Archana Singh on Transforming through Employee Experience

John Wiley & Sons’ Archana Singh uses consumer technology to build a more engaging employee experience within the 210-year-old company

For over 200 years, John Wiley & Sons has published books, journals, and encyclopedias that have been an integral part of advancing research and education around the world. Over that same period, technological innovation has transformed the world. To remain a leader, Wiley has adapted and innovated with products that serve digital-first customers and internal processes that serve digitally native employees. The latter are chief human resources officer Archana Singh’s primary focus. Singh places employee experience front and center, leveraging consumer technology to build a more engaged and efficient HR team—with HR being the catalyst for continued transformation across the company.

Archana Singh John Wiley & Sons
Archana Singh, John Wiley & Sons Photo courtesy of Wiley Archives

According to Singh, HR at Wiley has three broad areas of impact. First, her team strives to cultivate the “evolving mind-set” that the company needs to be successful in the future, whether in product development, account management, or technology—she calls this the “right side, hard skills and capabilities”—to enable change.

In parallel, her team facilitates raising team and culture. That is what she calls the “left side, soft skills and interpersonal connectedness,” that connects employees to the company, and vice versa, enabling employees to see their role in the purpose and strategy journey.

“We are building a relationship with our employees from the moment they connect with the company through a recruiter, through their personal and career development journeys, to the moment they become a part of our alumni network. They are doing the work to realize Wiley’s strategy and define our future,” Singh says.

Thirdly, the team is continuously working to improve the day-to-day employee experience, which sometimes means identifying and undoing old policies and practices to re-envision what will advance the company’s mission.

Much of Singh’s recent work has involved implementing pragmatic HR programs to activate the organization and create a broader sense of connection and teamwork. One initiative she is particularly proud of is the revamping of the company’s intranet infrastructure into a “collaboration engine” built around Office 365. Using the Office 365 social networking plugin Yammer, Singh’s team has created a platform for discussing issues that are top of mind for the organization.

“We’re very proud of how we’re using the intranet to extend culture and create collaborative teams,” Singh says. “My leader for this advancement, Ron Perazza, calls it a stealth tool that has emerged to become part of who we are and how we engage and interact at Wiley.”

Singh’s team uses Swoop analytics to identify clusters of the organization’s energy on the platform. “You can see 3,000 people are engaging in one particular area in an insightful way, and others may have just a sporadic 300 people,” Singh notes. “Our goal is to target that energy and amplify it. We can grow the organization by leveraging that engagement into other areas that need it.”

Singh’s mission extends far beyond improving the company intranet, however; her team has been using technology to help improve communication and workflow company-wide. “We’re bringing consumer tools common in our personal lives into the organization to improve engagement,” Singh says. “Collaboration tools like Skype and Teams keep global teams connected and working together in real time. Polling, tagging, and commenting functions create a feedback loop that enables continual iteration and improvement.”

Her work also involves educating business leaders on how to use these platforms to build more personal connections and enhance the employee experience. Last year, she engaged over eighty of Wiley’s global leaders in a remote seminar on performance and compensation. Over three online workshops, she worked with them to help shape the future efforts in key people programs, and the reception was heartwarming.

“Although we were all in different locations, people came in and were concentrating quite actively,” she says proudly, “with 100 percent attentiveness. These platforms allow us to dive deep in a way that wouldn’t be possible through traditional media. Our leadership takes learnings from these experiences back to their teams to build better engagement and efficiency, while owning and shaping it.

“The world is changing at a rapid pace, and we’re using these tools to build a culture of agility that welcomes change so we can do things for the better across the organization,” Singh says. “Wiley’s impact has always been about spreading knowledge and helping people to succeed. It has endured as a trusted partner as we navigate the changing needs of our customers and employees.” Singh understands that embracing new technology will first benefit employees, and ultimately impact end users as well.

“We are future-proofing by thinking about what we will be doing the day after tomorrow,” she says. “We may not always know what that looks like, but we are equipped with the mind-set and capabilities to tackle it head on. This is what makes a company like Wiley unparalleled: a rich heritage combined with scale, quality, and trusting relationships with our partners.”