Q & A with David Green | The HR Tech Weekly®

People Analytics Is Core to the Future of the HR Function: Q&A with David Green

People Analytics Is Core to the Future of the HR Function

Today our guest is David Green, a true globally respected and award winning writer, speaker, conference chair and executive consultant on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work.

David is the Global Director, People Analytics Solutions at IBM Watson Talent. He is also the longstanding Chair, of the Tucana People Analytics conference series, the next edition of which – the People Analytics Forum, takes place in London on 29-30 November.

David has spoken at conferences and/or worked with people analytics leaders in over 20 cities in the past year including San Francisco, Sydney, London, Paris, Singapore, New York, Amsterdam, Moscow and Berlin. This affords David with a unique perspective and insight into what’s working, what’s not, and what’s forthcoming in the field of people analytics.

The interview is hosted by Alexey Mitkin, Founder, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, The HR Tech Weekly® Online Media Co.

1. Hi David, and first of all thank you very much for this interview with The HR Tech Weekly®. The year of 2017 is approaching its end. What made a difference this year in the field of people management and HR technologies?

Thanks Alexey, it is a pleasure to speak with you. For me, 2017 has been a pivotal year in the field as the realisation that people analytics is core to the future of the HR function has become far more widespread. In one of his recent articles (see here), Josh Bersin described people analytics “as the lynchpin of success for HR in the next few years”, and I have to say I completely agree – although that probably doesn’t surprise you!

We still have some way to go in terms of widespread adoption and just as importantly in embedding analytics and data-driven decision making within organisational culture, but the acceptance that this is core rather than peripheral is a welcome momentum shift.

Elsewhere, the move from many companies to develop programs and technologies that personalise the candidate/employee experience in areas such as talent acquisition, onboarding, learning and mobility is also positive. It’s about time that we have rich and personalised experiences at work similar to those we already enjoy as consumers. Data and analytics plays a foundational role in this.

2. People analytics is an area of profound interest to business leaders. What do you see as the main trends in the people analytics space?

You are right to highlight the heightened interest levels in people analytics Alexey. I’d summarise the main trends as follows:

  • More and more organisations getting started with people analytics – 2017 seems to have been the year that the talking about when to start analytics stopped and the actual hard work in creating capability began for many organisations. So, the number of organisations in the early stages of their people analytics journeys is on the increase and many will face similar challenges in terms of data quality, skills and capabilities, stakeholder management/education and project prioritisation. Our recent IBM Smarter Workforce Institute research on HR Analytics Readiness in Europe demonstrated though that most organisations still have a long way to go.
  • Developing an analytical culture: this is key for organisations that want to develop sustainable capability in people analytics. This means exciting, equipping and enabling HR Business Partners, and clearly demonstrating and communicating the impact of people analytics initiatives within the organisation. This is the focus of many companies that have built initial capability and success in people analytics.
  • Ethics and privacy concerns: this continues to be the most important and challenging aspect for practitioners. Research from Insight222 reveals that 81% of people analytics projects are jeopardised by ethical and privacy concerns. With the EU GDPR legislation coming into effect in May 2018 and the emergence of new employee data sources, focus on this area will continue to be high.
  • The consumerisation of HR – as per my earlier point, many organisations that have developed people analytics capability are looking at ways to understand and improve the employee experience. In addition to the personalised machine-learning based technologies referenced earlier, this includes efforts to understand and analyse employee sentiment. You can’t do either of these things without analytics so those organisations that have already developed people analytics capability are in pole position to take advantage here.
  • Organisational network analysis (ONA) – interest in ONA has exploded in 2017 as organisations seek to better understand team effectiveness and productivity. Practitioners interested in this burgeoning area of people analytics should check out the work of Rob Cross, recent articles by Josh Bersin and vendors like TrustSphere, Humanyze and Worklytics. Expect interest in this area to continue to soar in 2018.

3. On the eve of People Analytics Forum 2017 could you slightly open the curtain on what makes an ideal agenda in modern HR analytics, workforce planning and employees insights then?

I always enjoy chairing the Tucana People Analytics World and People Analytics Forum events as the agenda is always cognisant of the fact that the diversity of delegates in terms of where they are with analytics varies widely. As such, the three tracks: Start (for those getting started), Grow (for those building capability and looking for deeper insight) and Advance (for advanced practitioners and those exploring new data sources) means there is something for everyone. This is hugely important as in my experience the people analytics community is highly collaborative and there is a mutual desire amongst practitioners for shared learning. The Tucana events provide this in spades.

4. It was heard that some attendees of conferences recently formed a viewpoint that the slow adoption of analytics has been because of a lack of practical cases delivered by speakers. Your point of view on the problem will be of great influence.

I haven’t really heard this viewpoint from many. I would argue the contrary in fact that most of the conferences I attend feature numerous and diverse case studies from practitioners. I think you need a balance of speakers from the practitioner, consultant, vendor and analyst communities as each provides a slightly different perspective – indeed much of the innovation in the space is coming from the vendor community. As such, at the conferences I chair, speak and attaned there is normally much to inspire delegates whatever their maturity level when it comes to people analytics. Of course, there is a distinction between being inspired and immitation as each organisation faces different business challenges and has unique cultures. If I could offer one piece of advice to practitioners, whatever their maturity level, it is to channel their efforts on the key business challenges that have the biggest impact within their organisations.

