The best HR & People Analytics articles of April 2018

April was a momentous month both personally for me and also, I believe for the field of people analytics too.

From a personal perspective, I left IBM to go out on my own, launched my new website and blog (where the next monthly collection of articles will be published - please feel free to subscribe here) as well as gladly accepted board advisor roles with Insight222 (see here) and TrustSphere (here).

I feel fortunate that these exciting personal developments appear to be timed in parallel with real signs that the field of people analytics is maturing and undergoing rapid growth. Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey was published at the beginning of the month and reported that 85 percent of respondents (see Figure 1 below) viewed people analytics as important or very important, making it the joint first ranked trend in terms of importance (a surge from being ranked eighth in 2017).

   Figure 1  :  The top 10 trends highlighted in Deloitte's 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report by importance and readiness (Source: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, 2018)

Figure 1The top 10 trends highlighted in Deloitte's 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report by importance and readiness (Source: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, 2018)

This sea change in the level of importance attributed to people analytics was also obvious at the People Analytics World conference, I chaired in London in April. As Andrew Marritt writes in one of the articles below, the focus of the presentations at the conference were centred on the business (and employee) value of people analytics. This shift is a sign that the field is maturing and importantly gaining in confidence as it is only through quantifying business value that the discipline will continue to thrive, gain investment and become a core component not just of HR but of executive decision making.

The progress of the field and its increasing importance to organisations and the future of HR is also reflected in the articles, podcasts and videos I have selected this month, which kicks off deservedly with:

1. DELOITTE 2018 GLOBAL HUMAN CAPITAL TRENDS 2018 | DIMPLE AGARWAL, JOSH BERSIN, GAURAV LAHIRI, JEFF SCHWARTZ AND ERICA VOLLINI – People data: How far is too far?

As usual Deloitte’s aforementioned Global Human Capital Trends report is well worth all the hype and anticipation associated with it. The headline finding in the 2018 report is the rapid rise of the social enterprise, which the report defines as reflecting the “growing importance of social capital in shaping an organisation’s purpose, guiding its relationships with stakeholders, and in influencing its ultimate success or failure”. The entire 102 page report is an absorbing read, but the people analytics chapter is particularly fascinating. Titled ‘People data: How far is too far’, the authors describe the rapid growth of the field, the increase in the number and type of data sources being used, and the consequent risk this poses to privacy and data security. The article highlights a potential blind spot (see Figure 2), where whilst organisations are actively managing the risks of using people data around employee perceptions and legal liability, only a quarter are managing the potential impact on their consumer brand. Ethics is arguably the most important part of people analytics and the biggest risk to its progress - the findings in the report only go to reinforce this.

Organisations are approaching a tipping point around the use of people data, and those that tilt too far could suffer severe employee, customer, and public backlash
   FIGURE 2   : When it comes to using people data, organisations are actively managing risks around employee perceptions and legal liability, but only a quarter are managing the potential impact on their consumer brand (Source: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends)

FIGURE 2: When it comes to using people data, organisations are actively managing risks around employee perceptions and legal liability, but only a quarter are managing the potential impact on their consumer brand (Source: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends)

2. KEITH McNULTY – It’s time for HR 3.0 | DAVE ULRICH - Human Resources (HR) Business Partner 2.0

Writing in Talent Economy, Keith McNulty underlines the unprecedented change work is undergoing, and the extent to which this will revolutionise the capabilities HR needs to consequently develop in the coming years. Keith describes the evolution of HR, from 1.0 (predominantly focused on administration and industrial relations) to 2.0 (business partner, use of data restricted to reporting), and then argues that HR now needs to shift to 3.0. This third version of HR, as Keith explains, requires a more strategic focus in three ways: i) people analytics will be at HR’s core, ii) the HR function will be more agile and efficient, and iii) HR professionals will need to have better business acumen and possess problem-solving skills. An insightful and inspiring article, and one to read alongside Dave Ulrich’s reappraisal of his infamous business partner model. As Ulrich explains he has written numerous books and delivered countless talks since 1997 (when the original model was published) on how HR is not about HR but about delivering value to multiple stakeholders. This puts the ridiculous criticism of his original model into the right context as Ulrich can hardly be blamed for the inability of organisations to evolve a model he first published over 20 years ago. The article provides a table of 13 pivots in the 2.0 model including Figure 3, which summarises the requirements when it comes to analytics.

