September 6, 2022

Meghan MacRae

What 100+ HR Leaders Had to Say About Driving Business Value in 2022

9 minutes

We worked with TalentCulture, an HR marketing firm providing thought leadership and guidance to a vast network of HR professionals, to have a conversation about pressing concerns for people teams right now.

TalentCulture launched a public Exchange via their social networks and email lists, asking: As HR and talent professionals, what areas are you focusing on at your organization to increase retention and drive business value?

They also asked participants to identify their specific role, to see how thoughts and priorities changed for those in Talent Acquisition; Recruitment; Training & Development; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; and HR Leadership.

Over 100 HR professionals responded, providing TalentCulture with insights to help guide their content and conversations going forward. Thanks to ThoughtExchange’s automatic translation feature, this conversation unfolded in six languages, so no thoughts were lost due to a language barrier.

Thought shown in English languageThought shown in French language
Thought shown in English languageThought shown in Turkish language
ThoughtExchange’s software guarantees anonymity to its Exchange participants, ensuring that people feel comfortable sharing their real thoughts and rating each others’ thoughts honestly. It’s a safe and inclusive space to weigh in on important conversations. With our anti-bias technology, ease of gathering diverse perspectives, and translation abilities, ThoughtExchange fosters the kind of equity HR professionals are looking for in the contemporary workplace.
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Behind the scenes

Once the Exchange closed, TalentCulture dove into their Discover Dashboard—using our built-in tools to analyze the conversation, identify actionable insights, and download shareable reports and slides. It’s a very efficient way to hear from a large group of diverse people, particularly in a remote setting.

With the Summary—an AI-generated description of the top-rated ideas— TalentCulture received a big picture snapshot of what their network is currently focused on:

Onboarding and orientation - new hires should be set up for success from the start. Effective employee retention improves the productivity and performance of a company. Personal and professional mental health - a toxic work culture can really hurt productivity and business value. Pay equity. Personal wellbeing - avoid burnout.

The Summary showed that participants recognized that business value is heavily impacted by employee experience.

TalentCulture also looked at Wordcloud, which gives a visual representation of the most important concepts in the Exchange. Wordcloud can be sorted according to keyword frequency (how often the word was mentioned in answers) and keyword rating (how high or low the ratings for those answers were). Comparing the two often yields interesting results.

Notice how keywords like “appreciation,” “morale,” and “skills” weren’t high in terms of frequency, but they were highly rated in terms of how important they are to participants. This may indicate that fewer participants identified employee appreciation, morale, and skill development as a top priority when submitting their answers, but a majority of participants recognized their importance when they read and rated each others’ thoughts.

ThoughtExchange Wordcloud image in frequency filter
ThoughtExchange Wordcloud image in rating filter
Another interesting observation from this ratings Wordcloud was how small keywords like “policy,” “benefits,” and “fit” were—the more traditional HR concerns—compared to keywords like “culture,” “development,” and “engagement.” To us, this indicates that participants are focused on an inclusive employee experience, where employees feel like their voice is respected and their organization is investing in them.
These professionals are ahead of the curve—Gen Z expects more belonging and input on business strategy. Find out what else “Gen Z at Work” is looking for with this guide.
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Ideas that rise to the top

Next, TalentCulture looked at the top thoughts—the answers that received the highest ratings from the group as a whole. Our Thoughts tool shows the thoughts ranked by rating, and also allows leaders to overlay each role with the top thoughts and see how each group rated each other’s answers differently. Here’s a breakdown of the top-rated thoughts for each of the different roles.

Talent Acquisition:

Leadership Development. Leaders need to role model behaviors to scale change.”

The top five thoughts for Talent Acquisition express the importance of leadership development, employee engagement, competitive benefits, and a focus on wellbeing.


Employees' aspirations for career development. These days I noticed fresh graduates and junior employees are switching their careers for any salary variation. Career development enables employees to be competent and get expertise for their future career.”
The top five thoughts for Recruitment emphasize career development, talent retention, and employee engagement.

