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EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT & EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
The Wider Angle of the Employee Experience

Employee experience is not only a top priority for organizations today. As digital thinking is transforming our consumer habits and experiences in respect to every interaction we have with a person, product, place, service or company, the employee experience – which is defined by various moments – is gradually becoming an expectation from the workforce.

 

Human experiences can be thought of as a series of intimate, meaningful, precious and natural moments and while we remember some moments for a long time, others just expire quickly. Not every memorable moment is a happy moment either, as moments are not created equal, and the ones that make us feel stressed, frustrated, scared or helpless, have a negative impact on our lives.

 

This should also be true for the experiences and moments created for employees in organizations. As per a Gartner Research, the employee experience can be defined as ‘an employee’s perceptions and related feelings originated by either one or cumulative effects of interactions with their organization’s customers, leaders, teams, processes, policies, systems, and work environment.’

 

These memorable moments for the employee can be both positive or negative. It could be, for example, being discriminated against at work or getting injured at work and it could also be about taking maternity leave or being promoted. Although some memorable moments matter most for employees, not all employees have the same moments that matter. The above-mentioned Gartner analysis states that across several employee segments, such as age, gender, generation, and geography, there are differences in the moments that matter most for each segment.

 

In most cases, the employee experience summarizes all that people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee lifecycle journey at an organization. Today, a common misconception is that the employee experience begins when the new hire walks through the door on their first day and ends when they leave through that same door. The employee experience, however, is an extensive view of the relationship between the individual and the organization and must include the entire organizational journey; starting from the application process and continuing after being separated.

 

Listening to the voice of the employee only matters for designing and optimizing an employee experience when we start to think about the moments from an employee perspective, as a part of the workforce, not as an employee experience expert. So, it is vital to understand the wider angle of the employee experience and to see the big picture from an employee point of view. That’s what should matter most for organizations.

 

The Wider or Entire Employee Experience

Organizations must also eliminate or optimize the moments that have a negative impact on their workforce. They should aim to provide their people with positive touch-points not only at the various stages of the employee-lifecycle but also, when an employee is still just a candidate and beyond the separation process, even after becoming alumni. The experience generated from the moments that matter comes from consuming human resource functions, the actual job, and the company culture along with technology and workplace experience.

 

Wider angle of employee experience

Figure 1 –  The Wider Angle of the Employee Experience

 

More and more companies are realizing that success depends on improving and optimizing the wider or entire employee lifecycle experience and not only a part of it. However, they may start focusing on a few of those parts first. An overview of the different components or dimensions of a wider employee experience – which can be divided into four – is shown in figure 1.

 

1. Candidate Experience

While the candidate experience is an often overlooked part of the employee lifecycle and considered separately, it can make a new employee’s life much easier and provide an entirely different experience when done well. It starts with attracting talent and covers the entire recruiting experience, including pre-onboarding, the period between accepting and starting a job.

In the employee experience, a potential candidate plays a huge role in the overall satisfaction. Once the organization starts separating employee and candidate experience, the value starts diminishing automatically and a discriminative experience appears immediately, where moments for candidates and employees are treated differently.

 

2. Employee Lifecycle Experience 

Every employee goes through a series of stages from the day they get selected up until the day they leave the company. This is a proven model generally applied by HR organizations around the world, known as the employee lifecycle, and it’s the most common form of employee experience most organizations focus on today. Below are the employee lifecycle stages along with their different elements.

 

  • Hiring and Onboarding – when onboarding is considered as the experience from an employee’s perspective, the complex and uncertain process become very simple. It begins with recruitment and hiring, as applicants engage with the organization, they get an initial sense of the workplace vibe and how it operates. Organizations with an exceptional onboarding experience are more likely to attract and keep the best talents, as the moment to get started in an organization can be remembered forever, in most cases.
  • Leadership and Career – employees need a clear purpose, and they want to feel like they’re part of the organization and its vision. This is only possible through clear communication from their leaders. Leadership is not about position and title, it is about the actions and examples shown by the leaders, which can literally inspire and motivate employees to keep performing and engaging in their career. Experiences with leadership are vital, as, in most of the cases, these moments affect the decisions of employees to stay or leave.
  • Development and Learning – the demand for continuous learning should ensure that the workforce is always up to date, and to keep on going in their work and job. Investing in employee development and learning is not only needed for the organization’s growth and performance, it also provides a different positive experience for the workforce to get motivated and work efficiently. Moments that were created during an employee’s learning initiatives could directly reflect the decisions on their career and development plan. 
  • Team Building and Engagement – a good team is a group of different abilities, experiences, talents, and diversity, who come together for a shared purpose. A good moment with a team who respects each other and whose relationships are based on trust is always a fabulous experience for an individual. An employee’s satisfaction with their job, loyalty, and team is an inclination to spend an open effort toward organizational goals and creates an outstanding experience for employee engagement.  
  • Flexibility and Wellness – flexibility has become a modern-day value that everyone wants as a memorable moment. Flexible employees modify their approach to tasks based on the preferences of stakeholders and, the benefits of flexible working are increasing engagement and performance. A right wellbeing and wellness program gives the employee the best opportunity to be healthy, motivated, happy and successful in their job, along with a valuable experience for the employee. 
  • Performance and Rewards – being recognized and rewarded for the efforts and performance that employees put into their work are crucial memorable moments for employees. Feeling valued at work is one of the key factors for generating engagement and showing that the organization values its employees keeps them motivated. An amazing experience is only established when an organization can provide an open, feedback-driven culture and relevant recognition at work.
  • Off-boarding and Separation – a formalized offboarding process not only mitigates legal and security threats and helps you gain honest feedback from employees on where to improve your organization. It can also create space for boomerang employees to return in the future. It’s easy to get excited about bringing a new team member on board, but it’s not the same when an employee is getting separated from the organization. These moments usually linger longer, as they may hold a lot of emotions and relations.
  • Growth and Mobility – competition for top talent is increasing, and so is an organizational focus on engagement and retention. Effective succession planning, opportunities for growth and a superior mobility program are an advantage for employees not only to move forward and grow but also generate an experience for the employee that matters. And these moments are always considered as a top memorable experience for an employee.

 

3. Alumni Experience

People no longer stay in the same job forever. This also means that your employees of today could be your customers and networkers of tomorrow. It’s a common misconception that employees who have left a company no longer have an influence on it. Alumni are among a company’s most effective means of external communication, and actively nurturing these relationships contributes immensely to a business’s success.

 

Therefore, an alumni experience can be a big turning point for both the workforce and the organization and should not be separated from the employee experience. And although in most cases today, this is the weakest experience for people, it is a vital one, as such moments can help with building long-term relationships, networking, and leveraging the social capital.

 

4. Organizational-journey Experience

There are indeed different moments being generated when employees interact with their team, bosses, workplace and experience culture. Employees build relationships with others and connect emotionally, they collaborate openly in the team and they either learn or contribute to the culture of the organization. 

 

Employees are also quite attached to their workplaces. After all, it’s the place where they spend most of their working time, it’s where their senses are being put to work. Employees have different experiences and feelings about their jobs, the use of technology, regulation, compliance, training and many more aspects of their journey. Figure 2 shows some of the moments that matter in an organizational journey experience.

 

Moments that matter for employees

Figure 2 –  Moments That Matters for the Organizational Journey Experience 

 

 

Below you’ll find the different dimensions from the organizational journey experience, where the various moments matter equally for an employee.

 

HR Functions Experience 

The human resources organization handles many necessary functions of the business, related to people. These functions are critical because without those functions being completed, the organization would not be able to meet the essential needs of the management and the workforce. There are many such functions, apart from the employee lifecycle which creates memorable moments and experiences
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The experiences with time tracking, requesting holiday, work from home, managing sick leave and doctor’s notes, travel requests and expense management are crucial for an employee as well, as all these moments are part of their working lives. Moments that also matter are how an employee or manager is managing shifts, accessing the team calendar, and experiencing employee relations, compliances, or policies.