HR 3.0 is an exciting and challenging prospect, but one which is critical for the future of work
   FIGURE 3    – Extract from 13 pivots required in the HR Business Partner 2.0 model - HR Analytics (Source: Dave Ulrich)

FIGURE 3 – Extract from 13 pivots required in the HR Business Partner 2.0 model - HR Analytics (Source: Dave Ulrich)

3. BERNARD MARR - Why Data Is HR's Most Important Asset | The 3 Vital Ways HR Teams Should Be Using Data

Bernard Marr is the most prolific and arguably best commentator around on how technology, analytics and data will impact the future of work and our everyday lives. Bernard launched his new book ‘Data-Driven HR’ at People Analytics World and has been serialising some of the content in his Forbes column. Two examples are provided here. First, Bernard outlines why data is probably the greatest asset HR has, whilst the second article describes three ways HR teams can use data, to: i) make better business decisions, ii) better understand employees and iii) improve HR operations. The articles are an excellent taster for the book, which I highly recommend anyone interested in increasing the impact of HR in their organisation should read.

When HR data is used to improve decisions, make employees happier, and optimise processes, it adds value to the company

4. ANDREW MARRITT - Sometimes the best solutions aren’t the most sophisticated

The first of two entries this month by Andrew Marritt was inspired by the Tucana People Analytics World conference I had the pleasure of chairing in London on 11/12 April. As someone who attended the first People Analytics World in 2014, Andrew is ideally positioned to describe how the conversation has shifted from whether companies should even do people analytics in 2014 to the dominant discussion this year on deriving business value. Andrew then describes two cases presented at the show by Michael Tocci (P&G) and Swati Chawla (Syngenta), which whilst not the most sophisticated or complex solutions provided real and quantifiable business value. Andrew’s article was just one of many inspired by People Analytics World including others penned by Michael Carty (here), Caroline Styr (here) and Littal Shemar Haim (here).

Sophisticated analytics doesn’t necessarily mean sophisticated results. Pick the right tools and techniques for what you want to achieve

5. LUK SMEYERS - 5 Lessons HR Can Learn from Marketing About Analytics

It’s terrific that Luk Smeyers is writing again, not only because he is one of the most knowledgeable people in our space but because the iNostix blog is an absolute treasure trove of articles on people analytics stretching all the way back to 2011. In this article, Luk issues a rallying cry that people analytics teams need to break out of the ‘dark room of HR’ and seek cross-functional learning and collaboration opportunities. This, Luk contests, will help raise the profile, impact and influence of people analytics to the business. He then outlines five lessons HR can learn from marketing about the use of data and analytics and how these can be used to inform decisions. Welcome back Luk, and happy fifth anniversary too to you and Patrick Coolen on five years of iNostix and ABN AMRO working together!

For HR, employees are the biggest customer and HR professionals should understand them just as well as marketers understand their buyers

6. LAURA STEVENS - The 4 Guiding Principles of a Successful Continuous Listening Program

Whilst Luk has been on his writing sabbatical, his iNostix colleague Laura Stevens has taken up the mantle and written a series of superb articles centred on the role of people analytics in designing, measuring and deriving benefit from employee experience. This article, which provides four guiding principles to a successful continuous listening program – see the ‘4 C’s of Continuous Listening’ model in Figure 4 below - may well be her best yet. 

