Top 40 HR & People Analytics articles of 2017

I believe 2017 was a breakthrough year for people analytics. The last 12 months has seen the discipline move from the periphery towards the centre of the HR function.

This doesn’t mean that people analytics has yet crossed the chasm of widespread adoption. The champagne remains on ice. Nevertheless, the acknowledgement that people analytics is a core component of a digital HR strategy is becoming more widely acknowledged.

Consequently interest levels in analytics continue to soar. The number of conferences on the subject has tripled in the last 18 months. Adoption levels are rising too – albeit at a more sedate trajectory. The penny seems to have dropped with executives too with Josh Bersin recently writing that “CEOs and CHROs now understand that people analytics is a vital part of running a high performing company.”

For the last four years I have collated and published a compendium of the ‘best’ articles of the preceding 12 months – see 2014, 2015 and 2016, and following are my choices for the best 40 articles of 2017.

With a couple of notable exceptions, all of the articles listed are freely available to read. Most of my choices featured in my bi-monthly round-ups, but my human fallibility means that I missed a few gems. I hope I have redressed that here.

Thank you to all the authors below. Collectively, you are helping push the discipline forward through inspiring the growing number of people interested in people analytics and data-driven HR. I’d also like to thank the likes of Dave Millner, Caroline Brant, Richard Rosenow, Carla Gentry, Hung Lee, Nick Holley, Manoj Kumar, Andrée Laforge, Arun Chidambaram, Michael Carty, Amit Mohindra, Priya Bagga, Geetanjali Gamel and numerous others for regularly sharing and promoting my articles. Your support means a lot.

Without further ado and in no particular order, here are my 40 choices for 2017:

1. NIGEL GUENOLE, JONATHAN FERRAR & SHERI FEINZIG – The Power of People: Learn How Successful Organisations Use Workforce Analytics To Improve Business Performance

If you already work or are interested in the people analytics field, you must read this book. If you are a HR leader wishing to increase the impact of your function, you must read this book. If you are a business leader who expects more from HR, you must read this book. Nigel Guenole, Jonathan Ferrar and Sheri Feinzig have written what has quickly become regarded as the definitive book to date on people analytics. The Power of People is in part informed through interviews the authors conducted with a veritable who’s who of the people analytics field encompassing practitioners, academics, analysts, HR and business executives and consultants. The results speak for themselves. To find out more check out Jonathan’s preview articles and then go and buy the book. As a taster, the Eight-Step Model for Purposeful Analytics is provided as Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: The Eight-Step Model for Purposeful Analytics (Source: The Power of People: Nigel Guenole, Jonathan Ferrar and Sheri Feinzig (Pearson FT Press, 2017)

2. JOSH BERSIN – People Analytics Finally Grows Up | MADHURA CHAKRABARTI – High-Impact People Analytics Study: The 2017 Maturity Model

Josh Bersin is widely acknowledged as the world’s premier analyst on HR and he has been researching and writing about people analytics for longer than most. It is perhaps significant therefore that in this article, summarising some of the key findings of Bersin’s High-Impact People Analytics Study, Josh shares his belief that “people analytics has grown up” and is now an established function in the business. Now on to the report itself: if you are even remotely interested in people analytics and you are not a Bersin member, you simply must beg, steal or borrow a copy of Madhura Chakrabarti’s fabulous report. Its 71 pages are packed full of insights, case studies and advice to improve the impact of your people analytics function. Highlights include the seven top findings for driving high-impact people analytics (see Figure 2) and also a dramatic update and overhaul of Bersin’s infamous people analytics maturity model (see Figure 3).

Figure 2: Top findings from High-Impact people analytics research (Source: Bersin by Deloitte)

Figure 3: People Analytics Maturity Model (Source: Bersin by Deloitte)

3. AL ADAMSEN – People Analytics 3.0 | AL ADAMSEN & DAVID GREEN – People Analytics 3.0: The Podcast

Al Adamsen is one of the pioneers in the people analytics space having set up the Employee Insights function at Gap all the way back in 2004. He has worked tirelessly to raise the level of the discipline ever since so is well placed to describe how people analytics has evolved. As Figure 4 and Figure 5 below depict, and as Al describes, people analytics is moving into its third cycle where value is increasingly being delivered to those that create the data in the first place – employees. I like that Al is at pains to stress that the evolution he outlines is not a progression or maturity model – leading people analytics teams are deploying all three cycles via an ecosystem of data, tools, people, and partners. For more on Al’s thinking around 3.0, have a listen to my discussion with Al on the PAFOW podcast. Alternatively, there are still a few tickets to come and see Al speak at the People Analytics & Future of Work conference he convenes in San Francisco. This year’s conference takes place on 1-2 February.

