In a Nutshell: Humanyze helps businesses measure how work gets done. Its proprietary algorithms analyze communication to understand workplace dynamics and resolve issues that drain efficiency. Communication is essential in decentralized, team-based work environments, and digital interactions offer insight into how a business uses its space and how employees interact. Based on that data, Humanyze offers elegant solutions that companies can use to economize both physical workspaces and interactions, resulting in higher productivity.
When a well-known North American bank started experiencing employee churn at its call center, its leadership knew something was wrong. The bank had previously been a top performer in employee satisfaction, and it wanted to retain that reputation; the problem was that it didn’t know where to start.
The prevailing assumption was that the bank was hiring people who weren’t right for the job. Leaders sought to get a better picture of employee behavior so they could understand the decline in retention.
What they found was unexpected. Based on an analysis conducted by Humanyze, a software company that provides solutions to workplace inefficiencies, the bank discovered that attrition rates were due to the cohesion — or lack thereof — among team members.
The remedy to that problem was surprisingly simple: coordinating group breaks. That not only reduced churn by 19%, it also improved call-handling time by more than 20% — resulting in significant improvements in employee retention and customer service.
The bank solved its problem with the Humanyze Elements Platform, which allowed it to unearth communication insights and make data-driven decisions quickly.
Humanyze grew from an endeavor called Sociometric Solutions, which was founded by four Ph.D. degree holders who studied at the MIT Media Lab. Their research revealed new insights into team dynamics, including the relationship between physical space and collaboration — and its impact on productivity and engagement.
“Our team, for the first time, objectively quantified how information flows through an organization of teams, which showed us how work gets done in enterprises,” said Gregg Carman, Humanyze Executive Vice President of Global Commercial Operations.
Humanyze has achieved the elusive goal of measuring everyday workplace activity. But, more importantly, it applies that information to help solve problems in organizations, both physically and interpersonally, and provide concrete solutions that produce desired results.
Communication Analysis Can Optimize Organization
Technology has changed how businesses and social groups organize themselves. They have moved from top-down models of information flow and reporting to decentralized, flattened hierarchies. This structure emphasizes more democratic, distributed processes rather than a centralized authority.
With this reduced reliance on structure, work increasingly occurs through networks within teams and between team members. These interconnections are how information flows and solutions emerge within the workplace. Analyzing this flow of information reveals critical points of influence that can be leveraged to economize labor and productivity.
The distributed model enables a free flow of communication among individuals, but the abstract organizational design is only half the battle. Physical space can also influence worker productivity. A practical tool like a workplace can’t be based on what a designer thinks will work but must instead be practical for workers and allow them to perform effectively.
For example, when one European bank sought to address the disparity in loan origination between its highest- and lowest-performing branches, leadership assumed it was due to the skill sets of its agents. But Humanyze helped the bank discover that the lower-performing branches all shared a common trait: They were housed in two-story retail spaces. In this case, layout — not personnel — was the culprit behind underperformance.
A sound decision regarding real estate ended up having a significant impact on business performance. But the institution remedied the problem through a desk-swapping policy that facilitated interdepartmental information flow and brought loan-origination variability to a normal rate.
Humanyze helped the bank economize workflow based on human behavior and spatial design. And the company leveraged data about how work gets done among teams to optimize those business processes.
Algorithms Offer Insight into Interactions and Productivity
Rather than requiring that businesses implement new data-gathering methods, Humanyze makes use of data that clients already possess. One of its sources is declarative communications, which include interactions through email, digital calendars, and messaging platforms, including Skype.
“We analyze the metadata, which is the occurrence of these events,” Carman said. “We don’t care about the contents or subject matter of the emails or texts. What we care about is the actual dynamic. When and how frequently were emails sent, and what was the response rate?”
Humanyze also analyzes other pre-existing data sets that provide insight into group collaboration. Companies already gather this information in the workplace through smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. Examples include smart ID cards that show how employees move through a workspace and smart light bulbs that detect the density and occupation of rooms. As with communications data, this information is devoid of content and identity; what’s happening, not who’s doing it, is the key takeaway.
“All this data is currently stored by our clients. We provide a data utility that our clients implement on-premise,” Carman said. “Within a couple of weeks, we have gathered the data and a baseline for how their operations work today.”
Humanyze algorithms interpret that data to build a picture of how teams work and collaborate. In particular, it calculates how much time is spent on specific tasks, how individuals go about doing their work, and other vital information.
“This data is constantly streaming back to our business partners,” Carman said. “It allows our clients to make faster, more accurate decisions to evaluate whatever program they’re managing, whether it’s a new office building design, a new organizational chart design, or changes within their culture.”
Economized Data Sets Yield Impactful Business Solutions
Humanyze deployed smart badges — ID cards containing various sensors — in a laboratory environment to develop its proprietary algorithms. Based on the information gathered through these studies, Humanyze developed processes that analyze implicit signals of collaboration. In practice, Humanyze leverages IoT sensors and smart devices already deployed in the workplace.
“There are more sensors out there than we could ever put in those badges,” Carman said. “But smart office buildings have this sensor data already.”
In the future, Humanyze plans to develop and deploy smart badges for specialized purposes and unique demands. But, for now, IoT devices provide all the data necessary for the company’s use cases — because they record the necessary information.
“Our clients are surprised that these types of insights are available today about how work gets done,” Carman said. “They’re also surprised at how little data is required to provide that level of insight.”
The amount of data necessary is relatively small, as long as the right analytics are employed to extract the greatest value. During their Ph.D. programs, the Humanyze founders didn’t have access to the resources necessary to store large data sets, and so their first task was to determine the minimum amount of information required for their purposes. It turned out, it was a fraction of what they initially thought.
Based on these economized data sets, Humanyze can provide targeted, straightforward solutions for its clients.
“To have a swapping desk policy in two-story retail outlets, and, in the case of the North American bank, changing its break schedule — those were obvious choices,” Carman said. “And they didn’t have to cycle through a bunch of new decisions to move the needle.”
Humanyze: Strengthening Companies Through Data
Humanyze has helped clients, including those North American and European banks, boost productivity by analyzing communication and workplace structure and offering insights. But the company’s solutions have use cases in nearly every industry where communication is vital.
When a large oil and gas company needed to expand to increase productivity by 200%, it had to nearly double its workforce. Thus, it required a solution to accommodate its new workers while maintaining productivity and minimizing disruption to current operations. It identified 10 teams that were crucial in their current locations and needed them to remain in regular contact with each other. Humanyze helped the company accomplish that by measuring the volume, frequency, and duration of team interactions.
And when a pharmaceutical company discovered a performance gap in sales teams, it found engagement among team members resulted in higher productivity, but tenured employees were less engaged and therefore less productive. To solve this issue, the company implemented new policies that kept tenured employees engaged by connecting them with younger employees, resulting in tenured employees participating in team-building activities. After a few months, the underperforming teams had caught up to the more productive ones.
The companies achieved those results through the insights provided by Humanyze. By analyzing communications between employees, these companies quickly established practices that facilitated more effective interaction and behavior. Through a combination of economizing physical space and workplace social interactions, Humanyze can help businesses achieve greater success through productivity.