 

Job Experience

No one can work alone in their job, every task and challenge is engaged in a relationship and network, with relevant support from various tools and processes. Employees’ personal tools and applications have given them high expectations regarding their user experience. However, many business tools and supporting processes don’t live up to these expectations with complicated and complex user experiences. Moments are valuable when we deal with any relationship and it is very important to have an experience which can handle these moments regarding communication, collaboration, accessing global networks, connection with communities, or even knowing the change agents and informal leaders.

 

For employees, it matters to experience moments on how they access to their company info, news, contacts, offerings, lunch menu, or wellness programs and how easily they can book a meeting room, or organize a workshop, or even report an issue. The experiences they have with supporting tools and processes like in purchasing, facilities, budgeting, taxation, security or data privacy, can’t be ignored either.

 

Culture Experience

Although we can’t see the organizational culture directly, we can feel it in every part of our professional lives, as it centers on the concepts of values, shared assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors from individuals and teams. Culture doesn’t only concern the employees, as it starts when a candidate first comes across a company. Most of the moments that any individual generates in a company, are somehow connected with the organization’s culture and also represent that culture.

 

Today, employees are looking for more than perks and benefits; they constantly want to feel their contribution, even to the organizational culture. When the organization’s culture centers on positivity, effectiveness, and creativity, it creates moments for the employees that can bring value to their life and lead the organization towards success. Experiences generated from the moments related to trust, respect, openness, transparency, and relationships are important to consider for culture as well.

 

Technology Experience

The technology environment is all about the tools, systems, and applications that employees use to get their jobs done. Failure to provide the right use of technologies definitely hinders efficiency and changes how employees feel about the organization. Today, employees expect workplace agility and ease of use for any device. They want an improved information-sharing, collaboration, and a more intuitive experience. Experiences generated from accessing the IT systems and services, WIFI capabilities or connectivity, the use of new devices, and all other digital experiences matter a lot for employees, especially since we are in a digital age. Employees also want an easy, smart process for reporting technical issues, service requests, connectivity issues, buying services and devices, security awareness and a digital skills training experience.

 

Moreover, the workforce does not want interactions with machines instead of the valuable human connections needed to feel a sense of belonging at work. Therefore, for nicer moments a human touch is also important, with the right balance between a digital and a human-based experience.

 

Workplace Experience

When organizations provide employees the right provision and resources they need to complete their work productively, along with a fun and creative environment, organizations can obtain the benefits of a healthy, happy and engaged workforce. An innovative, memorable and effective workplace can transform an organization to do their business with a higher level of success and provide an employee with much more interesting memorable moments at their work.

 

A good workplace experience does not come from free food, yoga, and a foosball table. It comes from moments that matter for employees generated from their experience with feedback processes, the organizational structure, commute time, bureaucracy, cubicles, etc. These workplaces should be the places where the employee’s senses are being put to work, and they are the key to creativity, collaboration, and wellness. The moments are also vital from digital workplaces, that enable new, more effective ways of working and increase employee engagement and agility in a consumer-oriented way.

 

———-

 

For a successful employee experience design and optimization, it is important to have a good sense of an overall employee experience journey from beginning to end. 

 

A journey map is a great tool which visually describes an employee’s journey as she or he strives to achieve a goal. It represents a timeline of the employee experience and key touchpoints; what the employee is feeling, thinking and doing; as well as pain points and opportunities. Employee journey mapping can provide a much-required clarity and help to identify the areas where one should prioritize your employee experience efforts, based on all the moments that are generated from the wider or entire employee experience.

 

If the employee experience matters for an organization, then they need to make sure it provides the right value to employees, and it should also care for the memorable moments that matter for an employee. If we try to understand and capture these moments, we really need to think of ourselves as an employee first. Once we do that, it becomes pretty clear that experiences come from many different moments that arise from the entire employee journey in an organization and that we need a wider angle to view the full picture.


The entire or wider employee experience is usually the sum of all types of experiences and interactions that affect an employee’s perception, behavior and feelings. Creating an inspiring employee experience is not about providing extra benefits, perks and usage of modern technologies. What’s important is to motivate and engage employees and to help them become better at their job; what’s important is to provide them with a great culture and leadership that inspires them to work continually and happily.


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HR TECHNOLOGY
Measuring the ROI of Tech

Remember the good old days, when technology choices delivered clear benefits? It was easy to decide that moving from time cards to time clocks would pay for itself by reducing buddy punching and payroll errors or that transitioning from paper-based to electronic benefits administration would cut costs and increase efficiency. Then things got more complicated.

As HR managers look to technology to streamline operations, support data-driven decision-making and ensure compliance, software vendors have increased the pace of innovation—as well as the complexity of their solutions. As I pointed out during a breakout session I conducted (“Measuring the ROI Impact of HCM Investments: What Factors Matter?”) at the most recent HR Tech Conference, this can make understanding the potential return on investment of HR, payroll and other applications a challenge—particularly when organizations are considering an upgrade. The ROI challenge is compounded by the pressure on HR executives and HRIS managers to meet the growing number of demands and regulatory requirements with limited resources. With a laundry list of potential initiatives across the employee lifecycle—from recruiting to onboarding to benefits to talent and succession—prioritizing projects based on business impact and ensuring those projects deliver are moving targets.

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Over the past 15-plus years, I’ve been analyzing the return on investment from HR-technology projects, and Nucleus Research has published hundreds of case studies on the actual ROI companies have achieved from their HCM-technology initiatives. If we look at the past few years of data, we find the projects delivering the greatest ROI are those that automate payroll, core HR, and time and attendance functions. These areas are followed in bottom-line impact by benefits-administration and scheduling automation, with talent acquisition and talent management coming in third.

While those categories can be helpful in framing your high-level goals in terms of potential value, in reality, the technology checklist and budget are often more nuanced. To be successful with technology, HR and business managers need to understand the relative benefits of projects in their own specific organizations, weigh vendors’ timelines and budgets, and ensure the investments they make today will support—or at least unencumber—their future goals for innovation.

Understanding Benefits

When working with HR and HRIS managers on evaluating their potential HR-tech initiatives, I encourage them to rate each project on five key factors, from a scale of 1 to 5, to identify which projects are likely to deliver the greatest ROI. This is helpful for prioritizing projects and focusing adoption efforts but also for taking some of the politics and emotion out of the budgeting process; a numbers-based approach can help compare apples to oranges and reduce subjectivity.

The first two—and the most important—are:

  • Breadth. The more people, applications or processes a technology project touches, the greater the potential return.
  • Repeatability. The greater the frequency of use of a technology solution, the greater the potential return.

Breadth and repeatability go hand in hand when we think about the benefits of a project that automates payroll or time and attendance: They touch every employee (breadth) at least once per pay period (repeatability). Other factors are:

  • Risk. The greater the potential of a project to reduce risk, the greater the potential return.
  • Collaboration. The greater the ability of an application or project to support collaboration, the greater the potential return.
  • Knowledge. The more a project or application has the potential to disseminate knowledge, the greater the potential return.

Deployment Matters

While understanding the benefits of different HRIS initiatives is important, so is understanding the potential cost and achievability of those benefits—and the relative costs and risks of different potential vendors’ approaches. I’ve seen a few key factors that really make a difference in both the relative cost and time-to-value of projects.

The first is cloud. Our data show cloud-technology projects deliver 3.2 times the ROI of on-premise ones. This is because of the lower initial cost and faster time-to-value, but also the ability to deliver greater value over time without the cost and disruption associated with traditional on-premise HCM deployments. Think about it this way: In the past, a deployment might take 12 to 18 months or more before users would ever access the software, let alone see benefit. Even if a vendor delivered an upgrade every year or two, many companies would delay those upgrades because of their cost and disruption, even if they delivered significant benefit. Today, with most cloud vendors delivering innovations on a quarterly or more frequent basis, with upgrades that are relatively seamless, companies can achieve greater benefit or make needed changes to an application without a big consulting bill or the cost of running parallel systems to avoid business disruption.

