The Best Articles on HR, People Analytics & the Future of Work of September 2019

September was a pretty momentous month. It opened with the People Analytics & Future of Work conference in Philadelphia (check out the PAFOW LinkedIn page for replays of all the talks from the two days).

The month culminated with the 2nd Annual Global Executive Retreat, hosted for future-thinking leaders by Insight222 and TI People at Chewton Glen in the heart of the New Forest to Think, Reflect and Plan on the topics of NextGen HR, People Analytics and Digital HR.

My belief that analytics is central to the future of HR was reinforced not only by the high-calibre leaders who participated in the Retreat but through the Think Tank, led by John Boudreau, on ‘The Reorganisation of Work and Implications for HR’. It is clear that the extent of disruption is more than any of us have experienced – and the pace is only going to quicken. For more on the Global Executive Retreat, please check out this week’s special edition of the Digital HR Leaders newsletter.

September’s selection of articles covers a multitude of topics including reskilling workers, business transformation, culture, leadership and informal networks. The thread that links them all is data. People data. I hope you enjoy reading the selected articles.


ROB CROSS, TOM DAVENPORT & PETER GRAY - Collaborate Smarter, Not Harder

Most knowledge workers and leaders spend 85% or more of their time on email, in meetings, and on the phone. Furthermore, as the authors also highlight people have, on average, at least nine different technologies to manage their interactions at work. The result can be overwhelmed and unproductive employees, sapped creativity, and employee attrition. Fortunately, through relationship analytics, companies can reduce overload, attrition, and other costs of collaboration — and increase its rewards. The article shines a light on five examples including from GE, Booz Allen Hamilton (see FIG 1), General Motors and W.L Gore. (You can watch Rob Cross’ superb PAFOW keynote here – it starts at 11.25)

FIG 1:    Network Drivers of Retention at Booz Allen Hamilton - Collaboration data analysis shows that new hires who stay with the company are those who engage in these behaviours (Source: Rob Cross et al, MIT Sloan Management Review)

FIG 1: Network Drivers of Retention at Booz Allen Hamilton - Collaboration data analysis shows that new hires who stay with the company are those who engage in these behaviours (Source: Rob Cross et al, MIT Sloan Management Review)



KEITH McNULTY - 21st Century HR - The three big shifts needed for the future

Keith McNulty outlines three major structural and cultural changes HR needs to make to “take its rightful place as the lead function in helping organizations successfully navigate the technological revolution.” The article encapsulates the vision of HR 3.0 Keith shares with me in the latest episode of the Digital HR Leaders Podcast – HR 3.0: more data driven, more agile and more business focused. In the podcast, Keith also describes how he has built the People Analytics & Measurement team at McKinsey and provides examples of their work.

21st Century talent management will be the key differentiator of successful organisations



“When people science and commerciality come together, it feels like HR” remarks David Fairhurst, Chief People Officer, in this excellent account on how HR is at the heart of business transformation at McDonald’s. The article also features wisdom from Dave Ulrich, who worked with Fairhurst on the transformation (including the reinvention of performance management) as well as insights from Derek Berube, the fast food giant’s Head of People Analytics. An excellent example of how visionary leadership, partnership between the CEO and CHRO, an employee centric approach and data can propel a successful business transformation.

When people science and commerciality come together, it feels like HR


DAVID MCCANN – Human Capital’s Big Reveal | NEIL MCCORMICK & DR. STEFANIE BECKER – The Global Movement for Human Resources Standards

Two must-read articles highlighting that the disclosure of data about a company’s workforce will soon be the norm. The first article in CFO Magazine takes its cue from the recent proposal in the US by the Securities & Exchange Commission that companies be required to report on human capital “to the extent such disclosures would be material to an understanding of the registrant’s business.” FIG 2 summarises the events that have created a groundswell for such disclosure. The article gives examples of companies leading the way such as Allianz, SAP and Deutsche Bank with commentary from the likes of Rob Etheridge, Jeff Higgins, Anthony Hesketh and Jochen Fehringer. The second article in HR Examiner provides more detail on ISO Human Capital Reporting Standard 30414 highlighted in the initial article. This and the recent announcement by the Business Roundtable group of 181 CEOs committing to provide value to all stakeholders – not just shareholders but customers, employees, suppliers and communities as well – should herald a continued and exponential growth in people analytics.

Human capital disclosure isn’t just good for investors. There’s pretty convincing evidence that companies that disclose more of such information perform better.

