The best HR & People Analytics articles of September 2018


They say that good things come to those that wait, and I believe that old adage certainly applies to my collection of the best people analytics articles for September.

Usually, this article would have been published seven days earlier but the first week of October proved to be a momentous week.

First, Insight222 (where I am a board advisor) held its inaugural Global Executive Retreat in the countryside an hour or so outside Philadelphia. The Retreat brought together the people analytics leader from 35 of Insight222’s current 45 strong group of European and North American member organisations for what proved to be a memorable three days.

This blend of Europe and North America continued with the People Analytics & Future of Work East conference in Philadelphia, which followed directly after the Retreat. Once again, Al Adamsen organised a stellar event, which included speakers such as Ian O’Keefe, Charlotte Nagy, Patrick Coolen, Marilyn Becker, Arun Chidambaram, Brydie Lear, Alec Levenson, Lexy Martin, Ian Bailie and Google’s Cassie Kozyrkov. I’ll be publishing something about the conference shortly, but for now do check this excellent writeup of PAFOW highlights from Darja Gutnick.

Then two huge developments this week confirmed that the people analytics field is accelerating faster than Lewis Hamilton. First, LinkedIn announced the acquisition of Glint and then Laszlo Bock unveiled the official launch of Humu, whose eagerly awaited Nudge Engine promises a blend of ‘science, machine learning, and a little love’.

The main draw for the rest of October is the UNLEASH World Conference in Amsterdam on 23-24th October. If you haven’t been to an UNLEASH event before, I can promise you won’t be disappointed. If you have, well this year’s show is shaping up to be the best yet. If you are going, I look forward to seeing you there.

Now, without further ado let’s proceed to this month’s countdown:


1. BEN WABER – The Happy Tracked Employee

We start with Ben Waber, who kicked off Insight222’s Global Executive Retreat with a mesmerising overview of the multiple opportunities advances in technology and real-time data collection offers to the people analytics discipline. Ben focused much of his time on privacy and ethics, drawing from what is arguably the definitive article written to date on this absolutely critical subject. After outlining examples of how these technologies are, for example, helping reduce gender bias, fatigue and attrition, Ben walks through a playbook for the ethical and smart use of employee data (see Figure 1). As Ben concludes, the potential of people analytics to improve decision making is astounding, but failure by organisations to protect employee data could erode this potential for good.

“No algorithm or data set, no matter how complete or advanced, will be able to capture the entire complexity of work"

FIGURE 1: A Playbook for the ethical, smart use of employee data (Source: created by David Green from Ben Waber's 'The Happy Tracked Employee' article in HBR)

FIGURE 1: A Playbook for the ethical, smart use of employee data (Source: created by David Green from Ben Waber's 'The Happy Tracked Employee' article in HBR)

2. JONATHAN FERRAR - Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics

Earlier this year, Jonathan Ferrar and I mulled over the three key questions we regularly get asked by people analytics leaders: How can I improve my impact? How can I create more value? What should I focus on? This formed the basis for our Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model, which we created in the weeks following our discussion, and is now being used by several organisations to help evaluate, focus and prioritise their people analytics strategies. Jonathan’s article outlines each of the nine dimensions, which we grouped in three categories: foundational aspects (see Figure 2), resources and value. If you are a people analytics leader who wants to find out more, please get in touch.



3. MICHAEL ARENA - Social Capital: The Next Frontier for HR

Michael Arena is leading the charge for Organisational Network Analysis from a practitioner perspective in his work as Chief Talent Officer at GM and through his terrific recent book Adaptive Space. In this article, Michael contests that whilst human capital is undoubtedly a firm’s greatest asset, bringing in the best people is only part of the solution, and that organisations must also bring out the best in people. To do this entails a new frontier, unleashing social capital potential. Michael then outlines two primary aspects of social capital —group cohesion and brokerage— that are particularly relevant to future HR practices. For more on ONA including several case studies, please read my The Role of ONA in People Analytics primer.

“In today’s dynamic world, HR clearly needs to shift beyond human capital centric practices, to explore the emerging frontier of social capital”


4. JOSH BERSIN - The Rise of Talent Intelligence: People Analytics Accelerates

Josh Bersin’s latest analysis of the people analytics field is as usual stacked full of golden nuggets and helpful tips. The article covers amongst other things: i) the latest people analytics technologies such as LinkedIn's new Talent Insights product (see later) plus others from Visier and ADP, ii) research on the top drivers of people analytics maturity (see Figure 3), iii) the importance of creating data literacy amongst HRBPs and the wider HR population, and; iv) analysis on where the market is headed as well as several case studies. As ever with anything Josh publishes, it's an absolute must-read.