Another innovation impacting time-to-value, cost and risk—which is also cloud-related—is the availability of implementation wizards. Designed to automate much of the configuration of an HR solution to meet a specific business’ needs—based on the data and best practices captured by vendors through other organizations’ cloud deployments—these wizards can automate up to 80 percent of the coding, customization and configuration associated with a deployment. This reduces consulting costs (which can often account for 20 percent to 30 percent of deployment costs), risk and ongoing costs because there’s less customization to support. The implementation wizards provided by many cloud vendors have an important practical impact as well: Because they are based on best practices, they can be an impetus for changing existing processes. Rather than debating how much customization is warranted to support “the way we’ve always done things,” managers can use the wizards as the standard for new processes, treating deviations as exceptions to be considered rather than requirements.

The third important deployment consideration is usability. More usable applications reduce training time, accelerate adoption and increase employee engagement, particularly in self-service areas such as scheduling, benefits, and talent and performance management. We’re seeing usability innovations in mobile, embedded analytics, and personalized or role-based views as important factors driving adoption and ROI. As workforce entrants’ expectations for employers increase, usability can support recruiting and engagement as well.

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Looking Ahead

As organizations look to HR technology to go beyond just reducing costs to increase efficiency and optimize returns from their overall labor investment, there are a few key areas where technology vendors are investing that are worth considering:

  • Collaboration. In the past two years, we’ve seen many HR-technology leaders invest in embedded collaboration and content management within their solutions—both organically and through partnerships. Collaboration can increase the breadth and repeatability of HR applications and provide a wealth of unstructured data for analysis in areas such as talent and performance management.
  • Embedded analytics. With basic backward-looking reporting becoming table stakes for any HR application, vendors are investing in predictive and prescriptive analytics to help HR and line-of-business managers better understand workforce performance, predict cost and disruption factors such as absenteeism and flight risk, and make data-driven decisions in real or near-real time.
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning. While we are in the early days of the development and adoption of embedded AI and ML, the use of AI to extend, automate and enhance the HR function has great potential benefit. Look for immediate applications in areas such as talent acquisition and a broader impact over time in talent management and workforce scheduling and optimization.
  • Engagement and philanthropy. With half of employees believing it is important or very important to work for an employer that is aligned with their social views and principles, look to HR solutions to bring outside philanthropy into the overall employee-engagement picture. Whether it’s enabling scheduling of group or company volunteerism, integrating giving into payroll options, or tracking and measuring skills learned outside the workplace in internal talent and skills profiles, savvy HR professionals will leverage the capabilities of technology to support philanthropy-related employee engagement.

Making sense of the complexities of HR technology is one of the challenges facing HR and business leaders. It can also be a great opportunity—as the effective use of technology can be a competitive advantage for talent acquisition, engagement and ongoing optimization. Using breadth and repeatability (and the other factors) as your guide, taking advantage of the cloud to drive faster time-to-value and flexibility, and embracing analytics and AI as an extension and enhancement (not an exit) for HR can help build the profile and leadership skills of your HR and HRIS team.



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PEOPLE, HR & WORKFORCE ANALYTICS
The "Fourth Bottom Line" - Human Capital Accountability

Companies use various measures of performance to attract investors and other stakeholders, not only their financial performance, but also their “bottom lines” in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental impact. Now, as the 21st century workplace demands the development of 21st century skills, companies need a fourth bottom line: their commitment to human capital development.

The objective would be for companies around the world to become more transparent and accountable for how they develop employees and enable them to gain the requisite knowledge, skills and character for the technology-enhanced workplace of today — and tomorrow. This could be far more constructive than taxing robots and algorithms in hopes of counteracting the impact of automation.

There’s no turning back the escalating trend toward greater use of robotics and algorithms – that future is already here. As a new McKinsey Global Institute report estimates, half of today’s work activities currently coordinated by humans could be automated using current technology. The answer, McKinsey suggests, is to implement lifelong learning for the workforce as a way of ensuring lifelong employability in a rapidly changing, tech-driven economy.

The Fourth Bottom Line

With the “fourth bottom line” companies would be required to “put their money where their mouth is.” It’s not enough to talk about training or to continue with the status quo of static learning and development, which has proven insufficient for building skills and developing competence. To turn human capital into human equity as a strategic asset, companies would need to show both effort and impact – not merely reporting the amount of money spent on training in the aggregate or even the number of people enrolled in training programs. To speak meaningfully about the development of human equity, the fourth bottom line requires learning metrics that delve deeply into the specifics of skill-building and competencies.

A greater emphasis on outcomes, as measured by learning metrics, would present an even higher bar than companies currently have for CSR and environmental impact, in which the reporting typically focuses on money spent and investment made. That’s not to discount the importance of either measure, particularly CSR, which pushes companies to engage with social and governance issues that have real and quantifiable impacts over the long term. It’s also acknowledged that a well-defined purpose and active CSR help attract and retain the best talent. But what about the development of all talent, especially those most at risk of being displaced from low-skilled jobs by robotics and automation? This is where learning and development must be focused: advancing the skills of the entire workforce so that everyone can have a chance for lifelong employment opportunities.

Assessments That Guide—Not Punish

With the fourth bottom line of corporate learning and development, what gets measured is particularly meaningful. Training has a long tradition of assessing people to gauge the level of their knowledge and skills. In fact, pre-hire assessments have grown in usage to measure a candidate’s aptitude and fit for a particular position, all of which is meant to assist in the screening and hiring process. But assessments that exclude people from certain opportunities because of a lack of skills are punitive.

Formative assessment, however, can be used as part of the learning process, itself. People are assessed without negative consequences for the primary purpose of identifying their knowledge gaps and skill deficiencies. It is even possible, using adaptive learning technology, to work with metacognitive skills and uncover where people think they know something, but in fact do not – what is called “unconscious incompetence.” Such assessments are not meant to single out people for what they don’t know or prevent them from advancing in their careers. To the contrary, such assessments benefit human capital development by guiding a company’s learning endeavors, such as the use of adaptive learning to provide a personalized approach to skip over content that’s already been mastered and receive additional support to close gaps in knowledge or skills. This kind of training also helps build an internal culture of learning in the company and creates cross-sectional alignment, which improves communication and collaboration—all visible in the data and tangible in everyday work life in the company.

As assessment data is collected and analyzed year to year, companies can paint a detailed picture of how they are developing employees and improving human capital across the organization. Then, just as they report their CSR or environmental commitment, or the number of women and other underrepresented people on boards, companies would have meaningful learning data to disclose.

The Human Capital Priority

Human capital, not robotics or artificial intelligence alone, is the future of organizational success. For example, at the recent World Economic Forum, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty acknowledged that human capital must be a corporate priority: "We have a really serious duty about this. Because these technologies are moving faster in time than their skills are going to change. So it's causing the skills crisis."

Companies need to show the depth of their commitment to corporate development, especially as the future of work takes the spotlight as a social issue, not merely an economic one. As Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, wrote in his 2019 Letter to CEOs, “As divisions continue to deepen, companies must demonstrate their commitment to the countries, regions, and communities where they operate, particularly on issues central to the world’s future prosperity. Companies cannot solve every issue of public importance, but there are many – from retirement to infrastructure to preparing workers for the jobs of the future – that cannot be solved without corporate leadership.”

To that I would add, where there is good leadership, there is also a high degree of accountability. When it comes to commitment to and investment in corporate learning and development, companies need to embrace the inherent competitive advantage. This isn’t just altruism, it’s capitalism: a measurable investment in human capital for the 21st century workplace.


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PEOPLE, HR & WORKFORCE ANALYTICS
Four Strategic Imperatives for People Analytics

People Data for Good’ was the theme of what proved to be the biggest and most successful People Analytics & Future of Work (PAFOW) show yet in San Francisco on 31 January and 1 February.

In terms of blending high-quality speakers, an absorbing program and the most innovative companies from a thriving vendor community with a highly knowledgeable, inquisitive and collaborative audience, PAFOW ranks as the premier people analytics conference on the planet.