Figure 4: The evolution of people analytics (Source: Al Adamsen)

Figure 5: Embrace the “And”: People Analytics 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 within the Analytics Maturity Progression (Source: Al Adamsen)

4. MICHAEL ARENA, ROB CROSS, JONATHAN SIMS, and MARY UHL-BIEN – How to Catalyze Innovation in Your Organization

One of the most fascinating uses (and fastest growing areas) of people analytics is how it is being used in combination with Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) to uncover insights in areas such as team effectiveness, collaboration and organisational design. A captivating example is provided in the MIT Sloan Management Review, which provides details of a ten-year study led by Rob Cross (aka Mr ONA) combining academic research and business to answer the question: “How do we best connect employees in ways that more systematically unleash emergent innovation?” The findings are illuminating and in brief include highlighting the importance of Adaptive Space (see Figure 6). Other highlights include a compelling case study of the work Michael Arena has led at GM, as well as a description of the three key roles within a network (Brokers, Central Connectors and Energisers). A terrific read with plenty to learn and be inspired by. More articles on ONA follow later.

Figure 6: Adaptive Space – the network and organisational context that allows people, ideas, information, and resources to flow across the organisation and spur successful emergent innovation – Source: MIT Sloan Management Review

5. MAX BLUMBERG & MARK LAWRENCEA call to arms for the future of People Analytics

In many respects the practice of people analytics is going in the right direction – interest levels have soared, adoption is rising and significant sums are being invested in the space by large consultancies, tech giants and start-ups alike. However, as Max Blumberg and Mark Lawrence so passionately argue, continued growth of people analytics is under threat. They cite a potent mix of ill-conceived products, consultants that promise the earth but fail to deliver, uneducated opportunists chasing filthy lucre and naïve consumers who are too easily satisfied by a funky dashboard. Max and Mark’s call for a professional body to outline competencies, define training, provide certification and perhaps most importantly a code of ethics is long overdue. Is anyone willing to take up the challenge in 2018?

People Analytics must become a profession, with a professional body that oversees its direction, ethics, competencies and standards

6. GILLIAN PILLANS & ALEC LEVENSON | CORPORATE RESEARCH FORUMStrategic Workforce Analytics

Similar to the Bersin by Deloitte research, this is a seminal study by Gillian Pillans and Alec Levenson for the Corporate Research Forum on the state of workforce/people analytics. Its 68 pages are jam-packed with a critique on the discipline (still too much ‘HR for HR’s sake’) as well as methodologies for connecting analytics with business strategy and guidance on building organisational capability. Whilst the CRF report correctly concludes that the discipline still has a long way to go, there is also plenty to learn from and be inspired by. Several case studies are provided that really bring the power of analytics alive. There are contributions from many of the people analytics cognoscenti including Ian Bailie, Esther Bongenaar, Olly Britnell, Nicky Clement, Belinda Deery, Alexis Fink, Nigel Guenole, Tim Haynes, Julian Holmes, Scott Kelly, Brydie Lear, Iain McKendrick, Dave Millner, Haig Nalbantian and Ian O’Keefe. I highly recommend you download the entire report via the excellent OrgVue.

Figure 7: Selected findings from the Corporate Research Forum’s Strategic Workforce Analytics report

7. PATRICK COOLEN – The perfect match: HR analytics and strategy

The intrinsic link between people analytics and strategy and the ability this provides to focus on the right projects is the central theme of Patrick Coolen’s terrific article. Patrick describes the four-year evolution of the people analytics function he leads at ABN AMRO. These cover evolutions in the tools and techniques used, the analytical service offered, the capabilities of the team, where the team sits within the bank (now as part of HR Strategy and Change) and how analytics has become a core component of HR’s DNA. Figure 8 below ably demonstrates how people analytics is a core underpin in building a HR strategy that helps the business reach its goals. As ever with Patrick’s articles there is plenty to learn from and to be inspired by.

