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A New Way to Measure Company Culture and Empowerment in a Remote World – ReadWrite



A New Way to Measure Company Culture and Empowerment in a Remote World - ReadWrite

Understanding company culture has long been a holy grail for forward-thinking organizations. In general, research indicates that measuring company culture accurately is very difficult, but can lead to positive outcomes. HR, People Analytics, or company culture committees use exit interviews, surveys, or focus groups to measure the accuracy in company culture.

Employee empowerment (which means giving employees a degree of autonomy and control over the work tasks and more decision-making authority) has been studied for decades with similar results. It can produce good results, but can be hard to do effectively. Both of these programs’ end goal is improving business outcomes like employee engagement, retention, and productivity.

Culture and Empowerment While Remote

Over the past few decades, the shift to remote work (accelerated thanks to Covid-19) made analyzing these programs more complicated. Workplace interactions are now taking place through digital mediums. Remote workers talk to their colleagues via phone or video call and communicate via email and instant chat services.

A Gartner survey of company leaders from July 2020 found that 47% of organizations will allow employees to work from home full-time after the pandemic ends. 80% plan to allow hybrid part-time remote work. We may well be looking at a future economy where more than half of the knowledge workforce works remotely at least a few days per week.

Furthermore, most knowledge workers communicate via email and chat even while in the office. When was the last time you pinged someone instead of walking by their desk?

Company culture is the sum of the many small interactions that employees have with their managers, direct reports and colleagues. But now, most of them are digital rather than in person, which creates its own set of challenges.

The increase in digital interactions also creates an opportunity to measure company culture in new ways and provides new avenues to empower employees.

Digital Behaviors and Company Culture

Academic research from places like the Computational Culture Lab at Stanford and UC Berkeley uses computational methods and data science to model culture dynamics in social groups.

A plethora of People Analytics tools use these statistical techniques to measure elements of an organization’s culture, and help with leadership development and employee empowerment. See this RedThread Research study for a breakdown of the current market.

These techniques use machine learning and AI models to find patterns in how employees interact with one another digitally. For example, an organization with an “always-on” culture might have employees that send a lot of messages after hours.

Alternatively, an organization with employees that rarely send or respond to messages after 5:00 p.m. might emphasize work-life balance. The number and length of meetings (especially one-on-one meetings) can indicate how an organization approaches collaboration and mentorship. These patterns help map out a company’s culture.

Benefits of Modeling Company Culture

Modeling company culture in this way has several advantages. Since this analysis is based on hard data derived from employee communication, it’s more objective than measurements like surveys. These rely on employees self-reporting their feelings and actions honestly and are susceptible to many cognitive biases.

This data-driven approach can be a useful way to diagnose differences in culture that employees can “feel” but not understand. It can also compare cultures between business groups within an organization.

Every organization is unique, and without context, it’s impossible to say if certain cultures are good or bad.

Correlating culture with metrics like performance reviews or business KPIs can help organizations discover the most effective culture for them. For instance, imagine a business unit that consistently exceeds their KPIs with managers that all get excellent performance reviews. They score higher than the company average on culture metrics around sharing information, mentorship and 1v1 meetings.

Perhaps that company should consider emphasizing mentorship and encouraging manager to have more 1v1s in other business units as well. On the flip side, if that business unit is struggling, maybe they need to change certain elements of their culture.

Access to data on employee’s digital behaviors enables this type of analysis. It offers a level of statistical rigor that goes beyond surveys, and the possibility of correlating the findings with other data allows People Analytics teams to explore the link between cultural factors and team performance in more detail.

Digital Data for Employee Empowerment

Increased use of digital communication channels allows for platforms that can help empower employees. The same big data analysis that can map company culture can also help employees be better communicators and leaders. Employee empowerment has several business benefits, like increased productivity, lower employee strain and lower turnover.

Models that look at digital behaviors can improve empowerment by encouraging behaviors like asking for feedback, sharing opinions, and sharing doubt that help teams excel. These behaviors help contribute to psychological safety, which has been linked to higher-performing teams by research at Google.

