Inside Voices: A Perceptyx Employee Spotlight Series — Al Adamsen
This month, our ongoing blog interview series turns a spotlight on Al Adamsen, a leading figure in our industry who recently joined Perceptyx as our first Senior Vice President of Leader & Workforce Transformation.
With a career spanning more than 25 years, Al is renowned for his contributions and leadership in the fields of people analytics, workforce planning, employee experience, and HR transformation. Prior to his current role, he was the founder and CEO of PAFOW, Inc., an organization that, through conferences and academies, worked to advance the use of people data, analytics, and AI in responsible and ethical ways. Al has also worked with individuals and executive teams as a leadership, career, and transformational coach helping elevate self-awareness, empathy, trust, confidence, effectiveness, well-being, and feelings of inclusion. His diverse background includes key roles at Ernst & Young, Gap Inc., Infohrm (acquired by SAP/SuccessFactors), Kenexa (acquired by IBM), and Insight222. Over his career, he’s been able to serve organizations like Disney, Apple, Unilever, Mayo Clinic, Cedar Sinai, and Stanford University.
Q. You’ve been acquainted with the Perceptyx organization and team for several years, and have watched the business evolve and grow. What was your impression of the company and its business before being approached about this role?
“I am genuinely honored to be joining the Perceptyx team. My connection with this organization extends over two decades, a period during which we've engaged in numerous discussions about our mutual priorities and goals. This long-standing familiarity has given me a profound respect for Perceptyx's enduring presence in the industry. They've consistently demonstrated growth, innovation, and a knack for delivering uncommon value. Whenever I've inquired in professional circles about companies that have successfully switched employee experience solutions, or those who have maintained a high level of satisfaction with their current providers, Perceptyx has been a recurring name. Their reputation as a stalwart in the industry, consistently growing and evolving, makes my decision to join the team not just a professional choice, but a personal joy.”
“My respect extends to the people within Perceptyx, many of whom I've had the pleasure of knowing and working alongside during various stages of my career. Their support and insights have been invaluable to me. Joining Perceptyx feels like a meaningful step in my own career journey, almost surreal in its significance. The company's unique positioning in the market, with its employee-focused approach, comprehensive consulting and research capabilities, and acquisitions like Cultivate, Waggl, and Humu, showcases its commitment to providing innovative, comprehensive solutions. As important, it highlights Perceptyx’s ability to help organizations act on insights rapidly, effectively, and sustainably. I'm excited about the potential for what we can create together, leveraging the company's long-standing strengths in employee listening and people analytics to enable ongoing leader and workforce transformation.”
Q. How would you describe Perceptyx’s unique competitive advantage in the larger employee listening and people analytics marketplace? Are there any areas of untapped opportunity in your view?
“Perceptyx distinguishes itself in the market through several key competitive advantages. Foremost is its purpose-built design centered around employees. With a robust 20-year history of collaborating closely with employees, we've developed a deep understanding of what drives meaningful and lasting change in organizations. This level of insight is challenging, if not impossible, for others to replicate, at least in the same way. But what truly sets us apart is our ability to transform these insights into what I refer to as 'appropriate action.' It’s one thing to gather insights; it’s another thing to use them appropriately to enhance team effectiveness, foster greater inclusion, promote well-being, and ultimately drive measurable enterprise value. This process of transforming data and insights into actionable strategies forms a unique competitive advantage for Perceptyx.”
“Our roadmap further underscores this advantage. Beyond traditional employee surveys and listening strategies, we're focusing on communication and understanding the preferences within our employee base, and then taking decisive action based on these insights. This ability isn't unique in itself. However, what differentiates us is our capability to execute this across various products, processes, and organizational dimensions. This comprehensive approach allows us to not only identify organizational priorities but also systematically architect solutions tailored to different levels — from the organizational scale down to individual teams and employees.”
“This is what excites me about Perceptyx's current capabilities and our future direction. We're not just an action platform or a platform for enabling people insights — we're both. While many people analytics providers focus on generating insights and hope for organizational action, Perceptyx goes beyond. We integrate the insights with actionable strategies, combining the human element with world-class technology. This integration, in my view, is what creates a new category in our field. It's how we stand out and succeed — by blending human understanding with cutting-edge technology to deliver comprehensive, effective solutions.”
