Top 10 HR & People Analytics articles of January 2018


2018 has certainly started with a bang. I had the pleasure of being co-chair of the best People Analytics & Future of Work (PAFOW) conference yet last week in San Francisco (write-up to follow next week).

As my co-chair Al Adamsen so presciently outlined in his opening to the conference, people analytics has evolved into its third iteration, whereby value is increasingly being delivered to employees. Subsequent speeches from the likes of RJ MilnorJeremy WellandJonathan Ferrar, Josh Bersin, Charlotte Nagy and Gianpaolo Barozzi reinforced this sentiment.

This demonstrates that people analytics is moving in the right direction and with Bersin by Deloitte’s recent High-Impact People Analytics study finding that 69 per cent of large organisations now have a people analytics team, the growth of the discipline shows no signs of abating.

As the use of people analytics broadens and deepens within organisations so does the amount of literature published on the field. This means that my previous strategy of collecting and curating the best articles on a bi-monthly basis is no longer enough. Henceforth, this series will appear on a monthly basis and not only gather the best articles, but the best podcasts on people analytics too.

So without further ado, here are my favourite 10 articles and 3 podcasts from January on people analytics and its role in both the future of work and the evolution of the HR function:

1. VOLKER JACOBS – The WHAT and HOW of a Digital HR Strategy

One of the reasons that interest in and adoption of people analytics is rising is its integral role in digital HR strategy. Indeed, as Volker Jacobs outlines in this excellent piece, analytics is one of the three key priorities of a digital HR strategy: i) actively manage the customer expectation of the function, ii) develop the organisation from jobs to skills based, and iii) provide people analytics insights. As Volker correctly asserts, digital HR is not simply about digitising what HR has done in the past, but is an opportunity to do things differently (and better). Volker’s model (see Figure 1) illustrates perfectly the enhancements that are needed to innovate and shift the culture of HR. Data and analytics is fundamental to this shift. This is a must-read for any HR or business leader about to or thinking of embarking on a digital HR strategy.

FIGURE 1   : Establishing an innovation culture in HR (Source: Volker Jacobs | TI People)

FIGURE 1: Establishing an innovation culture in HR (Source: Volker Jacobs | TI People)

2. JOSH BERSIN - People analytics can now become a strategic competitive advantage

Writing in Raconteur, Josh Bersin provides compelling evidence on the reasons behind the growth in people analytics. The perfect storm he describes comprises i) increases in the volume and variety of data, ii) the heightened level of insights this provides, iii) the boost in power and scale thanks to the entry of AI into the domain, and iv) a shift in focus from HR to business as companies seek to use analytics to solve operational, risk, sales and performance challenges. As ever with Josh, it is an insightful and illuminating read.

"The bottom line is clear: people analytics can now become a strategic competitive advantage. Companies that focus in this area can out-hire, out-manage and out-perform their competitors"


3. ARUN CHIDAMBARAM & DAVID GREEN – The role of the People Analytics leader: Part 1 – Building Capability

The Head of People Analytics is a pivotal role and having the right person leading the team can make the difference between success and failure when it comes to creating and sustaining a data driven culture in HR. Arun Chidambaram, who leads people analytics at Pfizer, is a leader who possesses all of the ingredients required to succeed in this demanding role. In part 1 of our interview series, Arun covers areas such as team capabilities and structure, alignment to the business and how this evolves over time, his tried and tested project methodology and insights into key learnings. The advice offered is invaluable and I am grateful to Arun for sharing this with the community. Part 2 will be published w/c 19 February.

4. LORI GOLER, JANELLE GALE, BRYNN HARRINGTON & ADAM GRANT – Why people really quit their jobs

People analytics projects have a habit of busting myths and that certainly applies in this HBR article, which details the findings of a case study from the people analytics team at Facebook. The myth that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers was exposed – at least at Facebook – as not being the case. Indeed, the team found that the opposite was true with people leaving when their job wasn’t enjoyable, their strengths weren’t being used, and they weren’t growing in their careers. The study highlighted the importance of work design and this is where managers have an important role to play in crafting meaningful and motivating roles that employees enjoy. Examples of how this was achieved are then outlined. Facebook has invested significantly in its people analytics capability.  

"If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work"



The key headline in this excellent McKinsey study on diversity in the workplace is the strong correlation between diversity and company financial performance. The study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile. For ethnic and cultural diversity, the likelihood of outperformance was even higher at 33% more likely between top and bottom quartile. The article (and accompanying report) are a treasure trove of information, and the advice offered (see Figure 2) on creating impact through diversity, which includes the use of analytics, is invaluable for HR and business leaders alike. Diversity is a strong area of interest for people analytics teams, and this superb report is an excellent font of knowledge to support this work. 

FIGURE 2   :  Four imperatives for building a successful inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy  (Source: McKinsey)

FIGURE 2Four imperatives for building a successful inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy (Source: McKinsey)

6. LITTAL SHEMAR HAIM - 365 Women worth watching – in Data, People Analytics and HR Tech

One of the most welcome initiatives I read in January comes from Littal Shemar Haim, who has set herself the challenge of highlighting 365 women worth watching in the HR Tech / People Analytics space. Littal is adding to the suspense by adding one name per day over 2018 and has already included the likes of Esther BongenaarNicky ClementLexy MartinGeetanjali GamelAlexis FinkMichelle DeneauStela LupushorMaja Luckos and Mariëlle Sonnenberg. I’m really interested to watch this unfurl and have no doubt that Littal will achieve her aim as there is a serious amount of female talent in our discipline. One to bookmark and come back to on a weekly basis. In a similar vein, the tireless Hung Lee has created a list of female conference speakers (see here) having being inspired by being part of an all-male speaking line-up at a recent conference.