Our own analysis has shown that these three digital behaviors were correlated with higher-performing managers and teams.

RedThread’s research on PA tech has named the category for these tools “Guiding Analytics.” By showing people the patterns in their digital communications (how often they give feedback, express doubt, etc.) and providing feedback on how to improve those behaviors, they can empower employees to be better leaders.

This helps specific employees as well as the business overall. Like mapping culture, this type of analysis is only possible because digital communication and remote work create the input data used in these calculations.

The Future of Cultural Analysis

There are all kinds of exciting possible uses of this data as the models and techniques for measuring it improve. For instance, a model of culture based on digital behavior might be able to tell People Analytics departments how those behaviors affect business outcomes.

For example, imagine discovering that sending emails after hours negatively affects employee retention. This would let PA and HR build specific plans to improve that (i.e., “Our goal is to reduce turnover by 5%, so we’re encouraging managers to not message their teams after 6:00 p.m. in the following ways…”). Employee empowerment solutions could give hyper-personalized feedback geared towards specific users and cultures.

For example, employees at a company that values collaboration might get more feedback about responding to messages thoughtfully.

There’s a lot that’s been written about how working remotely has made work harder, and I absolutely empathize with that. But here’s a silver lining; when most of our communication taken place through digital mediums, it provides a new source of data.

The data can help us understand our organization’s culture and empower employees in ways that haven’t been possible before. I think this part of the People Analytics tech market has tremendous potential and I’m excited to see where it goes in the coming years.

Joe Freed

Co-Founder and CEO at Cultivate

Joseph Freed is Co-Founder and CEO at digital leadership platform Cultivate. Joe has founded or led several startups focused on online learning and HR technology including Byndr, ShopRunner and NaturaStride. He has a B.S. in industrial engineering from Penn State University, an MBA from the New York University and lectures at UC Berkeley Extension.


Fintech Kennek raises $12.5M seed round to digitize lending



Google eyed for $2 billion Anthropic deal after major Amazon play

London-based fintech startup Kennek has raised $12.5 million in seed funding to expand its lending operating system.

According to an Oct. 10 report, the round was led by HV Capital and included participation from Dutch Founders Fund, AlbionVC, FFVC, Plug & Play Ventures, and Syndicate One. Kennek offers software-as-a-service tools to help non-bank lenders streamline their operations using open banking, open finance, and payments.

The platform aims to automate time-consuming manual tasks and consolidate fragmented data to simplify lending. Xavier De Pauw, founder of Kennek said:

“Until kennek, lenders had to devote countless hours to menial operational tasks and deal with jumbled and hard-coded data – which makes every other part of lending a headache. As former lenders ourselves, we lived and breathed these frustrations, and built kennek to make them a thing of the past.”

The company said the latest funding round was oversubscribed and closed quickly despite the challenging fundraising environment. The new capital will be used to expand Kennek’s engineering team and strengthen its market position in the UK while exploring expansion into other European markets. Barbod Namini, Partner at lead investor HV Capital, commented on the investment:

“Kennek has developed an ambitious and genuinely unique proposition which we think can be the foundation of the entire alternative lending space. […] It is a complicated market and a solution that brings together all information and stakeholders onto a single platform is highly compelling for both lenders & the ecosystem as a whole.”

The fintech lending space has grown rapidly in recent years, but many lenders still rely on legacy systems and manual processes that limit efficiency and scalability. Kennek aims to leverage open banking and data integration to provide lenders with a more streamlined, automated lending experience.

The seed funding will allow the London-based startup to continue developing its platform and expanding its team to meet demand from non-bank lenders looking to digitize operations. Kennek’s focus on the UK and Europe also comes amid rising adoption of open banking and open finance in the regions.

Featured Image Credit: Photo from; Thank you!

Radek Zielinski

Radek Zielinski is an experienced technology and financial journalist with a passion for cybersecurity and futurology.