FIG 2:    Activity around human capital disclosure has accelerated the past two years (Source: CFO Magazine)

FIG 2: Activity around human capital disclosure has accelerated the past two years (Source: CFO Magazine)


LEXY MARTIN - How to Turn HRBPs into People Analytics Evangelists | How Four Companies Enable their HRBPs with People Analytics

To truly enable a data-driven culture, the enablement of HR Business Partners is absolutely critical. In her first article, Lexy Martin outlines research she conducted as part of Visier’s The Age of People Analytics study, which found that the vast majority of HRBPs are still not comfortable when it comes to using data. Lexy then outlines a number of recommendations both for HRBPs themselves and organisations to support, track and measure improvement. The second article collects together examples from the likes of Jason Pagan (Ascension), Todd Horton (Common. Spirit) and Steve Rinvelt (Bosch) (see FIG 3) on how their companies enabled HRBPs with people analytics.

FIG 3:    Example of activities appearing on the Bosch People Analytics scorecard (Source: Steve Rinvelt, Bosch)

FIG 3: Example of activities appearing on the Bosch People Analytics scorecard (Source: Steve Rinvelt, Bosch)



ANNA TAVIS - Recalibrating Workforce Planning for the 21st Century Organisation feat: NIGEL GUENOLE & SHERI FEINZIG - Strategic Workforce Planning in Dynamic Business Environments | JESSE HARRIOTT - The Case for Agile Workforce Planning | ANDY PAPWORTH & STEVE SCOTT - Workforce Planning at Scale at Lloyds Banking Group | DAVID WHITEHEAD & MICHAEL WHEELER - Workforce Planning as a Critical Priority for the U.S. Navy

Anna Tavis is a marvel. Not only is she an important change agent in our field, she is helping develop the next generation of people analytics professionals through the MS Human Capital Analytics and Technology program she leads at NYU. Anna also edits the Perspectives column in the People + Strategy Journal. This quarter the focus is on Strategic Workforce Planning. The lead article from Nigel Guenole and Sheri Feinzig examines the evolution of the classic approach as well as highlighting the emergence of the new practices in workforce planning today (e.g. the shift of emphasis from jobs to skills). The other articles provide counterpoints to Nigel and Sheri’s article. I particularly enjoyed the counterpoint by Andy Papworth and Steve Scott on the advantages of taking an enterprise-wide approach (as opposed to one focused mainly on strategic jobs) and the benefits this allows for resource reallocation, reskilling, and flexibility of resources, including those of HR.   

Today’s workforce planning is one of business’s most urgent priorities and HR leaders are stepping up with data-driven and technology-enabled solutions

ANDRÉ DUA, LIZ HILTON SEGEL & SUSAN LUND - It’s Time for a C-Level Role Dedicated to Reskilling Workers

Fascinating read advocating for the creation of a new corporate function for Reskilling, responsible for the continuous learning of workers. As the article highlights, the challenges presented by the “future of work” are unprecedented, but it is still interesting to note that the authors are recommending an entirely new corporate function rather than a bigger focus from HR. Perhaps this should act as a warning for HR that if the function doesn’t embrace the shifts outlined by Keith McNulty in his article then HR may lose a major part of what should be its core raison d’être of the future.

Many organizations need to add full-fledged systems for continuous learning through teaching, training, and assessing — and they need to do it more effectively and on a larger scale than they have ever attempted before.

ANNETTE LA PRADE, JANET MERTENS, TANYA MOORE & AMY WRIGHT - The enterprise guide to closing the skills gap

New research from IBM reveals that the vast majority or organisations have not moved beyond traditional hiring and training strategies to try and address the growing skills gap. One stark finding from the research is that the time it takes to close a skills gap through training has increased by more than 10 times in just four years (from 3 days in 2014 to 36 days in 2018). The study also found that new skills requirements are rapidly emerging, while other skills are becoming obsolete with FIG 4 highlighting the change between the top skills sought in 2018 compared to 2016. The writers also offer a roadmap and set of key recommendations leveraging AI and based around personalisation, transparency and an inside and out approach to help address skills-related gaps. File under must-read.

FIG 4:    Executives now point to behavioural skills as the most critical for members of the workforce today (Source: IBM Institute for Business Value Global Skills Survey; 2018 IBM Institute for Business Value Global Country Survey)

FIG 4: Executives now point to behavioural skills as the most critical for members of the workforce today (Source: IBM Institute for Business Value Global Skills Survey; 2018 IBM Institute for Business Value Global Country Survey)



SCOTT KELLER & BILL SCHANINGER - Getting personal about change

A surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot when you’re leading a large-scale change effort is to ignore what’s on the minds of your employees. This article provides an “influence model” (see FIG 5) to help steer employee mindset and behaviour. An invaluable read for anyone working in an organisation about to embark on or currently in the throes of a transformation.