The San Francisco show in particular is always one of my personal highlights of the year. So, I am particularly grateful to Al Adamsen for inviting me into the PAFOW family three years ago to co-chair the tri-series of conferences (San Francisco, Philadelphia and now London on 24/25 April). This was the 13th PAFOW Al has organised in San Francisco. From speaking to the significant number of delegates who have been attending the conference for years, the 2019 edition was undoubtedly the best yet.

Certainly, the presenters and discussions over the two days confirmed to me that the rise of people analytics continues unabated. Moreover, what became even clearer from PAFOW was that people analytics continues to shift from an HR to a business focused initiative as the work of the more advanced teams expands into areas such as business strategy, productivity, performance and building the workforce of the future. 

The extent to how people analytics has shifted from the periphery to the centre of HR was highlighted when Josh Bersin (below with Al and me) opened PAFOW by presenting his research on the key HR technology disruptions for 2019. Every prediction outlined by Josh had data and analytics as a core foundation. 


A MANIFESTO FOR PEOPLE ANALYTICS: FOUR STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES

As I was due to be the penultimate speaker on day two in San Francisco, I decided to build my presentation on the key themes covered by the speakers on day one of the show. This group of speakers represented some of the leading practitioners in our field. The work they and their teams are undertaking in their respective organisations ably demonstrates what is possible with people analytics.

In presenting some of the key takeaways, I have organised these into a ‘Manifesto for People Analytics’ - four strategic imperatives (see FIG 1) that must be embraced if we are to realise the promise of people analytics.

FIG 1: Four Strategic Imperatives for People Analytics (Source: David Green)


1. CONNECTING WITH THE C-SUITE

People analytics isn't about HR. It's about the business... 
Jonathan Ferrar 

When it comes to connecting with CXO, people analytics teams need to focus their efforts on solving the most pressing business challenges that their organisations face. Start with the business problem rather than with the data. This means that before commencing a project, determining whether it will save the company money, make it more competitive, increase revenue and profit or improve operations. Connecting successfully with the C-Suite also means creating actionable insights, making a compelling case for change and managing stakeholders effectively as well as measuring and quantifying the outcomes of people analytics projects.  Throughout the two days numerous examples of how speakers had connected their people analytics teams and initiatives with their CXO were provided, including: 

  • Josh Bersin highlighted research showing that 83% of CEOs say they require new skills and jobs within their companies as a result of AI, which intensifies the lens on strategic workforce planning allied to people analytics.
  • Taking this cue, Piyush Mathur (Johnson & Johnson, pictured below)) outlined one project involving digital enablement of a $26bn business where analysis against competitors identified that J&J was ahead on three skills but behind on four. Senior management agreed this was a burning platform that needed addressing.
  • Piyush also revealed that his team identified that out of 30,000 employees, 150 critical roles generated 80% of value for the company. This is where the efforts of his team are focused.
  • Whilst in his previous role at Nielsen, Piyush described how he found that the attrition rate of employees with contemporary skills was twice that of those with legacy skills. This insight led to a program to retain contemporary talent involving leadership engagement, comp & ben review and risk identification. Piyush also explained that this is where ‘attrition can be your friend’ where hiring can be focused on contemporary talent to replace leavers with legacy skills.
  • Another great insight from Piyush was his approach on joining J&J, which essentially involved him meeting with and interviewing 70 leaders in his first 90 days to understand their feedback, needs and understanding of workforce analytics, and so highlight the areas his team needed to focus on moving forward.
  • Similarly, Brad Hubbard (Bristol-Myers Squibb, pictured below) explained how people analytics needs to be aligned to business strategy first before HR people strategy and that this changes how the team operates and spends its time. At BMS, this approach has led to quarterly ‘insight to action’ meetings with the business. Brad’s approach also means that his team are fully focused on the future of work, industry developments and the workforce all aligned to better patient understanding and care. 
  • One example of how Brad’s team link their work to business performance saw a study of critical talent groups (who it was found that if they leave BMS, it will have a negative impact on the business) to isolate the top drivers of business performance. These included identifying the importance of acting on the annual survey. This insight helped mobilise senior leaders and provided impetus to support HRBP actions with the business.
  • David White (LinkedIn) described the work his team at LinkedIn has done around geolocation strategy (see article here and image below), which has helped shift thinking in the business in terms of locating tech talent in hubs outside traditional hotspots such as the Bay Area.
  • David and Piyush traded friendly blows when both emphasised that identifying insights alone is not enough for people analytics teams. David argued that “insight without action is overhead’, whilst Piyush countered in his speech directly afterwards that ‘insight without outcome is overhead”. Together this focus on actionable insights and outcomes spell out the challenge for people analytics in successfully connecting with the C-Suite. Indeed, David went further and called for HR to stop being subservient and be prepared to ask those requesting the time of the people analytics team ‘What action are you going to take if I get you these insights?
  • As well as the specific examples provided by practitioners of how people analytics has provided business value in their organisations, Stacia Garr presented examples of the growing number of studies that show a correlation between advanced capability in people analytics and business performance (see image on the left below). More evidence like this will help people analytics teams in their quest to connect with and become indispensable to their business leaders.
  • Moreover, Jeff Higgins updated delegates on the new ISO Standard for Human Capital Reporting, which will further raise the focus on human capital metrics and the need for firms to evaluate how best to measure and share information about the impact of the workforce on business results.  


2. ENHANCING WORKFORCE EXPERIENCE

Whilst people analytics undoubtedly has tremendous potential to make a huge difference to business performance, the opportunity is arguably even larger when it comes to enhancing workforce experience and wellbeing. In my speech I cited Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book ‘Dying for a Paycheck’. Pfeffer provides a damning indictment on how our workplaces are literally killing people and harming both the health of our employees and company performance. With people analytics, we have the opportunity to make workforce experience and wellbeing our North Star and shine a light on the damage the practices cited by Pfeffer cause to organisational performance and individual well-being. In this way, we can help to create better, fairer and more humane workplaces and also in parallel drive improvements to business performance. The overwhelming verdict from PAFOW is that many companies have taken this responsibility on board and are using people analytics to provide value to workers. Examples include: 

  • Heather Whiteman and Misael Cerpas (GE Digital, pictured below) provided an inspiring story of GE Digital’s people analytics journey – with a team of just two people – describing an approach that is people centred and has seen the business grow from 250 to 26,000 employees. In exchange for sharing data on their skills, passions and career aspirations, employees are provided with personalised recommendations around learning, role opportunities and the ability to build their careers in the organisation. In turn, this supports GE Digital with data to support strategic workforce planning, measure the impact of manager feedback and demonstrate the ROI of learning.
  • In his opening keynote, Josh Bersin highlighted the growth in HR technology that enables the collection and analysis of feedback from the workforce and managers, and the how this is then provided back in the form of action plans and personal ‘nudges’ to prompt behavioural change (see below).
  • An example of this was provided by Dawn Klinghoffer (Microsoft), who described how managers at Microsoft are provided with real-time feedback on behaviours that have a positive or negative impact on employee stress and engagement such as prompts suggesting holding off on sending emails on a Friday night.
  • Two other examples came from Aimee Wilford (Gap) and Marquam Piros (Seagate). Aimee described how through text analysis of employee survey comments via their provider Perceptyx, her team at Gap were able to identify that a number of hourly paid workers were underemployed and actively wanted to work more hours than they were. Marquam described how he had worked with TI People to redesign the employee experience journey at Seagate around personas based on insights from their survey provider Qualtrics around the ‘moments that matter’.   
  • This shift in people analytics to providing increased value to the workforce in terms of personalised recommendations that drive career development and personal nudges that help managers and workers understand the impact of their behaviours on the performance and wellbeing of their teams and colleagues is a welcome one. This was highlighted both by Josh Bersin (left) and also in Al Adamsen’s People Analytics 3.0 model (right in image below).    


