The best HR & People Analytics articles of January 2019


It’s been a lightning start to 2019 for the field of people analytics. I had the honour of speaking at and being co-chair with Al Adamsen of the biggest and most successful People Analytics & Future of Work (PAFOW) yet in San Francisco last week. My write-up will follow next week, but in the meantime sign-up to the London show on 24-25 April and read Tauseef Rahman’s excellent summary from San Francisco here.

The field of people analytics continues to broaden and deepen. This was reflected by many of the speakers at PAFOW including Piyush Mathur, Dawn Klinghoffer, RJ Milnor, Heather Whiteman, David White, Brad Hubbard, Richard Rosenow, Jonathan Ferrar and Josh Bersin. It is also evidenced in the innovation being brought into the space from the vendor community, which witnessed more consolidation with the news that Culture Amp has acquired continuous performance management company Zugata (read Stacia Garr’s article on the acquisition here).

The continued health and innovation in the field is also demonstrated in the quality and diversity of articles I’ve selected for this month’s collection. This proved to be one of the hardest selections yet as the longlist extended to 30 articles, all of which that would have been a shoo-in not so long ago.

The selections cover topics such as market analysis, workforce planning, organisational network analysis, diversity and inclusion, leadership and culture, creating a data-driven culture within HR and a number of hugely insightful articles by people analytics leaders. If that wasn’t enough then the first article from Accenture may well be the best written yet on the opportunity offered by successfully harnessing workforce data with trust to provide benefit to business and workers alike and unlock the massive economic opportunity offered by people analytics.

Enjoy, and if you do and haven’t yet done so, please subscribe to my Data Driven HR newsletter.


ELLYN SHOOK, MARK KNICKREHM & EVA SAGE-GAVIN - Decoding Organizational DNA: Trust, Data and Unlocking Value in the Digital Workplace

A monumental study from Accenture on the risks and rewards inherent in harnessing workforce data and people analytics to unlock organisational DNA. There are a multitude of insights offered throughout the 68 page report not least that the if companies create trust – and therefore unlock the value of workforce data – the growth for the 6,000 largest publicly listed global companies alone equates to more than US$3 trillion. The study nimbly balances insights from business leaders (77% of business leaders say that new sources of workforce data will grow the business) and workers (92% are open to the collection of their data providing it improves their performance or wellbeing or provides other benefits). Having demonstrated the criticality of trust, the study then provides guidance on how to elevate people using technology, share responsibility and benefits, as well as maximise the value to employers – and people – of workforce data. Read the full report here and check out the Slideshare featuring highlights from the report.


JOSH BERSIN – HR Technology Market 2019: Disruption Ahead

The long-awaited analysis of the HR technology market in 2019 from the world’s premier HR analyst does not disappoint. The headline prediction is that AI, productivity, and focus on the Employee Experience will drive technology investments in the year ahead. From a data driven HR perspective, and as Josh outlined in his keynote at PAFOW, people analytics is a key foundation of the 11 predictions outlined as the focus shifts towards productivity, performance and teams (see Fig 1).

FIG 1   : From HCM to Talent Management to HR in the Flow of Work (Source: Josh Bersin)

FIG 1: From HCM to Talent Management to HR in the Flow of Work (Source: Josh Bersin)


ANNA TAVIS – Inside-Out People Analytics featuring: DAVID GREEN – The rise of People Analytics | BEVERLY TARULLI – Three ways to increase the impact of People Analytics | SHERI FEINZIG & NIGEL GUENOLE - How to embed and distribute analytics insights | VOLKER JACOBS – The critical impact of experience data and skills data | JOSHUA GENTINE & AMIT MOHINDRA – People Analytics: A board’s fiduciary duty? | STELA LUPUSHOR – People Analytics is here, and we have a lot to celebrate

This Perspective on the state of people analytics in 2019 was compiled by Anna Tavis for the winter edition of SHRM’s People + Strategy Journal. I was delighted to contribute the lead article, which looks at the growth in the field, provides examples of how Nielsen, Virgin Media and Clarks have used analytics to help drive business outcomes, and introduces the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model (see FIG 2) Jonathan Ferrar and I co-created in 2018. The other articles from a stellar list of contributors provide a counterpoint to my article and collectively show both the rising importance of people analytics, but also how the field is both broadening and deepening.