In order for your investments in Continuous Listening to pay off, ensure that what you measure has a proven link to business performance
   FIGURE 4:    The 4 C's of Continuous Listening (Source: Laura Stevens, iNostix by Deloitte)

FIGURE 4: The 4 C's of Continuous Listening (Source: Laura Stevens, iNostix by Deloitte)

7. JASON McPHERSON - How to make the connection between employee feedback and business results

I featured two of Jason McPherson’s articles last month, and Culture Amp’s Chief Scientist gets his hat-trick in this excellent guide on how to link data from people surveys to broader business outcomes. Linking employee feedback to business outcomes can be complex, so Jason’s advice “to be realistic and understand that some things are potentially outside the sphere of what you can measure or model” should be noted. Jason then offers some tips on how to get started with linkage, which includes his recommendation to start small with something where you have confidence that there is a connection and where you have a reasonable level of control over the inputs. 

8. SUVARNA JOSHI – Measuring Diversity & Inclusion using Organisational Network Analysis | MADHURA CHAKRABARTI – CASE STUDY: How Organisational Network Analysis improved Sales Productivity & Effectiveness

Next, two articles on ONA. First, Suvarna Joshi describes four examples of how passive ONA can provide fresh sets of data to help organisations measure the impact of diversity and inclusion. These include i) Understanding gender differences in networking behaviour, ii) Measuring inclusion of diverse groups, and; iii) Identifying hidden stars (see Figure 5).

One of the criticisms I’ve heard levied at ONA is that whilst the theory sounds great and the network graphs look wonderful, there aren’t enough quantifiable case studies that demonstrate business value. Au contraire. There are case studies if you take the time to find them such as the second article by Madhura Chakrabarti on how Ramco deployed TrustSphere’s ONA solution to improve sales effectiveness, reduce time-to-productivity of new hires and reduce attrition.

   FIGURE 5 –    Using passive ONA to identify a HiPO trainee vs. an average trainee (Source: Suvarna Joshi, TrustSphere)

FIGURE 5 – Using passive ONA to identify a HiPO trainee vs. an average trainee (Source: Suvarna Joshi, TrustSphere)

9. MORTEN KAMP ANDERSEN - This is why psychological knowledge is essential to success with People Analytics

I always enjoy Morten Kamp Andersen's thought provoking articles on people analytics, and his latest effort is no exception. Morten explains why psychological knowledge is essential to success in people analytics and why it should be a core component of the ‘Superhero’ team (see Figure 6 Below). Morten then uses the example of a recruiting algorithm to highlight the importance of effort justification, a well-known element in social psychology, to support his argument that psychological skills are even more important than statistical capabilities when it comes to people analytics.

   FIGURE 6:    The skills required in a People Analytics team of superheroes (Source: Morten Kamp Andersen)

FIGURE 6: The skills required in a People Analytics team of superheroes (Source: Morten Kamp Andersen)

10. ANDREW MARRITT - AI in HR – how to understand what is happening | THOMAS REDMAN - If Your Data Is Bad, Your Machine Learning Tools Are Useless | CHRIS DeBRUSK - The Risk of Machine-Learning Bias (and How to Prevent It) | LAETITIA VITAUD - Can AI Put the ‘Human’ Back Into Human Resources? | JEANNE MEISTER - Future Of Work: How Using AI Creates An Enhanced Candidate And Employee Experience

Unless you happen to be Rip van Winkle, you’ll be fully aware of the considerable hype over ‘AI in HR’, but is it real or are we being seduced by a pack of vendor wolves in woollen jumpers? This collection of five articles offers a gamut of views. First, Andrew Marritt cuts through the hype and offers a sensible analysis of what is currently possible with AI, which perhaps unsurprisingly isn’t quite what many vendors are claiming. Then Thomas Redman tackles a fundamental capability required to do machine learning – good quality data: first in the historical data used to train the predictive model, and second in the new data used by that model to make future decisions. Next, Chris DeBrusk looks at perhaps one of the biggest risks to technologies built on machine learning – biased data, before providing guidance on how this can be mitigated. Laetitia Vitaud’s article adopts a more positive stance and looks at the possibilities AI offers HR to personalise the services it offers to employees. Finally, Jeanne Meister’s article in Forbes provides two examples from Marriott and Hilton of how they harnessed machine learning to improve candidate and employee experience respectively.     