3. DEVELOPING A DATA DRIVEN CULTURE

To create sustainable capability in people analytics, it is absolutely vital that the rest of HR – particularly HR Business Partners – embrace a data driven approach to people decisions. Indeed, in Bersin by Deloitte’s landmark High-Impact People Analytics research from 2017, organisations with advanced maturity in people analytics are three times more likely to have a culture of data-driven decision making. In many respects this is the Holy Grail for our field, and it is certainly the challenge that consistently ranks highest whenever I speak to practitioners and CHROs. Indeed, at Insight222 we have embarked on a co-creation, as part of The People Analytics Program, to support our member organisations in creating more business value through enabling their HRBP/HR communities to be more skilled in scoping, translating and driving action using people data and analytics. The speakers at PAFOW collectively offered a number of suggestions to effect, what is for the majority of organisations, change management. These included: 

  • RJ Milnor’s (McKesson) fireside chat with Al Adamsen was sprinkled throughout with insights about how to create a data driven culture, as RJ has done at Chevron and now McKesson. RJ highlighted the role of a ‘data translator’ to link the insights identified by the people analytics team to business strategy through effective communication, stakeholder management and consulting related skills. RJ also spoke of the need to create career paths for the people analytics team including secondments with the business and HRBP role. 
  • Former HRBP and now people analytics professional Richard Rosenow (Facebook) explained that analytics is about decision support and outlined an eight-step methodology to improve decision support (see below). This is a refreshing change from those in our field who perhaps too often point the finger at the HRBP community. Undoubtedly, many people in HRBP roles need to improve their data literacy, but so many of those in people analytics roles need to better understand the role of the HRBP and the challenges they face day to day. Richard’s model is a positive step towards recognising that one of the roles of the people analytics team is to support HRBPs and the business in taking decisions and measuring the outcomes of those decisions.
  • Working in partnership with HRBPs was a theme also addressed by Brad Hubbard, who described how his team at Bristol-Myers Squibb partnered with the HRBP community to co-create a process and dashboard related to highlighting relevant talent outcomes.  
  • The importance of communication was also highlighted by Dawn Klinghoffer who described how Microsoft uses its internal Yammer platform to tag updates relating to the work of the people analytics team with #datadrivenHR – this has prompted increased awareness, interest and adoption of people analytics within the business.
  • Heather Whiteman reminded us that creating a culture of analytics is an ongoing process to ensure continued success. This means regular communication and ‘selling’ of people analytics, before, during and after projects and initiatives. 
  • During my speech, I provided an example of a novel way of upskilling the wider HR team undertaken by Patrick Coolen and his team at ABN AMRO, which involved the creation of a Fact-based HR Escape Room designed to improve data literacy.  

Developing a data-driven culture in HR: Fact-based HR Escape Room at ABN Amro (left), Insight222 Co-Creation Project with member organisations of the People Analytics Program


4. ADVOCATING PEOPLE DATA FOR GOOD

People analytics is a privilege, not a right. Don’t erode employee trust whilst pushing people analytics 
Dawn Klinghoffer 

As mentioned in the opening line of this article, the overarching theme of PAFOW (in San Francisco as well as in the upcoming shows in London on 24/25 April and Philadelphia on 11/12 September) is ‘People Data for Good’. The theme was embraced wholeheartedly by speakers, vendors and delegates alike, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given that ethics, privacy and trust is perhaps the most important aspect of people analytics. There is tremendous potential for people analytics. If we get it right, then workers, managers and leaders will enjoy huge benefits. However, if we get it wrong then the whole field of people analytics could be derailed and set back a generation. Fortunately, the two days at PAFOW ably demonstrated that those leading the way in our field are prepared to grasp this responsibility, fiercely protect the sanctity of people data and ensure that our organisations are using people analytics for good. Examples over the two days included:

  • Dawn Klinghoffer devoted her entire speech to how to create employee trust with people analytics. Watch out for an upcoming article from Dawn and me, which will go into more detail, but some highlights from Dawn’s speech included: i) the need to work early with your legal team. In Dawn’s view it’s not acceptable to say legal won’t let you do it. Instead it is incumbent on the people analytics team to refine and improve its solution, ii) Establishing and reinforcing trust through focusing people analytics on providing value to the worker, iii) the three pillars of trust are: transparency (e.g. be open on what you are collecting and why), purpose (clear hypotheses and intention to act) and value (consider the impact on people who provide the data) - see pic below. 
  • Josh Bersin also presented a framework for ethics around four pillars: Privacy, Security, Bias and People Impact (see pic below), stressing that an important role for people analytics teams is to support the business in understanding whether recommendations from AI based engines mitigate or magnify bias. As Josh said, many of the claims from vendors in this critical area require more investigation and evidence with the belief that AI will reduce bias not really being proven yet.
  • Other highlights in this area from speakers at PAFOW came from David White(LinkedIn) who reminded delegates that can does not equal should when it comes to people analytics, Heather Whiteman (GE Digital) urging her peers ‘don’t be creepy’, and Piyush Mathur’s timely reminder that with people analytics, we have a direct impact on the lives of our workers.
  • The theme of ‘people data for good’ is set to become even more important for the field as i) the types of data being collected continues to broaden and deepen, ii) Jonathan Ferrar’s revelation that research by Insight222 found that four out of every five people analytics projects are jeopardised by ethical or privacy concerns, and iii) a new study showing the financial value of trust, which Manish Goel and I both referred to in our respective speeches. According to Accenture, this ‘Trust Dividend’ (see pic) is worth over $3 trillion.


BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER 

Achieving all the four ‘imperatives’ of the People Analytics Manifesto can be hard, but the rewards make it worth the effort. As well as providing demonstrable value to the business and the workforce in a wise and ethical way, people analytics teams are able to create sustainable capability through the evolution of a data-driven culture. The levers – or dimensions – to succeed were outlined by Jonathan Ferrar, who kicked off day 2 of PAFOW with a detailed presentation based of our Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model (see pic). The diagnostic is designed to help people analytics leaders identify and prioritise the dimensions to create more impact and value from your people analytics work.       


OTHER TAKEAWAYS FROM PAFOW

Day two of PAFOW primarily saw the floor given to the vendor community as some of the most innovative technologies in the field were presented to an eager audience. 

THE PEOPLE ANALYTICS TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE CAN BE DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE

Industry analyst Stacia Garr kicked off the technology sessions with a walk through the maze of the people analytics technology landscape. The space is so dynamic, complex and innovative that many practitioners struggle to keep up with the market, which makes navigating the multitude of vendors extremely difficult.

As such, the research partnership outlined by Stacia that her company RedThread Researchwill be embarking on in 2019 with PAFOW and Insight222 was much appreciated by the practitioners in the audience. 

The research will cover three key areas:

  1. What is the current state of the people analytics technology market?
  2. What are the strengths and opportunities of vendors in the space?
  3. What do customers most want from people analytics vendors?

If you want to have a say in helping to shape the research head over to the survey at peopleanalyticstech.com and provide your comments by 22 February.


THE INNOVATION BY VENDORS IN PEOPLE ANALYTICS IS TREMENDOUS

The breadth and depth of the vendors that presented and/or exhibited at PAFOW highlighted the continued investment, innovation, growth and diversity of the people analytics technology space.

PAFOW filmed the 13 vendors that presented - as well as the speeches by Stacia Garr, Jonathan Ferrar and me. These recordings will be made available via the PAFOW YouTube channel in the coming weeks, so look out for those. For now, check out the vendors, which fell into the following broad categories:

  • Talent market intelligence and analytics: LinkedIn Talent Insights, Gartner Talent Neuron, EMSI
  • Employee engagement: CultureAmp, Peakon, Glint, Qualtrics, Medallia, Perceptyx
  • Organisational network analysis: Microsoft Workplace Analytics, TrustSphere, Worklytics
  • Data aggregation visualisation and BI: Visier and One Model

A word also for the other vendors that exhibited at PAFOW: Cultivate, Splashbi, Office Vibe, People Insight, AON and HCMI. 

Last but not least, a special mention should go to Jessalyn Urchaz, who despite having to cope with a technical fault that meant she was unable to show her slides, delivered a spellbinding speech on how Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics supports behavioural change within organisations.