To have greater impact within our organizations, people analytics teams need to go beyond a “build it and they will come” approach

Beverly Tarulli

FIG 2   : Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics (Source: Jonathan Ferrar and David Green)

FIG 2: Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics (Source: Jonathan Ferrar and David Green)


PATRICK COOLEN, JAAP VELDKAMP, INGRID BIENEFELT, MARTIJN VOSZ & DAVID GREEN - How to help HR improve its literacy in data and people analytics

Creating a culture of data-based decision making is key to achieving sustainable success with people analytics. In this article, we learn from Patrick Coolen Jaap Veldkamp Ingrid Bienefelt and Martijn Vosz about a fun and innovative training exercise they ran at ABN AMRO to help their HR colleagues improve their data literacy and understanding of people analytics - The Escape Room.

ABNAMRO_Escape Room.png

LEXY MARTIN - The HRBP as People Analytics Evangelists

To truly imbue a data-driven culture, the enablement of HR Business Partners is absolutely critical. In this 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. Indeed, a key obstacle to success of people analytics identified by the study was “we do not have a ‘data-driven’ skillset within HR and / or our HR business partners.” Lexy then outlines a number of recommendations both for HRBPs themselves and organisations to support, track and measure improvement including FIG 3, which highlights the key capabilities that HRBPs need to be most effective as promoters of people analytics usage.

FIG 3   : Key capabilities HRBPs need to be most effective as promoters of people analytics usage (Source: Visier)

FIG 3: Key capabilities HRBPs need to be most effective as promoters of people analytics usage (Source: Visier)

DAVE WEISBECK - 4 Essential Skills an HR Technologist Will Need for the Future

As I wrote in #10 of my HR predictions for 2019, the skills and knowledge areas required by HR professionals is undergoing a significant revolution. In this excellent summary, Dave Weisbeck describes four essential skills that are increasingly being required: i) connecting HR Decisions to Business Outcomes, ii) data-based reasoning and innovation, iii) social intelligence, and iv) creative problem solving. These fit in nicely with the six knowledge areas where we are building out online training with the myHRfuture academy (see FIG 4).

FIG 4:    Six knowledge areas for HR to focus on to prepare for the future of work (Source: myHRfuture)

FIG 4: Six knowledge areas for HR to focus on to prepare for the future of work (Source: myHRfuture)


RUPERT MORRISON - Rethinking workforce planning for a disruptive age

Inspired by his search for a new CFO, Concentra CEO Rupert Morrison describes his ‘eureka’ moment where he realised that HR could take a leaf out of Finance’s book by restructuring itself into two distinct parts: HR operations, and Organisational planning and analysis (OP&A) (see FIG 5). Rupert goes on to outline some of the key business questions OP&A would answer (e.g. How should the organisation be redesigned to better deliver the business strategy, Who does what work, who should do it, and what new skills are required) as well as detailing five steps for HR to be future ready.

FIG 5:    As FP&A is to Finance, so OP&A is to HR (Source: Rupert Morrison)

FIG 5: As FP&A is to Finance, so OP&A is to HR (Source: Rupert Morrison)

MEGAN McCONNELL & BILL SCHANINGER – Are we long or short on talent?

This article from McKinsey presents how by looking at their supply of skills and talent in a new light today, organisations can take actions that better prepare their companies for tomorrow’s challenges. The article provides several examples including from a European bank whose market position was being threatened by new, more savvy digital rivals as well as outlining a five-step methodology to adjust the shortage or surplus of skills in a workforce (see FIG 6). An enlightening read.

FIG 6:    Five methods offering a variety of ways to adjust the shortage or surplus of skills in a workforce (Source: McKinsey)

FIG 6: Five methods offering a variety of ways to adjust the shortage or surplus of skills in a workforce (Source: McKinsey)

Workforce Planning Online Training

We are excited to be launching a new course on getting started with workforce planning in the next few weeks, led by Al Adamsen. This introduction to workforce planning will ensure that as an HR professional, you not only understand how to create a strategic workforce plan, but also how you can get buy-in and support for your workforce planning activities. Click on the image below to learn more about the course and to pre-register now to secure our Early Bird rate.