To understand strategy, to operationalise strategy or to evaluate strategy you need analytics

Figure 8: People Analytics as a core underpin of business and HR strategy (Source: Patrick Coolen)

8. DAVID GREEN – What constitutes best practice in People Analytics?

I’m fortunate to spend most of my time speaking to and working with people analytics leaders around the world. This has helped me identify many of the common characteristics organisations that have been successful with people analytics share. These are illustrated below in Figure 9 and described in the article. A version of this article was included in the special issue on Human Capital Analytics of the Journal of Organizational Effectiveness People and Performance (see #20), which was a proud moment for me last year.

Figure 9: The characteristics of organisations with successful people analytics capability (Source: David Green)

9. DAVE ULRICH – Analytics on HR Analytics: What Really Works

In this article, Dave Ulrich outlines the findings of research he and the RBL Instituteconducted to assess the impact of competence in HR Analytics on three outcomes: i) personal effectiveness, ii) stakeholder value, and iii) business performance. The results weren’t what we in the people analytics field would have hoped for, with the impact on business performance being fairly modest. Ulrich also notes his surprise at the findings, but offers suggestions on how to transform analytics into a sustainable and value-added HR practice. First, he confirms that analytics do matter and how used effectively can only improve decision-making. Then he recommends the need to i) focus analytics on the right business issues, ii) manage expectations by linking analytics projects to business outcomes, and iii) to build analytics on previous research. It will be fascinating to watch how business impact rises as people analytics continues to mature and becomes accepted as a core component of HR.

Sustainability comes when HR is not about HR but about stakeholder and business impact

10. FRANK BAFARO, DIANA ELLSWORTH & NEEL GANDHIThe CEO’s guide to competing through HR

This terrific McKinsey Quarterly article implores HR to step out of its traditional silo mentality and embrace a new mindset of explicitly using talent to drive value rather than just responding passively to the routine needs of businesses. The authors set out a four-pronged strategy (see Figure 10) that places people analytics and data driven HR front and centre. The article argues that “companies that take these steps will move toward a next generation of HR that’s data driven, not experience driven; systematic, not ad hoc; and consistent, not hit and miss.” This is a must-read for all CHROs and augers well for the continued growth and influence of analytics in HR.

Figure 10: The CEO agenda for the ‘New HR’ (Source: McKinsey)

11. JONATHAN FERRAREthics and Privacy in Workforce Analytics

In this article, Jonathan Ferrar tackles arguably the most important part of people analytics and certainly one of the biggest challenges facing practitioners – ethics and privacy. The central part of the article is the revelation from a study by Insight222 that 81% of people analytics projects (see Figure 11) are jeopardised by ethics and privacy concerns. Jonathan’s advice includes the need for people analytics leaders to work closely with their Chief Privacy Officer, publish a code of conduct, establish a governance council and above all put employee trust and transparency at the centre of what you do.

Figure 11: 81% of people analytics projects are jeopardised by ethics and privacy concerns (Source: Jonathan Ferrar / Insight222)

12. LAURENCE COLLINS, DAVID R. FINEMAN & AKIO TSUCHIDA(with contributors including MADHURA CHAKRABARTI & LUK SMEYERS) – People Analytics: Recalculating the route

Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends is always a captivating read and the 2017 edition was no exception. People Analytics gets a whole chapter. The headline finding being that people analytics is “no longer about finding interesting information and flagging it for managers” but is now being utilised to “understand every part of a business operation” with analytical tools “being embedded into day-to-day decision making”. A detailed example from Chevron is provided, as are eight factors the authors believe are fundamental to creating a people analytics program. There are a number of invaluable insights in the report not least Figure 12 below depicting the old and new rules of people analytics. It certainly whets the appetite for the 2018 report, which is due to be published in Q1.

Figure 12: People Analytics – Old rules vs. New rules (Source: Deloitte University Press)

13. ANDREW SPENCE – The Quantified Workplace: Technology Vs. Trust?

This article by Andrew Spence is one that I regularly go back to read as it is innovative, insightful and infused throughout with Andy’s wit and dry sense of humour. It starts by telling the story of Jo and her automated coaching partner, Sirius and their trip to work in the office of the future. The examples Andy gives on the insights that Sirius offers Jo throw up plenty of questions around privacy, prediction and data sets. As Andy goes on to detail, from a technological perspective most of what he describes is already possible. However, and this is the crux, the low levels of trust most employees have in their organisations means that many of us believe that quantifying the workplace is still in the realms of science fiction. Andy’s view that “the winners will not be those who enable the technology, but those who construct a new contract with employees, based on trust” seems entirely plausible. An original, thought provoking and entertaining read.