FOR MORE ON PAFOW

Perhaps the best indication of the buzz created by PAFOW has been the response since the conference ended in San Francisco, which has seen the following blogs and mini-LinkedIn takeaway summaries published already:

Also stay tuned to the PAFOW site and PAFOW YouTube Channel for pics and videos from the event. 

 

FINALLY, IT’S THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE IT SPECIAL…

First, a huge thank you to Al and the rest of the PAFOW team: Liz Hammond, Chris Broderick and Dafna Aaronson (all in pic with Al and me below) as well as Blake Humble, Cameron Ellis, Jason Smith, Sarah Spernenn, Barry Swales and Jeff Brown.


Pic
PEOPLE, HR & WORKFORCE ANALYTICS
Four Strategic Imperatives for People Analytics

People Data for Good’ was the theme of what proved to be the biggest and most successful People Analytics & Future of Work (PAFOW) show yet in San Francisco on 31 January and 1 February.

In terms of blending high-quality speakers, an absorbing program and the most innovative companies from a thriving vendor community with a highly knowledgeable, inquisitive and collaborative audience, PAFOW ranks as the premier people analytics conference on the planet.

The San Francisco show in particular is always one of my personal highlights of the year. So, I am particularly grateful to Al Adamsen for inviting me into the PAFOW family three years ago to co-chair the tri-series of conferences (San Francisco, Philadelphia and now London on 24/25 April). This was the 13th PAFOW Al has organised in San Francisco. From speaking to the significant number of delegates who have been attending the conference for years, the 2019 edition was undoubtedly the best yet.

Certainly, the presenters and discussions over the two days confirmed to me that the rise of people analytics continues unabated. Moreover, what became even clearer from PAFOW was that people analytics continues to shift from an HR to a business focused initiative as the work of the more advanced teams expands into areas such as business strategy, productivity, performance and building the workforce of the future. 

The extent to how people analytics has shifted from the periphery to the centre of HR was highlighted when Josh Bersin (below with Al and me) opened PAFOW by presenting his research on the key HR technology disruptions for 2019. Every prediction outlined by Josh had data and analytics as a core foundation. 


A MANIFESTO FOR PEOPLE ANALYTICS: FOUR STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES

As I was due to be the penultimate speaker on day two in San Francisco, I decided to build my presentation on the key themes covered by the speakers on day one of the show. This group of speakers represented some of the leading practitioners in our field. The work they and their teams are undertaking in their respective organisations ably demonstrates what is possible with people analytics.

In presenting some of the key takeaways, I have organised these into a ‘Manifesto for People Analytics’ - four strategic imperatives (see FIG 1) that must be embraced if we are to realise the promise of people analytics.

FIG 1: Four Strategic Imperatives for People Analytics (Source: David Green)


1. CONNECTING WITH THE C-SUITE

People analytics isn't about HR. It's about the business... 
Jonathan Ferrar 

When it comes to connecting with CXO, people analytics teams need to focus their efforts on solving the most pressing business challenges that their organisations face. Start with the business problem rather than with the data. This means that before commencing a project, determining whether it will save the company money, make it more competitive, increase revenue and profit or improve operations. Connecting successfully with the C-Suite also means creating actionable insights, making a compelling case for change and managing stakeholders effectively as well as measuring and quantifying the outcomes of people analytics projects.  Throughout the two days numerous examples of how speakers had connected their people analytics teams and initiatives with their CXO were provided, including: 

  • Josh Bersin highlighted research showing that 83% of CEOs say they require new skills and jobs within their companies as a result of AI, which intensifies the lens on strategic workforce planning allied to people analytics.
  • Taking this cue, Piyush Mathur (Johnson & Johnson, pictured below)) outlined one project involving digital enablement of a $26bn business where analysis against competitors identified that J&J was ahead on three skills but behind on four. Senior management agreed this was a burning platform that needed addressing.
  • Piyush also revealed that his team identified that out of 30,000 employees, 150 critical roles generated 80% of value for the company. This is where the efforts of his team are focused.
  • Whilst in his previous role at Nielsen, Piyush described how he found that the attrition rate of employees with contemporary skills was twice that of those with legacy skills. This insight led to a program to retain contemporary talent involving leadership engagement, comp & ben review and risk identification. Piyush also explained that this is where ‘attrition can be your friend’ where hiring can be focused on contemporary talent to replace leavers with legacy skills.
  • Another great insight from Piyush was his approach on joining J&J, which essentially involved him meeting with and interviewing 70 leaders in his first 90 days to understand their feedback, needs and understanding of workforce analytics, and so highlight the areas his team needed to focus on moving forward.
  • Similarly, Brad Hubbard (Bristol-Myers Squibb, pictured below) explained how people analytics needs to be aligned to business strategy first before HR people strategy and that this changes how the team operates and spends its time. At BMS, this approach has led to quarterly ‘insight to action’ meetings with the business. Brad’s approach also means that his team are fully focused on the future of work, industry developments and the workforce all aligned to better patient understanding and care. 
  • One example of how Brad’s team link their work to business performance saw a study of critical talent groups (who it was found that if they leave BMS, it will have a negative impact on the business) to isolate the top drivers of business performance. These included identifying the importance of acting on the annual survey. This insight helped mobilise senior leaders and provided impetus to support HRBP actions with the business.
  • David White (LinkedIn) described the work his team at LinkedIn has done around geolocation strategy (see article here and image below), which has helped shift thinking in the business in terms of locating tech talent in hubs outside traditional hotspots such as the Bay Area.
  • David and Piyush traded friendly blows when both emphasised that identifying insights alone is not enough for people analytics teams. David argued that “insight without action is overhead’, whilst Piyush countered in his speech directly afterwards that ‘insight without outcome is overhead”. Together this focus on actionable insights and outcomes spell out the challenge for people analytics in successfully connecting with the C-Suite. Indeed, David went further and called for HR to stop being subservient and be prepared to ask those requesting the time of the people analytics team ‘What action are you going to take if I get you these insights?
  • As well as the specific examples provided by practitioners of how people analytics has provided business value in their organisations, Stacia Garr presented examples of the growing number of studies that show a correlation between advanced capability in people analytics and business performance (see image on the left below). More evidence like this will help people analytics teams in their quest to connect with and become indispensable to their business leaders.
  • Moreover, Jeff Higgins updated delegates on the new ISO Standard for Human Capital Reporting, which will further raise the focus on human capital metrics and the need for firms to evaluate how best to measure and share information about the impact of the workforce on business results.  


2. ENHANCING WORKFORCE EXPERIENCE

Whilst people analytics undoubtedly has tremendous potential to make a huge difference to business performance, the opportunity is arguably even larger when it comes to enhancing workforce experience and wellbeing. In my speech I cited Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book ‘Dying for a Paycheck’. Pfeffer provides a damning indictment on how our workplaces are literally killing people and harming both the health of our employees and company performance. With people analytics, we have the opportunity to make workforce experience and wellbeing our North Star and shine a light on the damage the practices cited by Pfeffer cause to organisational performance and individual well-being. In this way, we can help to create better, fairer and more humane workplaces and also in parallel drive improvements to business performance. The overwhelming verdict from PAFOW is that many companies have taken this responsibility on board and are using people analytics to provide value to workers. Examples include: 

  • Heather Whiteman and Misael Cerpas (GE Digital, pictured below) provided an inspiring story of GE Digital’s people analytics journey – with a team of just two people – describing an approach that is people centred and has seen the business grow from 250 to 26,000 employees. In exchange for sharing data on their skills, passions and career aspirations, employees are provided with personalised recommendations around learning, role opportunities and the ability to build their careers in the organisation. In turn, this supports GE Digital with data to support strategic workforce planning, measure the impact of manager feedback and demonstrate the ROI of learning.
  • In his opening keynote, Josh Bersin highlighted the growth in HR technology that enables the collection and analysis of feedback from the workforce and managers, and the how this is then provided back in the form of action plans and personal ‘nudges’ to prompt behavioural change (see below).
  • An example of this was provided by Dawn Klinghoffer (Microsoft), who described how managers at Microsoft are provided with real-time feedback on behaviours that have a positive or negative impact on employee stress and engagement such as prompts suggesting holding off on sending emails on a Friday night.
  • Two other examples came from Aimee Wilford (Gap) and Marquam Piros (Seagate). Aimee described how through text analysis of employee survey comments via their provider Perceptyx, her team at Gap were able to identify that a number of hourly paid workers were underemployed and actively wanted to work more hours than they were. Marquam described how he had worked with TI People to redesign the employee experience journey at Seagate around personas based on insights from their survey provider Qualtrics around the ‘moments that matter’.   
  • This shift in people analytics to providing increased value to the workforce in terms of personalised recommendations that drive career development and personal nudges that help managers and workers understand the impact of their behaviours on the performance and wellbeing of their teams and colleagues is a welcome one. This was highlighted both by Josh Bersin (left) and also in Al Adamsen’s People Analytics 3.0 model (right in image below).    