Training & Development:

Performance appreciation and reward. By acknowledging good work done, it drives up their productivity”
The top five thoughts for Training & Development focus on performance appreciation, engagement and inclusion, and talent development for better retention.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion:

Personal and Professional Mental Health. A toxic work culture can really hurt productivity and business value”
The top five thoughts for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion highlight employee mental health and wellness, company culture, and employee engagement.

HR Leadership:

Employee wellbeing. This helps the employees stay fit mentally, emotionally and socially”
The top five thoughts for HR Leadership underscore employee wellbeing and engagement, retention, onboarding, and organizational values.
It’s interesting to compare the top thought for each group with the top thoughts for the group as a whole. Looking at the top five thoughts for the entire group, none of the top thoughts by role made it in.
14.2 ★
“Focus employer branding efforts on values and vision. Ensure you can articulate clearly how your company is making the world a better place. People in a group desire belonging. These factors serve as unifying tools and help employees feel that the work they do is not ‘just work.’”
24.0 ★
Onboarding and orientation. New hires should be set up for success from the start. Your onboarding process should focus on employee guide to thrive and culture.”
34.0 ★
Skills, skills, skills! We want to attract skilled talent, but we need to keep investing in their skills, so people want to stay and grow with us! Caring about the future viability of your workforce means business sustainability. Plus, it's good for employees, too. Everybody wins.”
44.0 ★
Hiring the right people by using the right recruitment process with supportive work environment, good training, and career development plans. Effective employee retention improves the productivity and performance of a company. It improves customer satisfaction and builds a strong team.”
54.0 ★
“In HRM, we should focus much more on listening, communicating with empathy, feedback, and coaching, doing it with humanity. It is important because people are not machines, they have thoughts, diverse cultures, and deep aspirations that must be respected.”

That last thought was initially in French—imagine if the group had missed out on one of the top-rated thoughts because participation was limited to English speakers!

These top thoughts are an indicator of how ThoughtExchange’s software innovates organizational communication. Each role has its individual priorities, and leaders have to balance the interests of individual teams with priorities for the organization as whole.

With our patented anti-bias technology and advanced analytics, ThoughtExchange quickly surfaces the common ground. The software identifies the thoughts that resonate across roles, so leaders can build a stronger foundation for decision-making.

Where participants disagreed

Of course, it’s not all common ground. ThoughtExchange’s Differences tool shows the rating patterns for different groups, and finds the polarizing ideas.

For example, in TalentCulture’s Exchange, compensation and pay equity was an area of contention. Group A (in blue), mainly HR Leadership, assigned high ratings (in the 4 range) to these thoughts:

ThoughtExchange Differences tool

Group B (in green), consisting mainly of Recruitment, Training & Development, and Talent Acquisition folks, gave ratings averaging 2. This may indicate a difference in priorities between HR Leadership and those responsible for hiring and upskilling employees.

The Differences tool doesn’t stop there. It also finds thoughts that Group A and Group B both rated highly. Both groups agreed that employee wellbeing and engagement are top priorities. Holding space for both sides of an issue is vital, but identifying where those two sides agree helps build a strategy everyone supports.

Areas of focus

The Theme tool helps identify the discussion’s general topics and themes. ThoughtExchange’s AI automatically creates Keyword themes, which group thoughts by keyword, and Sentiment themes, which group thoughts by positive, neutral, and negative sentiment. The Discover Dashboard also allows Exchange leaders to create their own manual Themes, structuring their results in a way that makes sense for their unique organization.

For TalentCulture’s Exchange, thoughts were manually categorized into three main themes: Culture, Performance, and Strategy. Under each of those summary themes, subthemes broke down the conversation further.