GURU SETHUPATHY - Capital One’s People Analytics team’s theory of impact | KEITH McNULTY - Constructing your analytics team around the analytics value lifecycle | ANTHONY FERRERAS - Busting the “Unmyth” Using People Analytics

My favourite articles on people analytics are ones penned by those leading people analytics teams as they provide first-hand views on the progress and challenges in the space. First, Guru Sethupathy describes the three broad areas of impact his team at Capital One are focused on: influencing talent strategy and policy, empowering better decision making and empowering the workforce to be their best – watch out for an upcoming article I am collaborating with Guru on. Like Guru, Keith McNulty has been building his people analytics team (at McKinsey) for two years. His article outlines the six-step methodology (see FIG 7), he has evolved to support decision making and increase business impact. Finally, Anthony Ferreras, who leads people analytics at Nordstorm, uses a powerful example to warn of the danger of going down the rabbit hole of ‘best practice’ when comparing your own organisation against industry benchmarks and published research and case studies.

Data and insights are at the heart of People Analytics, but insight without impact is insufficient

Guru Sethupathy

FIG 7:    The Analytics lifecycle (Source: Keith McNulty)

FIG 7: The Analytics lifecycle (Source: Keith McNulty)

RITESH MOHAN SRIVASTAVA - How to f**k up an Advanced Analytics team : A simple 20 step process

A tongue-in-cheek but painfully accurate list of 20 steps companies typically adopt to undermine and diminish the impact of advanced analytics teams. Whilst Ritesh’s article examines the impact on enterprise analytics teams, many of the examples offered are certainly relevant to people analytics too.


AMY C. EDMONDSON - How Fearless Organizations Succeed | HAMISH MORE - Psychological safety, dialogue & teams

Amy Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, was the first to identify the concept of psychological safety in work teams in 1999. Her research was the foundation of the famous Project Aristotle study Google’s People Analytics team published a few years ago. In this excerpt from her new book, The Fearless Organization, Amy describes three steps leaders can take to create psychological safety (see also FIG 8), the prerequisite for greater innovation and growth. Read alongside Hamish More’s terrific article on why an environment of psychological safety is required to successfully hire for team-fit and diversity.

“When an organization minimizes the fear people feel on the job, performance — at both the organizational and the team level — is maximized”

FIG 8   : The Leader’s Tool Kit for Building Psychological Safety (Source: Amy Edmondson, The Fearless Organization)

FIG 8: The Leader’s Tool Kit for Building Psychological Safety (Source: Amy Edmondson, The Fearless Organization)



Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) continues to rise in importance as more companies adopt both the active and passive forms of network science to identify insights that drive collaboration, innovation, productivity and performance. This interview with Michael Arena, Chief Talent Officer at GM and author of Adaptive Space, provides an illuminating insight into the opportunity for companies embracing ONA when it comes to organisational design.

We are at the tipping point for ONA, where we’re starting to see leaders understand the power of making the previously invisible connections visible through network science and using this to redesign their organizations

RYAN FULLER & SANAZ NAMDAR - A Look into Microsoft’s Data-Driven Approach to Improving Sales

One of the most powerful uses cases for ONA/People Analytics is in the domain of sales effectiveness. This case study describes how Microsoft combined passive ONA (calendar and email metadata) with organisational, CRM and sales outcome data to analyse the impact of a major sales transformation involving 20,000 people and over 100 countries. The analysis provided insights around critical areas such as internal and customer collaboration, ramp up of new hires, time spent with customers and impact on the business success of customers.

Salespeople with larger, more inclusive networks tended to have better outcomes



As this comprehensive report from BCG outlines, it is perplexing that with the level of effort companies have put into diversity that progress continues to be slow. Although most organisations now have diversity programs in place, the report finds that only 25% of employees in diverse groups feel that they have benefited. The report covers diversity in gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation as well as identifying specific solutions that can be implemented to accelerate progress. Diversity and inclusion is increasingly a focus for people analytics teams, so it is to be hoped that reports like these allied to a more data-driven approach will yield faster progress in this critical area sooner rather than later.