If we don’t have trust or empowered employees, all we will have is Digital Taylorism – a modern version of ‘scientific management’ that threatens to dehumanise the workplace

14. ADAM GRANT & REB REBELE – Beat Generosity Burnout

This HBR article presents the findings of a fascinating four-year study by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele and is a superb example of the extent of the impact ambitious people analytics projects can have on both individuals and organisations. The study examines perhaps the most important people in any organisation – the ‘givers’, how uncontrolled their generosity puts them at risk of burnout and the steps they can adopt so that they don’t wear themselves out. The advice offered (see also Figure 13 below) broadly falls into three areas: i) be more proactive and less reactive about how you help, ii) focus on lower cost and higher impact ways of helping, and iii) be more selective rather than helping everyone with everything. For more on this subject, read Adam and Reb’s follow-up article – More on Being Generous Without Being a Doormat and watch this video.

Figure 13: Where are you on the generosity spectrum and 7 habits of highly productive giving – Adam Grant and Reb Rebele

15. NIGEL GUENOLE & SHERI FEINZIG5 Truths about Workforce Analytics | NIGEL GUENOLE, SHERI FEINZIG, DAVID GREEN & HAIYAN ZHANGHR analytics readiness: How does Europe compare to the rest of the world?

In the first article, Nigel Guenole and Sheri Feinzig adopt a mildly provocative stance and offer five generalisable ‘truths’ about workforce analytics. Their thinking was partly informed by the second article, which summarises the findings of research conducted by IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute and UNLEASH into HR analytics readiness across the world. The headline finding of the research was that whilst demand from the business for workforce data and analytics is high and CHROs are increasingly supportive of this initiative, HR functions – particularly in Europe – are lagging behind. I presented highlights of the research at HR Tech World in Amsterdam in October 2017 – the deck is below.

16. TRACEY SMITH86% of Executives Can’t Find Value in Analytics – Why not?

One of the most prolific and best writers on people analytics is Tracey Smith. Of the many excellent articles Tracey published in 2017, I have opted for this one. The article analyses a McKinsey study, which found that 86% of executives are still not getting value from analytics. Tracey focuses on the importance of the role of the analytics leader, their position within the organisation (the higher, the better), the need for them to ‘get out into the business’, and the importance of prioritisation and focus. An essential read for any current or aspiring people analytics leader.

Success in analytics is about focus and prioritisation

17. MARK BERRY – Getting To Evidence Based HR Part 1 and Part 2

The eminently quotable Mark Berry has trod the path I predict many heads of people analytics will follow – all the way to the CHRO role as the practice of HR finally becomes more evidence based. This two-part article in John Sumser’s excellent HR Examinerprovides the perfect roadmap for success. Part 1 outlines 10 of the key steps (see Figure 14below) Mark followed, whilst Part 2 looks at each of these steps in more detail. Mark’s passion, knowledge and humour shines throughout what is both a hugely enjoyable and insightful read.

Figure 14: 10 steps to evidence based HR (Source: Mark Berry, HR Examiner)

18. GREG NEWMANWhy informal networks are set to revolutionise HR and People Analytics

It is becoming increasingly acknowledged that we need to rethink organisational design around how work actually gets done in the 21st century. This is where Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) comes in. The opportunities this offers HR leaders and people analysts is perfectly described by Greg Newman of TrustSphere in this excellent article. Learn how ONA has evolved from a paper based process into a real time continuous flow of data that has transformed the ability of companies to map their informal networks and understand how work really gets done. Greg provides examples of how ONA/SNA can help identify influential employees, support succession planning, identify good/bad leadership behaviours (see Figure 15) and the effectiveness (or otherwise) of collaboration.

Figure 15: Quantified evidence of leaderships behaviours (Source: Greg Newman)

19. MORTEN KAMP ANDERSENWhy evidence-based HR is critical to success and how to get started

I always enjoy Morten Kamp Andersen’s insightful articles on evidence-based HR. His most recent effort is one of his best. There are two aspects of the article I’d like to highlight. First, as Morten says, “the purpose of evidence-based HR is not to find ‘the Right Answer’ – we are dealing with people after all. The purpose is to use all available evidence (research, internal data, analysis, experience, interviews etc.) to find the solution with the highest probability of adding the most value to your organisation.” This is our best hope of mitigating the bias and prejudice inherent to varying degrees in all of us. Morten then goes on to describe an approach (see Figure 16), which emphasises the importance of starting with the business challenge rather than getting lost in the data.