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Fortune 500’s race for generative AI breakthroughs



Deanna Ritchie

As excitement around generative AI grows, Fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs, are carefully examining the possible applications of this technology. A recent survey of U.S. executives indicated that 60% believe generative AI will substantially impact their businesses in the long term. However, they anticipate a one to two-year timeframe before implementing their initial solutions. This optimism stems from the potential of generative AI to revolutionize various aspects of businesses, from enhancing customer experiences to optimizing internal processes. In the short term, companies will likely focus on pilot projects and experimentation, gradually integrating generative AI into their operations as they witness its positive influence on efficiency and profitability.

Goldman Sachs’ Cautious Approach to Implementing Generative AI

In a recent interview, Goldman Sachs CIO Marco Argenti revealed that the firm has not yet implemented any generative AI use cases. Instead, the company focuses on experimentation and setting high standards before adopting the technology. Argenti recognized the desire for outcomes in areas like developer and operational efficiency but emphasized ensuring precision before putting experimental AI use cases into production.

According to Argenti, striking the right balance between driving innovation and maintaining accuracy is crucial for successfully integrating generative AI within the firm. Goldman Sachs intends to continue exploring this emerging technology’s potential benefits and applications while diligently assessing risks to ensure it meets the company’s stringent quality standards.

One possible application for Goldman Sachs is in software development, where the company has observed a 20-40% productivity increase during its trials. The goal is for 1,000 developers to utilize generative AI tools by year’s end. However, Argenti emphasized that a well-defined expectation of return on investment is necessary before fully integrating generative AI into production.

To achieve this, the company plans to implement a systematic and strategic approach to adopting generative AI, ensuring that it complements and enhances the skills of its developers. Additionally, Goldman Sachs intends to evaluate the long-term impact of generative AI on their software development processes and the overall quality of the applications being developed.

Goldman Sachs’ approach to AI implementation goes beyond merely executing models. The firm has created a platform encompassing technical, legal, and compliance assessments to filter out improper content and keep track of all interactions. This comprehensive system ensures seamless integration of artificial intelligence in operations while adhering to regulatory standards and maintaining client confidentiality. Moreover, the platform continuously improves and adapts its algorithms, allowing Goldman Sachs to stay at the forefront of technology and offer its clients the most efficient and secure services.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Google DeepMind; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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UK seizes web3 opportunity simplifying crypto regulations



Deanna Ritchie

As Web3 companies increasingly consider leaving the United States due to regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom must simplify its cryptocurrency regulations to attract these businesses. The conservative think tank Policy Exchange recently released a report detailing ten suggestions for improving Web3 regulation in the country. Among the recommendations are reducing liability for token holders in decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to adopt alternative Know Your Customer (KYC) methodologies, such as digital identities and blockchain analytics tools. These suggestions aim to position the UK as a hub for Web3 innovation and attract blockchain-based businesses looking for a more conducive regulatory environment.

Streamlining Cryptocurrency Regulations for Innovation

To make it easier for emerging Web3 companies to navigate existing legal frameworks and contribute to the UK’s digital economy growth, the government must streamline cryptocurrency regulations and adopt forward-looking approaches. By making the regulatory landscape clear and straightforward, the UK can create an environment that fosters innovation, growth, and competitiveness in the global fintech industry.

The Policy Exchange report also recommends not weakening self-hosted wallets or treating proof-of-stake (PoS) services as financial services. This approach aims to protect the fundamental principles of decentralization and user autonomy while strongly emphasizing security and regulatory compliance. By doing so, the UK can nurture an environment that encourages innovation and the continued growth of blockchain technology.

Despite recent strict measures by UK authorities, such as His Majesty’s Treasury and the FCA, toward the digital assets sector, the proposed changes in the Policy Exchange report strive to make the UK a more attractive location for Web3 enterprises. By adopting these suggestions, the UK can demonstrate its commitment to fostering innovation in the rapidly evolving blockchain and cryptocurrency industries while ensuring a robust and transparent regulatory environment.

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding cryptocurrency regulations in various countries has prompted Web3 companies to explore alternative jurisdictions with more precise legal frameworks. As the United States grapples with regulatory ambiguity, the United Kingdom can position itself as a hub for Web3 innovation by simplifying and streamlining its cryptocurrency regulations.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Jonathan Borba; Pexels; Thank you!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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