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About this Video


John Sumser discusses the risks for organizational health, safety, and development brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. This is an excerpt of John Sumser’s popular keynote presentation at The HR Tech Conference & Exposition in the Fall of 2020.


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Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused (or extremely confused) and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation and let us know if you find something wrong and we’ll get it fixed right away. Thank you for your understanding.



JS – John Sumser, Principal Analyst, HRExaminer


[00:00:01] So what is organizational health? I’m gonna cut this to the quick and say, there are a couple of elements here that are just critical. Freedom from operational degradation means not getting by the best you can given the limited constraints, but actually having an effective, ongoing, moving operation. Continuous improvement, the ease of integration with new employees, appropriate margins and growth, a level of trust in the organization that grows.


[00:00:39] I’ve seen this, I bet you’ve seen it too where in the right setting you can have a very long stretch of trust that grows and grows and grows and then something happens. A market shift, a change of leadership, a merger and acquisition, all sorts of things exist to crush trust, and that’s where organizational health starts to deteriorate.


[00:01:05 ] There are adequate resources to get what you want. Employee safety, health and development is a priority. Most importantly, there’s an effective people analytics function and the effect of people analytics function allows you to monitor and control what’s going on inside of the organization. A good people analytics function continues to ask questions and what you should be seeing by now.


[00:01:31] Is that I’m advocating, asking questions all the time. I believe the organization has a single voice and that employees want to talk to that single voice. Currently, you can’t do that because the policies and procedures of the organization are buried away in conflicting revision levels in SharePoint, archives all over the organization.


[00:02:00] And so we’ve lost control of our ability to give a single clear message about what the organization wants. There are tools, and I’ll talk about some of them later in the presentation that allow the organization to reclaim its voice and reclaim control of its work. The risks in safety, health, and development are, if you don’t do it well, people aren’t going to trust you.


[00:02:30] Pandemic related burnout, my opinion for what it’s worth, is that we are reaching epidemic state in burnout, and that the honeymoon period is about to be over and we’re going to see a real crash in productivity and our employee’s ability to get things done unless there are some significant moves to make things easier for them.


[00:2:57] It’s easy to mistake accomplishment for being okay. And that’s happening as we focus more and more and more on hitting KPIs and less and less and less on making sure that people have the time and the ability to experience serendipity in their work. So that the kinds of things that happen when people bump into each other in the halls happen.


[00:03:23] The mental health issues are big. We’re going to see a lot more mental health, and we’re going to need to be able to talk about it plainly. Mental health and mental illness are just like physical health and physical illness. We’re going to notice the consequences of flawed information governance. And that gets back to how do you get to the voice of the company.


[00:03:43] Much of our work today is as if we took the office and moved it into people’s houses. And you know that isn’t gonna work. That’s not how these sorts of changes happen. The office was just an expression of factory ideas and there’s a real problem coming now because the meaning of the analytics you get is changing.


[00:04:05] And so seeing high engagement scores following the pandemic’s start. Many executives have relaxed thinking about engagement as an issue. And they’re going to be terribly surprised when the bottom drops out of the encasement scores. That’s misunderstanding analytics.


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