Q. Your career has been quite diverse, spanning in-house roles in people analytics and workforce planning for organizations like The Gap, solution providers including the former Kenexa (acquired by IBM), outside consulting and advisory positions, and most recently as an entrepreneur with your own company, PAFOW. One common thread that’s very visible in your career trajectory is the growing importance of people data as an operational asset. How would you describe this evolution, as you’ve witnessed it?
“The concept of people data as a valuable asset has fascinated me for a long time. My interest dates back to my college days studying economics, where I was first introduced to the concepts of human capital, intellectual capital, and social capital. Later, I encountered the 'BalancedScorecard,' a framework developed by Norton and Kaplan in the early nineties which emphasized the importance of these intangible assets in understanding an enterprise's true value. This early exposure laid the foundation for my enduring interest in how we measure and value these assets.”
“Over the past 25 to 30 years I’ve witnessed a significant evolution in the field of people analytics. Both the quality and quantity of data have improved dramatically, allowing us to better showcase the value of these intangible assets. However, a persistent frustration for me has been the slow pace at which leaders recognize and act upon this understanding, especially given it has a clear, consistent, measurable impact on enterprise value. This gap between understanding and action is what drives me to push further in this field.”
“My goal has always been to illuminate the value of human, intellectual, and social capital within organizations. I believe that by shedding light on these aspects, we can empower leaders to make more informed, empathetic, wise decisions. Ultimately, this approach is about humanizing the work experience, underscoring the principle that people truly matter; that they are, in fact, an organization's most important asset. This is an area where Perceptyx excels, and it excites me tremendously. We're not just collecting data; we're using it to highlight the human experience at work — how people within the organization think, feel, and act. In turn, we’re enabling leaders to more deeply understand the risks and opportunities their workforce-related decisions carry. This approach is what makes Perceptyx unique, and it’s one of the key reasons I’m so enthusiastic about contributing to and expanding this work.”
Q. Unlike many of our competitors, Perceptyx has a deep, in-house research and consulting practice, and these professionals will now be a cornerstone of your new team. In your words, why is this practice so foundational to our value proposition as an employee experience partner for large enterprises?
“When I initially discussed the role with Perceptyx CEO John Borland, one of my first questions to him related to his commitment to consulting services. John’s response was emphatic. He shared that consulting will, as it’s been from the start, be a critical component of Perceptyx’s value proposition. This was not only reassuring to me, it was immensely exciting! His approach resonated deeply, especially considering that over the years I’ve observed many software companies downplay or even disinvest in their consulting services. I have always believed that there’s a significant gap in the market — a shortage of talent with the capacity, interest, and skill to translate people insights into actionable, effective strategies. This is true in organizations of all sizes, especially in large organizations where the complexity is greater and the costs of getting it wrong are higher. This capability is crucial for implementing effective solutions at speed, at scale, and in sustainable ways.”
“For me, it's paramount to be part of a company that understands the importance of this 'last mile' in the process — turning insights into action. This understanding is grounded in my over two decades of experience in the field. At Perceptyx, the commitment to augmenting our technological capabilities with a human touch — to create context, meaning, and guide actionable insights — aligns perfectly with my vision. The role of a solution architect, which requires a unique blend of expertise and experience, is something I am eager to embrace.”
“Leading a team that I consider to be the best in the business is not just an honor but a responsibility I take very seriously. The team’s 20-plus-year track record speaks volumes about our capabilities and potential. Furthermore, the ongoing commitment to both research and consulting at Perceptyx excites me tremendously. It's thrilling to be a part of an organization that not only has achieved remarkable things, but is also poised to up its trajectory of innovation so its value will be even more empowering, impactful, and lasting.”