3. DEVELOPING A DATA DRIVEN CULTURE

To create sustainable capability in people analytics, it is absolutely vital that the rest of HR – particularly HR Business Partners – embrace a data driven approach to people decisions. Indeed, in Bersin by Deloitte’s landmark High-Impact People Analytics research from 2017, organisations with advanced maturity in people analytics are three times more likely to have a culture of data-driven decision making. In many respects this is the Holy Grail for our field, and it is certainly the challenge that consistently ranks highest whenever I speak to practitioners and CHROs. Indeed, at Insight222 we have embarked on a co-creation, as part of The People Analytics Program, to support our member organisations in creating more business value through enabling their HRBP/HR communities to be more skilled in scoping, translating and driving action using people data and analytics. The speakers at PAFOW collectively offered a number of suggestions to effect, what is for the majority of organisations, change management. These included: 

  • RJ Milnor’s (McKesson) fireside chat with Al Adamsen was sprinkled throughout with insights about how to create a data driven culture, as RJ has done at Chevron and now McKesson. RJ highlighted the role of a ‘data translator’ to link the insights identified by the people analytics team to business strategy through effective communication, stakeholder management and consulting related skills. RJ also spoke of the need to create career paths for the people analytics team including secondments with the business and HRBP role. 
  • Former HRBP and now people analytics professional Richard Rosenow (Facebook) explained that analytics is about decision support and outlined an eight-step methodology to improve decision support (see below). This is a refreshing change from those in our field who perhaps too often point the finger at the HRBP community. Undoubtedly, many people in HRBP roles need to improve their data literacy, but so many of those in people analytics roles need to better understand the role of the HRBP and the challenges they face day to day. Richard’s model is a positive step towards recognising that one of the roles of the people analytics team is to support HRBPs and the business in taking decisions and measuring the outcomes of those decisions.
  • Working in partnership with HRBPs was a theme also addressed by Brad Hubbard, who described how his team at Bristol-Myers Squibb partnered with the HRBP community to co-create a process and dashboard related to highlighting relevant talent outcomes.  
  • The importance of communication was also highlighted by Dawn Klinghoffer who described how Microsoft uses its internal Yammer platform to tag updates relating to the work of the people analytics team with #datadrivenHR – this has prompted increased awareness, interest and adoption of people analytics within the business.
  • Heather Whiteman reminded us that creating a culture of analytics is an ongoing process to ensure continued success. This means regular communication and ‘selling’ of people analytics, before, during and after projects and initiatives. 
  • During my speech, I provided an example of a novel way of upskilling the wider HR team undertaken by Patrick Coolen and his team at ABN AMRO, which involved the creation of a Fact-based HR Escape Room designed to improve data literacy.  

Developing a data-driven culture in HR: Fact-based HR Escape Room at ABN Amro (left), Insight222 Co-Creation Project with member organisations of the People Analytics Program


4. ADVOCATING PEOPLE DATA FOR GOOD

People analytics is a privilege, not a right. Don’t erode employee trust whilst pushing people analytics 
Dawn Klinghoffer 

As mentioned in the opening line of this article, the overarching theme of PAFOW (in San Francisco as well as in the upcoming shows in London on 24/25 April and Philadelphia on 11/12 September) is ‘People Data for Good’. The theme was embraced wholeheartedly by speakers, vendors and delegates alike, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given that ethics, privacy and trust is perhaps the most important aspect of people analytics. There is tremendous potential for people analytics. If we get it right, then workers, managers and leaders will enjoy huge benefits. However, if we get it wrong then the whole field of people analytics could be derailed and set back a generation. Fortunately, the two days at PAFOW ably demonstrated that those leading the way in our field are prepared to grasp this responsibility, fiercely protect the sanctity of people data and ensure that our organisations are using people analytics for good. Examples over the two days included:

  • Dawn Klinghoffer devoted her entire speech to how to create employee trust with people analytics. Watch out for an upcoming article from Dawn and me, which will go into more detail, but some highlights from Dawn’s speech included: i) the need to work early with your legal team. In Dawn’s view it’s not acceptable to say legal won’t let you do it. Instead it is incumbent on the people analytics team to refine and improve its solution, ii) Establishing and reinforcing trust through focusing people analytics on providing value to the worker, iii) the three pillars of trust are: transparency (e.g. be open on what you are collecting and why), purpose (clear hypotheses and intention to act) and value (consider the impact on people who provide the data) - see pic below. 
  • Josh Bersin also presented a framework for ethics around four pillars: Privacy, Security, Bias and People Impact (see pic below), stressing that an important role for people analytics teams is to support the business in understanding whether recommendations from AI based engines mitigate or magnify bias. As Josh said, many of the claims from vendors in this critical area require more investigation and evidence with the belief that AI will reduce bias not really being proven yet.
  • Other highlights in this area from speakers at PAFOW came from David White(LinkedIn) who reminded delegates that can does not equal should when it comes to people analytics, Heather Whiteman (GE Digital) urging her peers ‘don’t be creepy’, and Piyush Mathur’s timely reminder that with people analytics, we have a direct impact on the lives of our workers.
  • The theme of ‘people data for good’ is set to become even more important for the field as i) the types of data being collected continues to broaden and deepen, ii) Jonathan Ferrar’s revelation that research by Insight222 found that four out of every five people analytics projects are jeopardised by ethical or privacy concerns, and iii) a new study showing the financial value of trust, which Manish Goel and I both referred to in our respective speeches. According to Accenture, this ‘Trust Dividend’ (see pic) is worth over $3 trillion.


BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER 

Achieving all the four ‘imperatives’ of the People Analytics Manifesto can be hard, but the rewards make it worth the effort. As well as providing demonstrable value to the business and the workforce in a wise and ethical way, people analytics teams are able to create sustainable capability through the evolution of a data-driven culture. The levers – or dimensions – to succeed were outlined by Jonathan Ferrar, who kicked off day 2 of PAFOW with a detailed presentation based of our Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model (see pic). The diagnostic is designed to help people analytics leaders identify and prioritise the dimensions to create more impact and value from your people analytics work.       


OTHER TAKEAWAYS FROM PAFOW

Day two of PAFOW primarily saw the floor given to the vendor community as some of the most innovative technologies in the field were presented to an eager audience. 

THE PEOPLE ANALYTICS TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE CAN BE DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE

Industry analyst Stacia Garr kicked off the technology sessions with a walk through the maze of the people analytics technology landscape. The space is so dynamic, complex and innovative that many practitioners struggle to keep up with the market, which makes navigating the multitude of vendors extremely difficult.

As such, the research partnership outlined by Stacia that her company RedThread Researchwill be embarking on in 2019 with PAFOW and Insight222 was much appreciated by the practitioners in the audience. 

The research will cover three key areas:

  1. What is the current state of the people analytics technology market?
  2. What are the strengths and opportunities of vendors in the space?
  3. What do customers most want from people analytics vendors?

If you want to have a say in helping to shape the research head over to the survey at peopleanalyticstech.com and provide your comments by 22 February.


THE INNOVATION BY VENDORS IN PEOPLE ANALYTICS IS TREMENDOUS

The breadth and depth of the vendors that presented and/or exhibited at PAFOW highlighted the continued investment, innovation, growth and diversity of the people analytics technology space.