The quality demands of machine learning are steep, and bad data can rear its ugly head twice — first in the historical data used to train the predictive model and second in the new data used by that model to make future decisions
Thomas Redman

PICK OF THE PODCASTS

JACOB MORGAN & ARUN CHIDAMBARAM - Everything You Need To Know About People Analytics from Pfizer’s Head Of Talent Analytics | ALEC LEVENSON & MAX BLUMBERG – Tucana People Analytics Podcast - Systems Thinking for a High-Performance Organisation | ADAM GRANT & ARIANNA HUFFINGTONWorkLife: When Work Takes Over Your Life | MATT ALDER & ROB McCARGOW – Recruiting Future Episode 125: AI Explained | AL ADAMSEN, SARA WEINER & SHANE COMBEST – The PAFOW Podcast: Glint

April saw a plethora of must-listen podcasts on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work. Here are my favourite five. Firstly, it’s always good to listen to Arun Chidambaram speak about people analytics and his conversation with Jacob Morgan is as stimulating as it is comprehensive. Next, Alec Levenson outlines his concept of systems thinking to Max Blumberg, and how this approach can help realise the full potential of people analytics. Then Adam Grant talks to Arianna Huffington on his WorkLife podcast about the dangers of letting work and technology take over our lives. The always listenable Matt Alder’s guest on the excellent Recruiting Future podcast, Rob McCargow, provides a quite brilliant analysis of AI – cutting through the hype, providing examples of use cases and discussing the very real dangers of biased data. Finally, Al Adamsen continues his excellent series of talking to some of the most innovative vendors in our space, in his discussion with Sara Weiner and Shane Combest of Glint.

VIDEO OF THE MONTH

JOSH BERSIN - HR's Essential Role In The New World Of Work

As one of the main authors of the Global Human Capital Trends report and arguably the most recognised and influential authority on the HR discipline in the world, Josh Bersin is one of the biggest draws on the conference circuit (he is one of the headline speakers at UNLEASH in Las Vegas on 15-16 May). Josh probably delivers more insights per minute than any other speaker, so if you get distracted in the conference hall even for a second, you’ve likely missed something really important. So, the opportunity to watch Josh speak on video armed with pause and rewind buttons is unmissable! The video below shows Josh speaking at the HRD Summit in the UK in February 2018 on the five mandates for HR in the coming years and how the function can best provide value to leaders and employees alike.

FINALLY…

As referenced at the outset of this piece, April was a busy as well as a momentous one for me. I had the good fortune of being the chair of the fifth (and best yet) edition of People Analytics World in London. The week after I delivered the opening keynote and co-ran a masterclass with Jonathan Ferrar at the HR & People Analytics Forum in Budapest, which as well as seeing a mix of local and international speakers made it clear that people analytics as a discipline is making strides in Eastern Europe too. Thank you to Barry Swales and Goran Krstulovic for inviting me to chair and speak at your events.

May is also shaping up to be a good month, with the centrepiece being the UNLEASH show in Las Vegas where I’ll be moderating the Smart Data track and also speaking about ‘The Role of ONA in People Analytics’. I look forward to seeing you there.

Lastly, for those of you who want to know more about Insight222 – where I have just been appointed as a board advisor and NED, this video featuring members Richard Rosenow(Facebook), Geetanjali Gamel (Merck), Steffen Riesenbeck (Bosch) as well as Michelle Deneau (Intuit) and a certain Josh Bersin offers some clues.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn in May 2018 - see here.