Figure 16: The HR Value Chain (Source: Morten Kamp Andersen)

20. DANA MINBAEVA Human Capital Analytics: Why Aren’t We There? | THOMAS RAMUSSEN & JORRIT VAN DEN TOGT – Toward Evidence Based HR | JOHN BOUDREAU & WAYNE CASCIO, MORTEN KAMP ANDERSEN, ALEC LEVENSON & ALEXIS FINK, SJOERD VAN DEN HEUVEL & TANYA BONDAROUK, DAVID GREENJournal of Organizational Effectiveness: People and Performance – Special Issue on Human Capital Analytics (Link to all Articles)

As Dana Minbaeva, Founder of the Human Capital Analytics Group at Copenhagen Business School, muses in the first article despite overwhelming consensus that analytics and evidence based decision-making will be a mandatory part of the future, HR still isn’t quite there when it comes to widespread adoption. The ‘Why Aren’t We There Yet?’ question inspired Dana to edit a Special Issue of the Journal of Organizational Effectiveness, People and Performance on Human Capital Analytics. The special issue features a host of some of the leading thinkers in the field. Dana provides a preview of each contribution in her article. The second article by Thomas Rasmussen and Jorrit van der Togt, which is free to download, describes the HR analytics journey at Shell. I am grateful that Dana asked me to contribute my ‘The Best Practices to Excel at People Analytics’ article (see #8) – it is humbling to be in such esteemed company.

In order to make analytics actionable, we need to get both researchers and practitioners on the dance floor, where they can tango together

Dana Minbaeva

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Looking for a conference on or featuring people analytics in 2018? Click on the link below to explore over 75 conferences taking place all over the world from Jan-Dec 2018.

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21. CARLA ARELLANO, ALEXANDER DiLEONARDO, and IGNACIO FELIXUsing people analytics to drive business performance: A case study

One way to help the continued growth of people analytics is the publication of case studies so that companies can be inspired and learn from the successes others have had and apply these to their own organisations. What makes this example of a fast food restaurant chain so instructive is i) it demonstrates the power of people analytics on frontline staff, ii) the insights derived have led to dramatic improvements in customer satisfaction, service performance, and overall business results, and iii) the analysis busted a number of myths (see Figure 17) that had pre-existed within the organisation. Finally, the case study is in-depth, well-written and also demonstrates that one way of accelerating progress in people analytics is to partner with an external party (in this case McKinsey).

Figure 17: CASE STUDY – Employee features correlating to the desired outcomes (Source: McKinsey)

22. VOLKER JACOBS – How to reverse the HR Transformation Death Spiral

Less than 20% of HR transformation programs produce the desired results. Why so, asks Volker Jacobs in this excellent article? Volker then outlines the three waves of HR transformation, describing why the first two that focused on i) economies of scale, and ii) technology have largely failed. The third wave is employee-focused transformation, and this represents the opportunity for HR to reverse the death spiral. Volker describes the three elements that make up the third wave (see Figure 18), and introduces some interesting concepts around data ownership: i) that employees will own and manage their own master data, and ii) that companies will no longer own employee data but will have permission to use it. A fascinating idea, just like a number of others Volker outlines in the article. A must read for any organisation that is embarking or thinking of embarking on a HR transformation program.

Figure 18: Three waves of HR Transformation (left) and Three elements of Employee Focused Transformation (Right) – (Source: Volker Jacobs, TI People)

23. JONATHAN FERRAR How to be a successful people analytics leader

In this article on HR Zone, Jonathan Ferrar draws on research from The Power of People to outline the key ingredients required to be a successful people analytics leader. The first is that the role should report to the CHRO not least as it sends a clear message that “the CHRO is putting analytical decision making at the heart of the HR function.” Jonathan then describes how business acumen (comprising financial literacy, political astuteness and awareness of both the internal organisation and the external marketplace) is the most important skill for people analytics leader to have. The organisations that are furthest forward with people analytics have great leaders and those that aspire to emulate these companies would do well to heed the advice Jonathan offers here.