Top-performing companies set clear, quantifiable diversity goals, measure their progress over time, and foster transparency by reporting their progress publicly


TOM HAAK - Latest Trends in Employee Mood Measurement | ROLFE WINKLER & ANDREA FULLER - How Companies Secretly Boost Their Glassdoor Ratings | DIRK VERBURG - How To Make Engagement Surveys Work | JASON McPHERSON - Do you really need a 'best friend' at work? | STEVEN HUANG - 5 Diversity and Inclusion questions to use at your company | ENRIQUE DANS - Is Using Algorithms In Human Resources A No-Brainer--Or Something More Sinister?

The Employee Engagement market continues to be subject to considerable disruption with Culture Amp’s acquisition of Zugata following hot on the heels of LinkedIn buying Glint and Qualtrics being snapped up by SAP. These articles collectively signify the change that is occurring. First, Tom Haak summarises nine trends that demonstrate the shift towards providing more benefit to employees. Next a terrific piece of investigative journalism from the Wall Street Journal highlights how a number of companies are trying to 'game' Glassdoor. This includes the insight that the share of 5 star Glassdoor ratings is now 28% of total ratings (see FIG 9). Then Dirk Verburg reminds us of the study by Harter et al, which found the significant impact of engagement on a myriad of business performance indicators. Next, Jason McPherson examines the validity of the ‘best friend at work’ question, before Culture Amp colleague Steven Huang outlines five D&I questions you can include within your survey. Finally, Enrique Dans looks at the emergence of Laszlo Bock’s Humu and the pros and cons of algorithmic based nudges that make personalised recommendations to workers on behaviours and how they work.

FIG 9:    Share of Glassdoor ratings by stars 2013-18 (Source: Wall Street Journal)

FIG 9: Share of Glassdoor ratings by stars 2013-18 (Source: Wall Street Journal)



The article that arguably started it all and undoubtedly the one that brought people analytics to the attention of a wider audience – and certainly me – when it was published in 2010. The commentary, advice and case studies highlighted in this seminal HBR article still resonant today – not least the insight that Best Buy found that the value of a 0.1% increase in employee engagement was $100,000.

Leading-edge companies are increasingly adopting sophisticated methods of analyzing employee data to enhance their competitive advantage


MATT ALDER & MIRANDA BOGEN – Recruiting Future Podcast: Algorithmic Bias In Hiring | JOHN SUMSER & MANISH GOEL - HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: Relationship Analytics | JACOB MORGAN & LOREN SHUSTER – How Lego Utilizes Storytelling, The Power Of Play, And How They Are Redesigning Their Leadership Model

A selection of diverse and must-listen podcasts from February from three stalwarts of this medium. First, Matt Alder speaks to Miranda Bogen from Upturn about their recent report that explores algorithmic bias in hiring. John Sumser speaks to TrustSphere CEO Manish Goel about the surge of interest and adoption of relationship analytics. Finally, Jacob Morgan speaks to Loren Shuster, one of the new generation of data-driven CHROs about the ongoing transformation he is leading at Lego.


AKI BEN-EZRA – How do you measure Employee Experience | RJ MILNOR - How do you build an effective Workforce Planning capability?

A pair of videos covering two of the topics highlighted in this month’s collection. First, Aki Ben-Ezra describes how adidas overhauled its approach to measuring employee experience. Then RJ Milnor outlines the workforce planning capability at McKesson and how the People Analytics team is supporting both Talent Acquisition and the overall workforce planning strategy.


As well as the aforementioned articles with Partick Coolen and his team at ABN AMRO, and my contribution to SHRM’s People + Strategy Journal, I published two other articles in January, which hopefully provide a useful resource for the field.

The 40 best People Analytics articles of 2018 – My fifth annual round-up of the best people analytics articles from the previous 12 months is the strongest collection yet, which demonstrates both the progress of the field but also how people analytics continues to broaden and deepen its scope.

100+ Conferences to attend in 2019 on people analytics, the future of work and data-driven HR – Another indication of the surge of interest in people analytics is the number of conferences dedicated to or heavily featuring the topic scheduled for 2019. This list of conferences organised chronologically covers events on every continent. 



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 in 2019. If you are going to one of these events and would like to meet up with David or you would like to book him to speak at a conference, please contact David by email on