ThoughtExchange Thoughts tool
After theming the conversation, the Bars tool shows a visual representation of how the themes resonated with the group. Bars can sort the themes by rating, indicating how important the theme is, or by frequency, showing how many thoughts the theme contains.
ThoughtExchange Bars tool
The Culture theme included:
  • Company Culture: employer branding, organizational culture, and employee experience
  • DEI: inclusion, belonging, and equity in the workplace
  • Engagement: employee listening, employee voice, engagement strategies
  • Wellbeing: work/life balance, encouraging mental/emotional/social health, avoiding burnout
The Performance theme included:
  • Performance Appreciation: performance appreciation and rewards
  • Skills Development: learning & development, leadership development, upskilling workforce, career development
  • Compensation: benefits, competitive compensation, pay equity
The Strategy theme included:
  • Recruitment: competitive recruitment processes, competitive offerings, internal talent development
  • Streamline Processes: efficient onboarding/recruitment/hiring processes
  • Policies: HR policies, employee expectations

Average ratings for the themes supported the previous observation about Wordcloud. As a theme, Policies had the lowest average rating at 3.2 stars—no other theme dipped below 3.9 stars. HR professionals are clearly more focused on fostering strong cultures and exceptional employee experience than they are on meticulous policies.

Clarity into the conversation’s focus areas shows which issues are the most pressing for the Talent and HR professional community. Analysis into each theme identified actions that could be the most effective in improving retention and driving business value.

Areas to Action:
  • Company Culture: clarify organizational values to define employer brand, and consult employees on improving their experience at work.
  • Skills Development: provide internal talent with career and leadership development opportunities, and upskill your workforce.
  • Performance Appreciation: improve morale and productivity by rewarding high-performing employees.
These are all key areas to focus employee engagement efforts to ensure that any policies HR puts into place include employee voice and support. Remember, these priorities aren't just hypothetical ideals from a Ph.D. dissertation, institute expert, or high-paid consultant. These ideas came from professionals in the industry, based on their actual experience and current market conditions.

Different roles & priorities, same goals

Diving deeper into how the different roles interacted with the themes, using Heatmaps, can show how each role assigned ratings to thoughts in a particular theme. Common ground and points of contention between different roles become obvious.
ThoughtExchange Heatmaps tool

As for where the different roles agree, Company Culture and Wellbeing were assigned high ratings across roles. Talent Acquisition, Training & Development, and HR Leadership gave high ratings to the thoughts in Engagement and Recruitment.

It’s also interesting to note how each role rated thoughts. HR Leadership and Training & Development assigned higher ratings to thoughts overall than Talent Acquisition, Recruitment, and DEI.

Looking at how each role interacted with each others’ thoughts gives insight into where particular groups want to see focus and growth within their organizations. It can indicate where the stakeholders for each of these areas lie, as well as how each of these areas impacts their particular success metrics. For an organization that’s looking to improve efficiency, these are valuable insights into which teams to involve in which areas.

The interactions between roles can also help leadership allocate resources and attention to certain areas. For example, the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team may benefit from information around how Skills Development, a lower-rated theme, can be particularly beneficial to underrepresented groups when seeking promotions, helping to meet their DEI goals.

Summarizing the results

Participants in this Exchange demonstrated they are invested in improving and streamlining every stage of the employee lifecycle. They value employee input on organizational culture and recognize the importance of robust onboarding and career development for internal talent. Above all, they care deeply for the wellbeing of employees, and are looking to find ways to foster a healthier work-life balance and a more inclusive and supportive workplace.

Thank you to those who participated in this insightful conversation. At a time when we’ve come to expect division and conflict, it’s crucial to offer spaces like this that foster respect and empathy for each other’s honest thoughts, allowing people to share diverse opinions while truly listening to and considering each other’s thoughts.

ThoughtExchange is used for inclusive discussions by leaders across organizations—we help sales and marketing leaders looking to innovate tactics and align on strategy, executive teams looking to improve business efficiency, and people leaders looking to engage employees for better experience and productivity.
Want to see how ThoughtExchange can transform your employee experience?Talk to one of ThoughtExchange’s Talent & HR experts today.
Meghan MacRae
Meghan was raised by an English teacher, thus she found a way to incorporate her instinct for grammar and spelling into her career. She honed her corporate writing skills in clothing companies and the music industry, and brings a passion for creativity and playful wordsmithing to her work at ThoughtExchange. When she’s not crafting language that brings people together, she’s reading a thesaurus, playing Uno with her kids, cooking and singing and dancing, and collecting vinyl and art.

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