Forward-thinking CHROs will want to have the workforce analytics leader report to them and be accountable directly to them

24. DAWN KLINGHOFFERHow to turn meatloaf into cupcakes

One successful people analytics leader who possesses all of the attributes described by Jonathan is Dawn Klinghoffer, who leads the people analytics team at Microsoft. In this article, Dawn cleverly combines her twin passions of cooking and analytics to share some of the lessons she has learned as a people analytics leader. These include: the need to understand what is important for your business leaders, getting to the ‘why’ rather than stopping at the ‘what’ and the importance of knowing your audience when it comes to presenting insights in a way that will resonate. A perfect recipe! If you want to read more about the people analytics journey at Microsoft, please read my interview with Dawn.

It took me a while to realise it, but the more I worked with my HR business partners and HR program owners, the more they sought me out to help them and the more value they saw in the results

25. DAVID CREELMANHow to Prepare HR Business Partners for Analytics

As Dawn explains in the quote above, if analytics is to become part of the DNA of HR then it simply has to embraced by HR Business Partners (HRBPs). As David Creelmanconvincingly lays out in this excellent guest post on Analytics in HR, the long-term success of your people analytics program depends on it. The challenge is that many HRBPs are notoriously busy and not natural bedfellows for analytics. Creelman offers some invaluable advice on how to enthuse, equip and enable HRBPs and move them to the centre of your analytics equation.

The success of your people analytics program depends on your HR business partners

26. THOMAS RASMUSSEN – Engagement Drives Performance: Evidence from People Analytics

Does engagement really drive performance? Or is it the other way round? This is a question Thomas Rasmussen argues can be answered by people analytics. Thomas, who has led people analytics teams at Maersk Drilling, Shell and now National Australia Bank, is not one for the hyperbolic. So when he presents evidence that engagement really does drive both business and individual performance over time (2-3 years), then we should all pay attention. Indeed, Thomas writes that the potential uplift in Sales or Customer Satisfaction (NPS) is typically in the 15-25% range, which as he says is a massive opportunity.

Building employee engagement is a bit like buying shares: you are investing in the future, and both employers, customers, shareholders and employees can collectively reap the dividends ongoing

27. STEPHEN TURBAN, LAURA FREEMAN & BEN WABER – A Study Used Sensors to Show That Men and Women Are Treated Differently at Work

Earlier articles by Michael Arena & Rob Cross et al and Greg Newman provide examples of how ONA coupled with people analytics is helping firms to gain insights into what drives productivity, innovation and collaboration. Two more examples follow here. First, Ben Waber et al document an experiment that investigated whether gender differences in behaviour drive gender differences in outcomes at one multinational organisation. The results, which combined anonymised data from emails and Humanyze sociometric badges, indicated that bias rather than differences in behaviour explained the differences in male and female promotion rates. These are not only powerful findings that demonstrate the value of people analytics, but they also highlight the fundamental challenge facing most organisations of the need to reduce bias. The second article by Philip Arkcoll describes why when looking at passive data sources for ONA, email on its own can provide an incomplete picture. Philip illustrates this perfectly in Figure 19, which depicts six different network relationships from different tools in one organisation.

Companies need to approach gender inequality as they would any business problem: with hard data

Figure 19: networks that exist within different tools in a single organisation (Source: Philip Arkcoll)

28. KEITH McNULTYPeople Analytics: What’s the big deal?

In the last 12 months Keith McNulty, who leads people analytics and measurement globally for McKinsey, has emerged as one of the best writers on people analytics and deservedly received recognition as a LinkedIn Top Voice for 2017. Check out a helpful summary of all of Keith’s articles from 2017 here. In the article I’ve selected, Keith cites the advances in technology, digital and innovation as the fundamental cause of the increased hype, interest and adoption of people analytics. He then describes the opportunities these advances have enabled when it comes to understanding and analysing people: the enrichment of the digital exhaust, new people data to analyse and new ways to analyse people data.

We are in the midst of a genuine paradigm shift in how we gather and analyse people data, and it’s the technology that has taken us here

29. TOM HAAK – The Psychology of People Analytics

Inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s monumental ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ and Rolf Dobelli’s ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly’, Tom Haak summarises 15 cognitive biases that are relevant to the work and results of people analytics projects. As Tom states “there is a benefit for people analytics professionals to learn more about psychology and important cognitive biases, because no one is exempt from these biases”. Also check out below Tom’s video on this subject as well as Figure 20 for Buster Benson’s Cognitive Bias Sheet, to which Tom refers.