FIG 5:    Influence model (Source: Keller & Schaninger, Beyond Performance 2.0 [John Wiley & Sons, July 2019])

FIG 5: Influence model (Source: Keller & Schaninger, Beyond Performance 2.0 [John Wiley & Sons, July 2019])



RASMUS HOUGAARD, JACQUELINE CARTER & KATHLEEN HOGAN - How Microsoft Builds a Sense of Community Among 144,000 Employees

Fascinating read on how Microsoft uses digital tools to build community and create connection between employees and leaders. One of the examples provided is a Daily Pulse Check to small sample of workers, which enables Microsoft to take a snapshot every day of how employees are feeling about the company and its culture. The ability to add in timely questions related for example to a re-organisation means that the company can get sentiment on change in real-time.

Leveraging technology to connect with people at scale is a cornerstone of the 21st-century leadership journey


TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC & LEWIS GARRAD - Will the future of work expose incompetent leadership?

Incompetent leadership – especially incompetent male leadership – is a rather hot topic at the moment. Whether it’s politics or the workplace, it’s safe to say that we’d all prefer competent leaders to (over)confident ones. The brilliant Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic teams up with Lewis Garrad to look at this thorny topic highlighting how AI can exacerbate the situation and thankfully offers some potential solutions (none of which involve late night venting on Twitter or prorogation).

Poor leadership is the number one source of disengagement, turnover, and underperformance. Changes in technology will make the people side of leadership even more significant than it was before.


ALEXIS SAUSSINAN & ADITI SHARMA KALRA - How Merck overcame barriers to adopting a people analytics mindset | MELISSA KANTOR - How the LEGO Group is leading the way in people analytics | ISABEL NAIDOO - Using technology to address the engagement gap

Three articles featuring the people analytics leaders at Merck, LEGO and FIS. First, Alexis Saussinan provides insights about the journey at Merck Group, which has been fuelled through “amazing sponsorship from our senior leaders as well as close partnerships with key bodies and committees such as our Works Council.” Similarly, Melissa Kantor describes how she approaches the discipline and works with senior stakeholders across the LEGO Group (“People analytics teams should realise HR and the CHRO isn’t their entire market – it’s the whole board of directors”). Finally, Isabel Naidoo outlines the specific steps taken at FIS to democratise data, enable dialogue and inform decision making through data (“we discovered that people who worked on teams where their managers gave them more feedback were 35% more likely to stay with FIS”). You can see Melissa and Isabel speak at the upcoming UNLEASH World conference in Paris on 22-23 October, where they’ll be speaking in the Workforce Analytics breakout (see more on UNLEASH below).

Raising awareness about people analytics is never easy, and comes with its set of challenges around convincing HR and business leaders about what’s in it for them


IAN O’KEEFE – The Workforce Analytics Journey at JP Morgan Chase

With apologies for promoting my own show, I do recommend listening to the recent episode with Ian O’Keefe, where he describes the three-year journey of building the Workforce Analytics team at JP Morgan and shares learnings from his 10+ year career in the field, which has also seen him in leadership roles at Google, Sears and American Express.



DEAN CARTER - Beyond Stoked: The power of living values wildly

Dean Carter has rightfully developed a reputation as a ground-breaking HR leader. This video of his recent speech at Talent Connect captures that perfectly as he walks through the enduring philosophies behind Patagonia’s legendary and unconventional ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ culture.



PRASANNA TAMBE, PETER CAPPELLI & VALERY YAKUBOVICH - Artificial intelligence in human resources management: Challenges and a path forward

A comprehensive and eminently readable paper that examines the gap between the promise and reality of AI in HR and offers recommendations on how progress might be made. The paper identifies four challenges in using data science in HR: i) complexity of HR phenomena, ii) constraints imposed by small data sets, iii) ethical questions associated with fairness and legal constraints, and iv) employee reaction to management via data-based algorithms. Practical responses are then provided to counter these challenges.


What are the most common mistakes HR organizations make when implementing new tech?

I join Bill Kutik, Jenny Payne, Jérôme Ternynck and Shaunda Zilich in answering questions from Human Resource Executive magazine on how HR technology is disrupting the way organisations operate.


It’s less than three weeks now until over 5,000 HR professionals gather in the Cité de Lumière as UNLEASH World hits Paris on 22-23 October. For the second consecutive year, I’ll be hosting the Main Stage as well as the Workforce Analytics track and will be introducing speakers including Patrick Coolen, Erin Meyer, Josh Bersin, Peter Hinssen and Bob Geldof over the two days. Click here to find out more and do check out UNLEASH head honcho Marc Coleman’s excellent preview of Bob Geldof’s appearance here: People, Purpose, Profit, & Planet; Unleashing a World in Chains.


...and just in case anyone needed reminding about Bob Geldof's biggest hit as part of The Boomtown Rats:



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David is a globally respected writer, speaker, conference chair, and executive consultant on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work. As an Executive Director at Insight222, he helps global organisations create more cultural and economic value through the wise and ethical use of people data and analytics. Prior to joining Insight222 and taking up a board advisor role at 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. 


I’ll 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 November 2019. 

David GreenComment