PAFOW filmed the 13 vendors that presented - as well as the speeches by Stacia Garr, Jonathan Ferrar and me. These recordings will be made available via the PAFOW YouTube channel in the coming weeks, so look out for those. For now, check out the vendors, which fell into the following broad categories:

  • Talent market intelligence and analytics: LinkedIn Talent Insights, Gartner Talent Neuron, EMSI
  • Employee engagement: CultureAmp, Peakon, Glint, Qualtrics, Medallia, Perceptyx
  • Organisational network analysis: Microsoft Workplace Analytics, TrustSphere, Worklytics
  • Data aggregation visualisation and BI: Visier and One Model

A word also for the other vendors that exhibited at PAFOW: Cultivate, Splashbi, Office Vibe, People Insight, AON and HCMI. 

Last but not least, a special mention should go to Jessalyn Urchaz, who despite having to cope with a technical fault that meant she was unable to show her slides, delivered a spellbinding speech on how Microsoft’s Workplace Analytics supports behavioural change within organisations.


FOR MORE ON PAFOW

Perhaps the best indication of the buzz created by PAFOW has been the response since the conference ended in San Francisco, which has seen the following blogs and mini-LinkedIn takeaway summaries published already:

Also stay tuned to the PAFOW site and PAFOW YouTube Channel for pics and videos from the event. 

 

FINALLY, IT’S THE PEOPLE THAT MAKE IT SPECIAL…

First, a huge thank you to Al and the rest of the PAFOW team: Liz Hammond, Chris Broderick and Dafna Aaronson (all in pic with Al and me below) as well as Blake Humble, Cameron Ellis, Jason Smith, Sarah Spernenn, Barry Swales and Jeff Brown.


Pic
PEOPLE, HR & WORKFORCE ANALYTICS
How Organisational Network Analysis Fits with HR Analytics

Wouldn’t it be nice to understand exactly who the influencers are in your organisation? Social capital is critical to people and organisations, and has an emerging role to play in the HR Analytics field.

What if you could also accurately identify potential high-performers early in their careers? Would this change anything about how your company nurtures talent?

Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) is not a new phenomena, but it is a new trend for HR Analytics, aided by technology developments. The benefits of ONA for organisations are numerous, with some even suggesting that it can play a critical role in achieving digital transformation.

How does ONA and HR Analytics work together? Let’s take a closer look:

Free download: Key questions ONA can answer

What is organisational network analysis (ONA)?

Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) is a scientific methodology for visualising and analysing the formal and informal relationships within an organisation. It is a structured way to visualise how communication flows through your organisation, how information is gathered, and how decisions are made.

Deloitte provides a great explanation of how this works. Their description states that every organisation has nodes (people) who are the central conduits for information. They break down the different types of “nodes” in the following manner:

  • Central node: These are the people who seem to know everyone. Central nodes share lots of information and influence groups quickly. Central nodes can be anywhere in the hierarchy of an organization, are often well liked and highly engaged in company news and developments.

  • Knowledge broker: These people create bridges between groups. Without knowledge brokers, information and idea sharing grinds to a halt.

  • Peripheral: Easily overlooked and unconnected to the rest of the company, high-potential peripherals can be a risk to organizations. Exceptional Java coders who don’t teach others best practices not only stagnate product development, they are also easily convinced to take their talents elsewhere.

  • Ties: Ties are the formal and informal relationships between nodes. Establishing optimal relational ties between central nodes and knowledge brokers helps ensure useful information moves easily between and within groups.

The diagram below shows an example of these different nodes and how they might be structured:

HR Analytics
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At a minimum, ONA helps organisations identify where each of their people sit and how information typically flows. As Michael Arena of GM put it, ONA provides organisations with “a new lens to evaluate how people show up in an organisation.”

Organisational Network Analysis helps identify your real communication flow CLICK TO TWEET

Why is Organisational Network Analysis important?

Many organisations just don’t operate under traditional hierarchical structures anymore. At least, if they do on paper, they often don’t in reality. As CEO of Innovisor, Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard says; “all organisations have informal networks, beside the formal structures.”

This is illustrated by the diagram below, which shows the formal organisational chart at the left, then the ONA of how communication is really occurring at the right. 

HR Analytics
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What you will notice is that the Senior Vice President is more at the periphery of communication and knowledge transfer, and is potentially an untapped resource. Cole, a middle manager, is a “central node,” communicating with everyone across different groups. You can also see that Sen sits well at the outside, a potential turnover risk and maybe a loss to the company, especially if Sen is highly skilled.

As organisations continue to shift toward more agile structural models, ONA helps us to understand how those structures are working. This gives us the opportunity to try new programs or make improvements where needed. For example, the organisation in the diagram might look for better ways to use Jones as a resource.

At its core, ONA can help organisations unlock potential for innovation, productivity and improved performance. It also helps for identifying where the company can do better, for example how they can enhance the employee experience.

Overall, organisations see ONA as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. If you’re making the best use of your resources, you’re facilitating strong communication and creating a great employee environment. You’re also creating a strong climate to drive performance and success.

Greg Newman writes that ONA adds the dynamic of “social capital” to the typically static “human capital” data that HR Analytics teams have traditionally relied upon. Social capital includes the networks and relationships that people utilise to get their work done, whereas human capital refers to the traits and skill sets that they use.

Social capital plays a big role in team performance because workplaces don’t typically rely purely on skill sets to do the work. If you were to examine teams that aren’t performing up to their potential, you’ll often find that they could use some improvements in their social capital. Where teams are overly hierarchical and block communication flow, for example, this can result in poorer performance.

Where does ONA fit with HR Analytics?

To put it succinctly, HR Analytics is concerned with accurate data analysis across many applications, while ONA is one such form of data analysis. Analytics leaders across many organisations have expressed that their goal is to learn more about ONA and apply it to their work.

Where does the data come from? David Green describes “passive” versus “active” ONA, with data either coming straight from what people report (active), or being mined from what people do (passive). Using a combination of the two helps to build a more accurate picture.

HR Analytics

It is the role of HR Analytics to use ONA to generate insights and recommendations. Here are a few examples:

  • Pairing employee schedules with ONA data to help make better scheduling decisions
  • Identifying silos of information and finding ways to help improve information flow
  • Identifying skilled employees who are sitting at the periphery and looking for ways to engage them 
  • Identifying early who potential high-performers are and finding ways to enhance their development
  • Pinpointing who the central nodes are – these are important people to engage with for ensuring any changes are successful, for example.

Case study: GM

Michael Arena, Chief Talent Officer at GM wrote a book detailing how GM is “changing the way they change.” In Adaptive Space, he talks about how he views change as iterative or dynamic, rather than the more traditional fixation on “one size fits all” practices.

GM has used ONA to disrupt themselves from the inside and stimulate an innovative environment. The old-fashioned top-down structure which is still employed by many large companies was stifling to innovation, so a new model was needed.

GM began by analysing the connections between employees. This allowed them to determine who would be good candidates to be brought together. They wanted those who would be likely to have the biggest impact on innovation and product design to be working together. They created an environment which would be conducive to the sharing of ideas, which became known as “adaptive space,” just like Arena’s book.

One of the things that makes this approach different is that it was initiated by HR. In most traditionally-structured companies, grouping for innovation wouldn’t be in HR’s job description. However, the use of ONA put Arena and his team in the unique position of having the best information at hand to set up the teams.

Since implementation, GM has been able to launch several new products with much more agility than under previous models. As Arena says, organisational adaptation is social. It has much more to do with the way you link people up than the traditional processes for change.

Here are some of the questions ONA can help answer – download here

Final thoughts

Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) has been around for about a quarter of a century now, but newer technologies have helped it emerge as a trend in HR Analytics.

This is a big deal for HR because ONA opens up many possibilities for practical application. It’s not just about identifying communication flows, but finding likely high performers, identifying ways to improve the employee experience, and much more.

I anticipate that this is a trend that will continue to grow and become an essential skill for HR Analytics practitioners.