Figure 20: Cognitive Bias Codex (Source: John Manoogian III and Buster Benson)

30. BERNARD MARR – Is HR Data Even More Valuable To A Business Than Its Financial Data?

The premise of this excellent article by Bernard Marr is that, in the information age, people data is rapidly becoming the most valuable source of data in the business. Marr cites the spike in companies investing in technology that can measure and analyse the behaviour and performance of their employees. One example is Deloitte with their ConnectMe HR analytics platform, which is focused firmly on the needs of employees. Marr’s discussion with Deloitte principal Michael Gretczko about the platform is revealing, and we can expect to a see a flood of companies adopting similar platforms that are “tailored specifically for employees”, which “bring personalised content and experiences based on what employees need”. I concur with Marr’s quote below and believe that it distils the central theme for people analytics moving forward perfectly.

A company which understands its employees is without a doubt better placed to keep them motivated, happy and productive. But a great deal of care will have to be taken to gain this understanding in a manner that is transparent and in-line with people’s expectations of privacy

31. JOHN BOUDREAU – HR Analysts: Unleash Your Inner Storyteller

In this article for the Visier blog, John Boudreau urges analytics leaders to use the structure and classical elements of storytelling taught by Aristotle when communicating the insights of their projects to the business. Boudreau then uses the classic story of the Three Little Pigs to walk the reader through how to tell a good HR Analytics story with all the elements required: exposition, rising action(s), climax, falling action and resolution. Insightful and fun at the same time with a nice mention for Mark Berry and Jonathan Ferrar too.

Too often the story is framed with the language and perspective of HR analysts. The most engaging story is not about analysis. It’s about actions and the lessons learned

32. ANNA OTT – A year with our recruiting chatbot

There has been a lot of talk about the use of chatbots in HR – most of it from vendors, analysts and industry influencers. It is refreshing therefore to read an article from Anna Ottdetailing her experience of the chatbot she implemented to support the recruiting process at hub:raum (the incubator of Deutsche Telekom). The findings and observations that Anna goes on to detail are fascinating, sometimes surprising and a good source of inspiration for other practitioners looking to implement chatbots within their own organisations.

People love extracting information from algorithms

33. LAURA STEVENSWhy HR Analytics is Critical to Employee Experience Success

One of the emerging topics in people analytics and potentially one of its most important benefits is how it can underpin efforts to understand, improve and personalise the employee experience. This superb article by Laura Stevens of iNostix by Deloitte outlines first why investment in people analytics is a pre-requisite and then describes three ways analytics can boost programs in this area: i) segmentation, ii) targeting and prioritising investment as well as iii) understanding and demonstrating value.

Making a meaningful impact on employee experience & business outcomes requires investing in HR analytics early on in the transformational effort

34. PRASAD SETTY – Google’s head of People Analytics talks making work better

In this re:Work article and must-watch video, Prasad Setty asserts that research trumps best practice when it comes to making work better for employees. Unfortunately, as Prasad describes, the vast majority of HR programs simply replicate practices from other organisations. Given that each organisation has a different culture and what employees are looking for is also different, is it any surprise that many of these programs fail? Prasad provides examples of the research his people analytics team have conducted (see Figure 21) to help Googlers make better decisions in areas such as onboarding (by proactively seeking feedback), saving for retirement and diet. These examples all follow the principles of behavioural economics in terms of framing different choices, and all draw on the philosophies habitually used in consumer marketing.

Figure 21: Examples of people analytics projects at Google (Source: Prasad Setty, re:Work by Google)

35. DRAKE BENNETT – The Brutal Fight to Mine Your Data and Sell It to Your Boss

The definitive account of the hiQ Labs vs. LinkedIn legal battle, which grabbed attention throughout last year and is set to continue to do so in 2018. As it stands, hiQ may have won the first battle over its right to use public data from LinkedIn (i.e. the data you and me are happy to be public) within its products that help customers predict and subsequently address employee skills gaps and flight risk. However, as this captivating article from Drake Bennettin Bloomberg Businessweek outlines, LinkedIn has filed an appeal and the saga looks set to run and run all the way to the US Supreme Court. Spare a thought for Darren Kaplan, and the hiQ team as this case is disrupting the growth and upwards trajectory of what is one of the most impressive people analytics start-ups. For more on the battle, tune in to a recent edition of the Chad & Cheese Podcast with Mark Weidick, CEO of hiQ.