 “Analytics is rapidly permeating the HR profession, and this is a very good thing”

FIGURE 3   : The top drivers of People Analytics maturity (Source: Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte High-Impact People Analytics study)

FIGURE 3: The top drivers of People Analytics maturity (Source: Josh Bersin, Bersin by Deloitte High-Impact People Analytics study)

5. JEFFREY PFEFFER - The overlooked essentials of employee well-being

I believe that the key responsibility of business leaders and HR is to be the custodians of employee well-being. In this respect, people analytics can be a force for good as it can not only shine a light on good or bad practice, but it can be used to finally prove the link between wellbeing and business performance. In this article, Jeffrey Pfeffer examines two typically overlooked essential areas of employee well-being: job control (the amount of discretion employees have to determine what they do and how they do it) and social support (family and friends you can count on, as well as close relationships). Just like Pfeffer’s recently published book, Dying for a Paycheck, it is a powerful and sobering read.

“Management practices that strengthen job control and social support are often overlooked but relatively straightforward—and they provide a payoff to employees and employers alike”


6. MICHAEL SILVERMAN – Employee Listening Technology Landscape 2018

With the news that LinkedIn has acquired Glint, the market for employee listening has never been so hot and has extended well beyond the traditional survey field. This is captured perfectly in Michael Silverman’s landscape of the employee listening technology space (see Figure 4). Michael has done a superb job of capturing the vast majority of leading players in this space and the way he has split these into categories such as Text Analytics, ONA, Innovation as well as Survey technologies is extremely helpful.

FIGURE 4   : The Employee Listening Technology Landscape 2018 (Source: Michael Silverman, Silverman Research)

FIGURE 4: The Employee Listening Technology Landscape 2018 (Source: Michael Silverman, Silverman Research)

7. PETER HINSSEN - What HR Can Learn from Marketing About Employee Experience

This article by Peter Hinssen highlights that whilst companies have harnessed data to improve revenue, reduce costs and enhance customer experience, most have neglected to use this treasure trove of data for the benefit of the employee. As Peter passionately argues (and echoing Ben Waber’s earlier mantra) “Let’s change that. Let’s mine all the data that’s available and turn that into value, not just for the company, but for the individual employee”.

 “(Data is) completely worthless if you don’t understand how to turn it into value”


8. LAURA STEVENS - 3 Rules when using Continuous Listening to drive Organisation Transformation

Continuous listening can deliver data-backed insights to pinpoint areas requiring fundamental change during a business transformation. Laura Stevens has written a slew of excellent articles on continuous listening, employee experience and people analytics. As the title of this article suggests, Laura recommends three rules for using continuous listening to drive organisational transformation: i) embed in the broader context, ii) focus on insights over tools and models, and; iii) take an iterative approach.

“Experimenting with a pilot allows you to refine the process and scale up a single experiment into a solution for analytical, data-driven insights”


9. ALEXIS FINK AND KEITH McNULTY - If You Haven’t Invested in Analytics, Start Now. Here’s How

For those organisations that still haven’t embarked on their people analytics journey, it’s still not too late to start! This article by experienced practitioners Alexis Fink and Keith McNulty provides a perfect primer. It examines the current landscape, typical use cases of people analytics, tips on how to build capability and where the people analytics team fits in the organisation.

“Jumping on the people analytics bandwagon is no longer an innovative move – it is table stakes”


10. FRANCESCA GINO – The business case for curiosity

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is an essential ingredient for people analytics – and according to research from behavioural scientist and Harvard professor Francesca Gino is fundamental to business success too. In this article, Francesca elaborates on the benefits of and common barriers to curiosity in the workplace and then offers five strategies that can help leaders get high returns on investments in employees’ curiosity and in their own. File under ‘must-read’.

