Digital workplace and employee experience (EX) represent the future of work. Much like marketers use analytics to measure customer experience, HR professionals are turning to the practice of “people analytics” to learn more about how their employees work, what drives them to perform, in order to make better decisions about all aspects of HR strategy with the goal of improving business. Number by Mckinsey and Company for example show that insights driven from people analytics lead to 80% increase in recruiting efficiency, 25% rise in business productivity, and 50% decline in attrition rates.
An HR professional myself, and having led or been part of basic efforts to gather and analyze employee data over the years, and seeing how business leaders are now, more than ever, turning to HR to learn even more using people analytics, one can easily claim that People Analytics is starting to play an integral role not only in talent but also in business decision-making in some organizations.
It is becoming imperative that the HR profession gives people analytics its dedicated attention and making it mainstream. I realize it is easier said than done though. So I turned to Giovanni Everduin, Founder and Managing Director of The ETNICITY Group to pick his brain and briefly dwell on his perspective on People Analytics. A Harvard Business School alum, Gio, as he likes people to call him, is a global expert on Organizational Strategy, Analytics and HR. He serves as Senior Advisor to the CEO of Commercial Bank International and as Senior Advisor to both Boston Global and Qlearsite. He is a passionate writer and speaker on The Future of Work and People Analytics and is featured in the analytics book “The Power of People”. Gio will be delivering a concurrent session in the upcoming SHRM19 conference in Las Vegas taking place on 23 - 26 June, titled “People Analytics for Beginners” where he will be sharing with the audience everything they need to get started on people analytics and deliver an initial set of analytical insights.
I started by asking Gio a very basic yet ‘set the scene’ type of question
“What is People Analytics anyway?”
Here’s what Gio had to say:
“People Analytics, or HR Analytics, is the systematic analysis of data in order to create actionable insight that drives people related decision making at a business level. I added the ‘business’ part to emphasize that People Analytics initiatives should always attempt to address strategic business priorities, rather than only focus on HR priorities.”
I like that, simple and profound, and certainly what HR needs to hear loud and clear… this is the future and it is here to stay… this is how we will bridge people and business…
Intrigued, I then moved to ask Gio very specific questions about the topic.
Think like a Marketer
Big data has been central to functions like marketing for years. Why is the topic of analytics just now taking off for the HR function?
Gio: “HR has traditionally had a significant reputation problem when it comes to being data driven or analytical. A good example of this is provided by Laszlo Bock (Google’s former Head of People Operations) in his ‘Work Rules’ book, where he states that Google’s People Operations team only hires 1/3 of traditional HR profiles, with another 1/3 being Strategy Consultants and the remaining 1/3 being Data Scientists. It became a chicken and egg story, where there may not have been sufficient data analysis skills within the HR profession to begin with, which then translated to the business lowering their expectations towards HR when it came to data, which then never drove HR to build the required skills to increase those expectations. One big issue that HR had always faced is the quality and completeness of available data, as well as the lack of easy to use analytics software for specializing in HR data. These days things are different. The business is increasingly expecting HR to deliver insight - fueled by public success stories from big Tech companies like Google or Facebook. In addition, various startups are solving the data issue and providing affordable tools to analyze and visualize HR data.”
We can no longer ignore it
How prevalent is the use of people analytics in HR today? What kind of data will the practice of people analytics bring and how will it help HR leaders achieve their organizational goals?
Gio: “Research by Deloitte shows that over 70% of companies say that People Analytics are a priority. According to David Green 69% of large organizations now have a People Analytics team. That being said, from my experience speaking and advising at conferences and organizations across the world on the subject, I feel that most organizations still struggle to clean & complete their data, understand which strategic questions they need to answer and as a result, get any real actionable insight. People Analytics, when done right, has the potential to help companies understand the various people related drivers for business success, and use that insight to design a workplace and workforce of the future that drive organizational performance and bottom line results.”
Ok I’m sold, where do I start?
Where should HR professionals who want to implement an analytics program start?
Gio: “Start with strategic questions that help you achieve your Mission, Vision, Business Strategy and/or Culture. People Analytics is much less about solving HR problems as it is to solve business problems using HR data. Any analytics capability lives or dies with the quality and relevance of the strategic questions it aims to answer. Without relevant, strategic questions, analytics is a means to no end. While you could still get some level of basic insight without first defining your questions, it would barely qualify as actionable. It’s sort of like having Google Maps without knowing where you want to go. I’m sure you’ll end up somewhere interesting if you just start walking but I’d doubt it’s where you need to be.”
What if employees think Big Brother is watching?
How do organizations distinguish people analytics from employee monitoring and surveillance?
Gio: “I strongly believe that Employee Data Privacy will be the number one topic for the HR community over the coming years. With an increasing amount of data and data sources becoming available, there will be definite temptation by some to use this for purposes that invade employee privacy, particularly when it comes to any tracking of movements. The role for HR will be to ensure that the data is used for appropriate purposes, interpreted in the right way and that the interests of employees is guarded at all times. There are various examples of companies using People Analytics for the benefit of the company and its employees. One such example is UPS using various data points to improve the efficiency of their delivery drivers. What’s great about their approach is that they explicitly ask for employee approvals when collecting data, while explaining how the data will be used. They even agreed on a hard rule that none of the data collected could ever be used for performance review decisions. This is a great example of leveraging People Analytics to drive business performance and increase employee engagement.”
Welcome to the future of HR
Gearing up to start your own ‘People Analytics’ program in your organization and need expert guidance on how to set it up, then mark your calendar with Gio’s session at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, and to learn more how to use analytics to solve business problems, based on real examples that can be easily replicated in your organization and what the future holds. And if you are like me and have a sweet spot for communications, then you will want to stick around for data meet art of storytelling…. Who else better than us, HR, to tell our own stories afterall.