36. RUPERT MORRISONFive mindsets HR needs to get right to deliver business impact

I always enjoy spending time with Rupert Morrison and his super smart team at OrgVue. Like me they advocate that people analytics isn’t about providing insights that help HR – instead it should be about improving the organisation. In this terrific article, Rupert offers five mindsets HR should adopt to win hearts and minds within the business. Two suggestions I’d particularly like to highlight are first the need for HR to couple analytics with organisational design to answer the question “how good is my workforce in executing the business strategy?” Morrison’s idea to gamify and crowdsource the data collection and cleaning process is also quite brilliant. A must-read.

Having prediction is desirable, but the real value lies in taking action

37. DAVID D’SOUZA – People Analytics: Is Restraint a Constraint? | GARETH JONES – Whose Data is it Anyway?

This pair of articles from two of the most thoughtful and acerbic writers in our space tackles two critical questions relating to people analytics and the use by organisations of employee data. First, David D’Souza examines the delicate balancing act that is embracing technology and analytics whilst at the same time being considerate to privacy and data ownership. David deliberately advocates a cautious approach (e.g. “just because it has a mutual benefit – for employee and employer – this still doesn’t mean it is right”) and offers some sensible guidance on what could be permissible. In a similar vein, Gareth Jones looks at the thorny issue of data ownership and makes a compelling case that it is owned by the employee and merely shared with the employer. With the new sources of employee data that are increasingly being captured and analysed (e.g. social capital, wearables etc) then Gareth’s call for this data to be shared with employees for their value and benefit is one many of us will agree with.

Without the employee, there is no data. Without the employee, there is no insight

Gareth Jones

We want the data (because we want the insight), but we have to balance that against genuine duty of care to our colleagues

David D’Souza

38. GRETA ROBERTS – Five Ways to Select a High Value, Predictive HR Project

Greta Roberts has had an amazing start to 2018, with confirmation that her company Talent Analytics has been acquired by Hire Smarter. This is deserved reward for someone who has given so much to the space. Greta is an accomplished writer too and has a refreshing ‘shoot from the hip’ style. This is accurately reflected in this article where Greta pulls no punches in offering guidance on how to select a predictive HR project. Her first piece of advice to first identify a business problem to solve should be carved in stone.

You need to first know what you’re looking for before you embark on a predictive project

39. MICHAL GRADSHTEIN – The ‘Data-Driven Time Machine’ of People Analytics

This is an excellent read from the Analytics in HR blog by Michal Gradshtein, founder at ONA start up StarLinks, on the role of people analytics in shaping organisational culture and employee experience. Anything that evokes and combines Marty McFly (yes, THAT Marty McFly) and Voltaire, as Michal skilfully does here, is definitely worth a read. Michal likens predictive and prescriptive analytics to a ‘data-driven time machine’ in which we enter the right data and the right questions to predict the future and alter it. This comes with huge responsibilities and also a need for caution just as Doc reminded Marty in Back to the Future of the ripple effect one small intervention could have on the future. Clever, entertaining and hugely insightful – a terrific read.

Questions are a very powerful tool we can leverage to support our role as proactive culture-drivers

40. EDWARD HOUGHTONHR risk and opportunity: evolving the language of HR | EDWARD HOUGHTON, LOUISA BACZOR, DR ACHIM KRAUSERT & PROFESSOR CLINT CHADWICK  – Do investors see the potential of people data?

Ed Houghton is one of the unsung heroes driving the people analytics and data-driven HR agenda, which he does under the auspices of the CIPD. In the first article, he sets out why the impact of HR needs to be framed through a risk lens as well as the opportunity lens through which we traditionally view the discipline. Naturally, as Ed goes on to say, this approach needs to be founded on getting measurement right and applying analytics. Ed then nicely links the article to recent research he led for the CIPD together with Warwick Business School and University of Kansas School of Business, which examines the extent that human capital data is used in investment decisions (see video below, which demonstrates the key findings of the research).

That’s all for 2017. I hope you enjoyed the articles. The last word is to thank all of the people in the image below – the writers behind the 40 articles you’ve just read.

Here’s to a prosperous data-driven and employee focussed 2018!

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