 “To encourage curiosity, leaders should teach employees how to ask good questions”


11. LINKEDIN TALENT SOLUTIONS – The Rise of Analytics in HR: EMEA version

It’s been a busy few weeks for LinkedIn, which has seen the launch of Talent Insights, the acquisition of Glint and now the announcement of their new Talent Hub ATS at the Talent Connect show. LinkedIn is making a big play in the HR technology space, and this EMEA cut of their Rise of Analytics in HR research, provides ample reason why. The headline finding is that the number of professionals on the platform citing HR/people analytics as a skill has soared by 61% in EMEA in the last 12 months alone. The study, which I was happy to contribute to, provides a host of fascinating data points such as Figure 5 below, which ranks the top 10 countries in EMEA by number of people analytics professionals on LinkedIn and focus area of work (the potential anomaly of retention ranking low here can possibly be attributed to the lack of ‘glamour’ associated with the topic, hence not being included on LinkedIn profiles). Other contributors include David White on how to structure a people analytics team and Chris Louie, who outlines a people analytics project at Nielsen covering retention and internal mobility. Do also check out Spotify’s Fredrik Johnsson’s review of Talent Insights and the APAC and North America cuts of the Rise of HR Analytics study.

FIGURE 5:    Top countries and use cases for people analytics in Europe (Source: LinkedIn Talent Solutions)

FIGURE 5: Top countries and use cases for people analytics in Europe (Source: LinkedIn Talent Solutions)


SIERRA CEDAR – 2018/19 HR Systems Survey | JOHN SUMSER - The 2019 Index of Intelligent Technology in HR (Executive Summary) | STACIA SHERMAN GARR - Diversity and Inclusion Technology: Could this be the Missing Link? Article | Research ANDREW SPENCE – Blockchain and the Chief Human Resources Officer | WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM – The Future of Jobs 2018

The LinkedIn research is just one of a glut of excellent studies published in the past few weeks, which together provide a comprehensive analysis into the technologies and future trends that already or will impact the HR and people analytics space. First, Stacey Harris and Erin Spencer present the 21st edition of Sierra Cedar’s much-loved HR Systems Survey. Then, John Sumser provides a compelling canter through the maze of ‘AI’ in HR technology. Next, Stacia Sherman Garr (who also spoke at PAFOW and the Global Executive Retreat) summarises the highlights of RedThread Research’s collaboration with Mercer into the technologies that are helping drive diversity and inclusion forward. Then, Blockchain and the Chief Human Resources Officer is the theme of Andrew Spence’s riveting analysis. Finally, The Future of Jobs report from the WEF highlights tools that can support responses to the critical questions confronting businesses, governments and workers in the run up to 2022 (see example in Figure 6). If you want to read more research on the people analytics space check out the recent special edition of my Data Driven HR newsletter.

FIGURE 6:    The jobs landscape in 2022 (Source: Future of Jobs report 2022, World Economic Forum)

FIGURE 6: The jobs landscape in 2022 (Source: Future of Jobs report 2022, World Economic Forum)


BEN WABER AND ETHAN BERNSTEIN - The Way We Work Podcast: What is People Analytics?

Ben Waber makes his second appearance in this month’s countdown as host of the first episode of Humanyze’s The Way We Work Podcast. Ben is joined by Ethan Bernstein, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School (whose research we’ve included previously here), for a fascinating discussion on what people analytics actually is, the opportunities, the challenges, and why it’s important today.


JASON BELLINI - Artificial Intelligence: The Robots Are Now Hiring

One of the highlights of Insight222’s Global Executive Retreat was Peter Cappelli’s Think Tank on The Challenges with Algorithmic Management. During his session, Professor Cappelli showed this illuminating film created by Jason Bellini of the Wall Street Journal. In the film, Bellini investigates whether the AI infused tools used by many Fortune 500 companies to weed out job applicants are fair. The findings may surprise you.



DAVID GREEN: The What, Why, How and Who of Employee Experience

The potential of people analytics to better understand, personalise and improve employee experience is considerable. Indeed, I believe this is THE biggest opportunity for people analytics. My latest Data Driven HR newsletter focuses on the Why, How, What and Who of Employee Experience. Figure 7 below provides a selection of people and companies who are helping to shape the space. To receive the next copy of Data Driven HR, please subscribe here.

FIGURE 7:    A selection of people and vendors to follow in the Employee Experience space

FIGURE 7: A selection of people and vendors to follow in the Employee Experience space



David is a globally respected writer, speaker, conference chair, and executive consultant on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work. He helps HR practitioners and organisations leverage data and analytical thinking to drive positive business outcomes, improved performance, and enhance employee experience. Prior to launching his own consultancy business and taking up board advisor roles at Insight222 and TrustSphere, David was the Global Director of People Analytics Solutions at IBM Watson Talent. As such, David has extensive experience in helping organisations embark upon and accelerate their people analytics journeys. 


David will be chairing and/or speaking about people analytics, data-driven HR and the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model at the following events until the end of March 2019.