5. What new data-driven HR solutions are on your watchlist and why?

As I mentioned before much of the innovation in the people analytics space is coming from the vendor community and I always recommend to practitioners to keep abreast of the latest developments here. Data-driven companies to look at include: TrustSphere, Alderbrooke Group, Aspirant, Glint, Visier, Crunchr, Workometry, Peakon, OrgVue, Headstart, Worklytics, Humanyze, Qlearsite, One Model, hiQ Labs, Cultivate and StarLinks; and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head!

If you’ll forvive the self-promotion, I would like to add that IBM is also doing some groundbreaking work in this space through bringing Watson to HR, particularly in the talent acquisition and the employee experience areas – see more here.

6. What advice would you give to HR professionals looking to boost their careers within the people analytics space?

Well, firstly you should get yourself along to the People Analytics Forum and read my articles on LinkedIn!

Seriously, analytics is a core capability for the future HR practitioner and it won’t be long before the likes of CIPD and SHRM build this into their educational programs. Until then, find some courses (like the Wharton School course on Coursera), attend some conferences, read some books (like The Power of People and the Basic Principles of People Analytics), and seek to learn from analytics professionals both in and outside of HR.

For me, HR is one of the most exciting places in business to work in at the moment and the increased use of analytics and data-driven decision making is one of the reasons why I believe this to be the case.

The Five Elements of Great Organizational Cultures

The Five Elements of Great Organizational Cultures on The HR Tech Weekly®

I believe we are living through one of the best times in the history of work. Thanks to the advancement in technology and instant access to information, our generation has a greater sense of empathy, ethics, and values. In the past, job seekers would be looking for a place that would pay them well and give them good benefits. Now, job seekers are looking for organizations that have great cultures. Companies need to offer individuals a sense of belonging and a mission to accomplish something remarkable. With no culture, an organization, is not sustainable in the 21st century. I have come up with five elements that are essential to building and sustaining great organizational cultures. Those elements are: purpose, ownership, community, effective communication, and good leadership.

Purpose: Going back to the premise that we have a greater sense of ethics and empathy. We are less selfish, and we want to be a part of solving a problem greater than ourselves. We need to understand the why of what we do. Companies now need to have a strong mission statement where they can share the why with their team members. A great example that comes to mind is SpaceX, a company that builds rockets for space exploration. This is their mission statement: “SpaceX was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.” Now… that’s a mission statement! That’s something bigger than anybody.

Ownership: The second element in building a great organizational culture is ownership. Ownership is about giving people the opportunity to be accountable for their results without being micromanaged. Giving people the autonomy over their time to accomplish their goals. Basecamp is a company that builds software for project management. They are a great example of a company that promotes ownership. They have an office in Chicago, but everyone has the chance to work from wherever they want. The CEO doesn’t know how many hours his employees work. They just set expectations and give people the opportunity to build their own schedules around their projects. But how do you keep people engaged with a sense of purpose? Well, you do that through the third element, community.

Community: Community is that sense of belonging to a group of people that shares the same or similar principles, goals, and values. Community is a place where there is camaraderie. Focus Lab is a branding and design agency that understands community. They have company standards instead of values. Their argument is that you can’t change a person’s values when they walk into your company, but you can uphold everyone to specific standards. Some of their standards are: work to live, ask more questions, and never stop learning. The culture of their company breaths these standards through their work. Building community is something as simple as having lunch and learns, hangout times on Fridays, and company trips. It varies from company to company. Community, is unique to each organization.

Effective Communication: The fourth element in building a great organizational culture is effective communication. Effective communication sounds like common sense, but through my work I have realized it is not common practice. It means consistency in processes and investing time learning the personalities and communication dynamics of team members. Google created a research project called Project Aristotle, where they found that the most collaborative teams are the ones where everyone speaks equally. In many of their engineering teams they have a list with checkmarks to make sure everyone is speaking the same number of times during their meetings.

Good Leadership: I would say this is the backbone of the cultural dynamics of any organization. The leader has to be constantly be pushing the mission, standards, community, and processes of the company. Without effective leadership the other four elements cannot thrive. People want leadership with integrity and compassion. People want authenticity. People want a leader who is clear on expectations. People want to know they have a leader who cares about them.

The elements I just mentioned are not new to people. People have always liked purpose, ownership, community, effective communication, and good leadership. It’s in our own human nature. But now we found words to describe those things to build high performing cultures. I would like to encourage each of you to be intentional about applying these elements, and building great cultures in your organizations.

About the Author:

Andy Cabistan, Co-Founder at Watson WorksAndy Cabistan is one of the Co-Founders of Watson Works, a culture development company helping teams communicate and collaborate better. Andy is passionate about helping companies with diverse groups of people build high performing teams. Andy is a Business Economics graduate from Armstrong State University in Savannah, Georgia, and a master’s student in the Professional Communication and Leadership program at Armstrong. In his spare time, Andy travels around the country developing leadership programs with children of military families in partnership with the Department of Defense. Andy is also active in Savannah building the entrepreneurial ecosystem. He believes that entrepreneurship, technology, and a sense of community are key factors to make economies thrive.

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