Q. Much of your thought leadership has been focused on issues of DEI, and specifically inclusion in the workplace. 2023 was a very challenging year for DEI, both legislatively and pragmatically. How are you counseling leaders in your network today on this issue, and do you expect the backlash to continue in 2024? How can data from employee listening guide leaders on the right path forward regarding issues of DEI and belonging?
“More than 15 years ago I made a decision to define my professional identity. While my work has spanned people analytics, workforce planning, employee experience, and HR transformation, it's always been about more than just the work — it's been about taking a stand. My focus has been on People Data for Good; that is, promoting the ethical and responsible use of people data, analytics, and AI for the benefit of individuals, teams, groups, organizations, and society at large. This ambition has been a guiding principle for me, feeling as relevant today as it did when I first embraced it. It was this core philosophy that drew me to Perceptyx — the opportunity to elevate this work to new heights, to continue striving to humanize the work experience while also striving to deliver uncommon enterprise value.”
“2023, however, was a challenging year, particularly in the realms of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The term 'setbacks' aptly describes the year's difficulties. Despite these challenges, I've been heartened to see organizations maintain, and in some cases, strengthen their commitment to DEI. More importantly, there's been a shift in perspective — understanding that inclusion is the starting point. The realization that getting inclusion right paves the way for equity and diversity is a significant step forward. The past few years, especially since George Floyd’s murder and the events that followed, have seen a much-needed dialogue about the role organizations have in promoting DEI and, in fact, the role organizations have in promoting positive social change.”
“Creating a culture where everyone feels included, respected, like they belong, where diverse backgrounds, languages, and heritages are celebrated… This is vital not only for the evolution of our global society but also for the business world. Addressing these issues can be uncomfortable, yes, but it's a necessary discomfort. We need to explore and understand this discomfort to find a path forward. My commitment to promoting inclusion, equity, diversity, and social justice remains unwavering. These aren't just personal values; they're integral to the ethos of Perceptyx. Knowing many of the team members at Perceptyx for years, I am aware of their longstanding commitment to these values. As we move forward, I anticipate that our efforts in this area will not only continue but will deepen, aligning both humane values with the realities of the business world.”
Q. What other issues do you see as being key for HR leaders in 2024?
“Looking ahead to 2024, I'm filled with a sense of excitement and optimism. It's a bullish outlook, yet it's tempered by a deep empathy for the ongoing global challenges, particularly in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, areas to which I'm personally connected. Like many, I find myself grappling with a mix of emotions about the current state of the world and its trajectory in the coming years. We're living in what I often refer to as the 'Age of Perpetual Disruption.' Things are coming at us non-stop. It’s a period marked not only by massive technological advancements with AI, but also by continuous global and societal challenges like inflation, inequity, and political uncertainty.”
“AI, much like the internet did over the past 25 years, is becoming an integral part of our lives. However, the key aspect here is not just the presence of AI but how it fundamentally disrupts the way work is conducted. This disruption affects us in workforce research and workforce transformation as it’s altering the very dynamics of work itself — what tasks are performed by humans, machines, contractors, and the evolving interactions among these entities. It's a complex landscape, and one of my passions lies in diving in, embracing, and trying to understand the complexity, making it comprehensible and actionable for leaders at all levels.”
“For 2024, I foresee a year of both challenges and opportunities. While the economy shows signs of stability with inflation now reasonably under control, the impact will, of course, vary across different industries and countries. Some sectors are poised for significant growth, presenting challenges in managing their expansion effectively. Conversely, other industries will likely face tougher economic conditions necessitating a focus on optimizing workforce investments and maintaining profitability.”
“This dynamic environment underscores the need for organizations, both large and small, to be prepared for ongoing disruptions. The ability to adapt, to create systems and processes that are resilient and flexible, will be crucial. Perceptyx plays a vital role in this context, helping leaders understand their workforces, identify opportunities, mitigate risks, and navigate the inevitable, ongoing change. In my view, the goal is not just to survive but to thrive in this era of perpetual disruption. To do this, leaders must leverage people insights and ideas frequently and systematically so that they can make wise decisions on behalf of the workforce. In turn, these engaged, empowered people can work to benefit other key stakeholders, ultimately customers and shareholders.”