the sheriff not only teaching and living the company values, but being willing to call out times when the values are not being respected.

All of this is driven by a national culture that prizes results over values. When leaders are too focused on achievements and productivity, they miss out on the very things that make their work and their company worthwhile.

The Value of a Loyal Workforce [20:55]

Companies should work to create good employee experiences because it’s the right thing to do, but the value of creating a loyal workforce is monumental. These benefits include retention, employee referrals, productivity, and experience. All of these are tied to good leadership and the loyalty it generates.

Sadly, many companies suffer from “Boomer Male Syndrome,” which is the result of decades of unimaginative, rigid leadership primarily from older white men. However, Babbitt is optimistic about the opportunity to ride the wave of the post-COVID world into renewed energetic, diverse leadership.

Babbitt predicts that these companies will draw most of the workforce as they realize that they can do better than the same old tired, ineffective leadership. They will choose to work for companies who are doing good and being good. And this change is starting now.

Putting the Human Back In Human Resources [25:00]

Through Babbitt’s experiences in the early days of job boards, he saw that technology was well on the way to completely taking the humanity out of human resources. He found that online recruiting was catered to reward people who went to the right school and said the right things on a résumé.

This new way of hiring ignores the human aspect of hiring. People had no real sense of the role they were applying for and no solid prospects to mentor them once onboard. That led to the creation of YouTern, which helps put the human element back into hiring.

They have found, through years of experience, that the mentorship opportunities YouTern connects young people with is the key to an effective career and a fulfilling life. In fact, oftentimes many mentors all contribute to the success of one person, each helping in a different area.

It’s Time to Change [29:20]

Babbitt believes that whatever is coming back will be, and needs to be, intentionally different than what has come before. The days of talking for people of color and making diversity feel unwelcome have to be over. It is time to turn the tide.

After all, 64% of people trust a robot more than a manager. It is certainly time for a change.

Ahead of the Curve: Normal 2.0 [36:35]

Many people try to gauge the health of the economy by the stock market, but the stock market is not a direct measure of the economy. Though it may be hard  to reconcile the disconnect between the stock market health and the health of the economy, only a small fraction of people control stock in the market.

The election in Georgia will also play a huge role in the health of the economy. Gioia predicts that if the Democratic candidates do not get elected, there will be no will in the government to put money into the economy, leaving many people in tough situations to continue to do worse and worse.

What is the value of thinking like a futurist? In Gioia’s early career, she found that gathering insider information into the potential of the future made her very valuable to her employer. This allows employers to reduce risk, innovate better, and invest resources better.

For instance, the USPS is enforcing limits on major retailers to preserve the integrity of their overburdened system. Futurists are able to identify the needs of the future and assist companies in riding the never-ending waves of change, rather than be crushed by them.

The workforce of the future is also posed to be contingent. Companies are predicted to become more and more reliant on a core nucleus of people who work with a contingent workforce that comes to work for a period of time, then moves on to a new opportunity.

This kind of workforce creates the need for companies to collaborate and identify the ebbs and flows that create the needs for different employees at different times. Ira and Joyce agree that this creates a need for companies to revamp their hiring practices to meet the needs of the future.


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