Creating a fact-based HR organisation at ABN AMRO

We had the opportunity to catch up with Patrick Coolen from ABN AMRO at the Tucana People Analytics conference and ask him about his experience of building the People Analytics function at ABN AMRO. Check out the video of his interview below as well as the transcript from our discussion. For more videos on the future of HR, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

myHRfuture: Can you tell us about your People Analytics journey at ABN AMRO?

Patrick Coolen: For us it's not only about people analytics, it's about creating a fact-based HR organisation. So it's also about applying strategic workforce management, doing survey management, trying to do continuous listening, and giving some KPI support on dashboards and on strategic plans that the business and HR has. So, the product has evolved, the team has grown, and within people analytics the different methodologies have changed and grown... we started with correlations, anova, and now we're at decision tree clustering, some neural networking. We used to be structured within business management, (which was a little bit tucked away in the HR organisation) and nowadays we're attached to the strategy function. That's something I particularly like because in our case I think we have got it to the point where we are trying to solve strategic problems and to see strategic opportunities.

myHRfuture: What is your approach to continuous listening at ABN AMRO?

Patrick Coolen: To me, continuous listening is like the marriage between people analytics and employee experience, which is a big topic within our company.

myHRfuture: Are you looking at active or passive sources of data?

Patrick Coolen: We're not going to wait until we have that perfect environment, where you have a data lake, all the tools around it and the interface is automatic. We're going to do it in an experimental way, so for example, we're going to see what new app pops up within HR and we're going to ask for that data, connect it and see if there is an insight we can use and take it from there. I think the data that gets created is going to be the active data that you're talking about and we will then connect it to some of the passive data that already exists.

myHRfuture: How have you created a data-driven culture within ABN AMRO?

Patrick Coolen: It's not only about capabilities, in our company people are smart and they know how to ask the right questions, but it's also about knowing the tools that we have and how they interrelate. So, sometimes it simply takes a few years to build the culture.

myHRfuture: What is an example of a People Analytics project that has impacted the Business?

Patrick Coolen: I'm thinking of a recent project we did within our retail organisation. We had a large learning intervention which aimed to maximise the Net Promoter Score from our customers and the learning intervention consisted of various different modules. We were able to see which of those modules was more effective and also for what type of employee in terms of maximising the NPS. So it really helped us to focus, but it was also about cost avoidance - don't send everyone to everything. Instead, learn from the insights we found based on research, and do that in more of a diverse way.

People Analytics Online Training

If you are looking to learn more about how to get started in people analytics then check out the myHRfuture academy online course on people analytics titled 'An Introduction to People Analytics' that is taught by David Green and Jonathan Ferrar. It's a great introductory course for anyone interested in learning more about people analytics.


Ian Bailie is the Managing Director of and an advisor and consultant for start-ups focused on HR technology and People Analytics, including Adepto, Worklytics and CognitionX.  In his previous role as the Senior Director of People Planning, Analytics and Tools at Cisco Systems, he was responsible for delivering the tools and insights to enable and transform the planning, attraction and management of talent across the organisation globally.  Ian is passionate about HR technology and analytics and how to use both to transform the employee experience and prepare companies for the Future of Work.