I believe that these women are role models for every aspiring People Analytics practitioner


7. MADHURA CHAKRABARTI - HR will help every employee lead a better work life using data and analytics

Bersin by Deloitte ran a great series in January comprising 12 blogs outlining their predictions for 2018. All 12 are worth a read – particularly those by Robin Erickson (see here) and Josh Bersin (here and here), but the one that really resonated with me was this one by Madhura Chakrabarti. The article provides more insights from Bersin’s recently published High-Impact People Analytics Study and case studies from the likes of Chevron, Reliance Jio and Merck. As Madhura states, companies need to be careful not to isolate their people analytics team as this will greatly lessen their impact. Instead, companies need to put their teams centre stage to realise the true promise of people analytics – that is its ability to bolster employee engagement and productivity at a day-to-day level—and in doing so, to deliver business results.

Using people analytics to enhance the employee experience and spur employees’ productivity on a daily basis, as part of their regular workflow, are certainly business imperatives


8. MORTEN KAMP ANDERSEN - Why People Analytics and Change Management is a match made in heaven

This article by Morten Kamp Andersen touches on one of the main themes of the aforementioned PAFOW conference I co-chaired in San Francisco last week with Al Adamsen – that people analytics needs to diversify beyond making better HR decisions and solving business issues. Morten’s article outlines a third avenue for people analytics – working in tandem with change management. As Morten describes people analytics can be used in numerous areas such as to identify likely resistance and change agents, analyse employee sentiment and create predictive adoption models.

It is a win-win really: Change Management needs more data to assess risks, progress, adoption and usage and People Analytics needs to apply its findings to find more value


9. BENJAMIN SPAR, ILYA PLETENYUK, MARIA IGNATOVA & KATE REILLY - LinkedIn Talent Solutions Global Recruiting Trends 2018 | MARIA IGNATOVA & KATE REILLY - The 4 Trends Changing How You Hire in 2018 and Beyond | SAMANTHA MCLAREN & BRENDAN BROWNE - LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting Gives His Take on the Top Hiring Trends for 2018

Of all HR functions, it is perhaps talent acquisition that has most embraced the use of data and analytics. This is borne out in LinkedIn’s excellent Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report. Indeed, along with Diversity, New Interviewing Tools and AI, Data is cited as one of the four trends revolutionising recruiting. Interestingly, the research found that 50% respondents believe that data is very/extremely important, but that only 18% had mostly/completely adopted it within their hiring strategy. The research itself is a highly recommended read and features contributions from the likes of Dawn Klinghoffer(Microsoft), Devin Rogozinski (Atlassian), Catalina Schveninger (Vodafone), Chris Louis & Doug Shagam (Nielsen), Nick Mailey (Intuit) and Anna Ott. The second article by Maria Ignatova and Kate Reilly summarises the key findings, whilst the third offers the perspective of Brendan Browne, who leads recruiting globally for LinkedIn.

10. LASZLO BOCK - Nudges, Juice Cleanses, and the Shameful Psychology of Why (Most) Resolutions Have Failed by Now | ROB GRAY - To nudge or not to nudge? | STEVE MARTIN & ANTOINE FERRERE - Building Behavioral Science Capability in Your Company | ANNA GÜNTNER and JULIA SPERLING - How to nudge your way to better performance

Behavioural economics and the potential it offers to organisations is suddenly very much in vogue. In part this is due to Richard Thaler, one of the discipline’s pioneers, recently winning the Nobel prize in economics. It can also be attributed to the work of Laszlo Bockand Prasad Setty at Google, which is touched upon by the former in the first article. Three further articles are included. The first, by Rob Gray, is a captivating crash-course into the power of the ‘nudge’ and the potential benefit it offers to HR. The second, by Steve Martinand Antoine Ferrere, examines how you build this capability within an organisation and provides options on where this new function should sit. Finally, Anna Güntner and Julia Sperling’s article includes a case study on how Virgin Atlantic deployed behavioural economics to reduce fuel use by its 335 flight captains. With Bock’s new venture Humupromising “to make work better with science, machine learning and a little bit of love,” we can expect to read much more about behavioural economics in 2018.

The winning tactic isn’t the removal of choice, it’s the subtle nudge towards a better one
Laszlo Bock



ROB CROSS & AL ADAMSEN – ONA: People Analytics & Future of Work Podcast | MICHAEL ARENA & JACOB MORGAN – Disrupt or be Disrupted: Advice from GM’s Chief Talent Officer | COLE NUSSBAUMER & MARK LAWRENCE - Data Visualisation and Effective Storytelling

January was a stellar month for podcasts in our discipline. The first two focus on the topic of Organisational Network Analysis, which was featured prominently at PAFOW. The discussion between Rob Cross and Al Adamsen is fascinating and illustrates the many potential uses of ONA within companies. The conversation between Jacob Morgan and Michael Arena, who spoke so passionately about ONA at PAFOW and who has successfully deployed ONA at GM to gain insight into innovation, is equally fascinating. Finally, Cole Nussbaumer and Mark Lawrence talk about the critical skills of visualisation and storytelling in the Tucana People Analytics podcast. You can also read Mark’s preview of the podcast here.



January was a busy month for me culminating in being in San Francisco to co-chair the People Analytics & Future of Work conference. I also managed to publish, co-author and/or feature in a number of articles: