The best HR and People Analytics articles of June 2019

One of the keys to being successful with people analytics is to develop a data-driven culture across HR. Through an extensive review of research and our experience of working in the field, Jonathan Ferrar and I recently identified six factors that influence the adoption of people analytics (see FIG 1)

We know that creating a data-driven culture is a challenge for many organisations, so we have decided to deepen this research – but we need your help. Please participate in our Adoption of People Analytics Survey, which is being co-researched together with Eleni Zarkada as part of her studies at University of Edinburgh Business School. It only takes five minutes to complete, and if you provide your details, you’ll receive a copy of the results when the report is published in September.

FIG 1:    Six Factors for the Adoption of People Analytics (Source: myHRfuture)

FIG 1: Six Factors for the Adoption of People Analytics (Source: myHRfuture)

As this month’s collection of articles ably demonstrates, adopting people analytics and investing in developing a data-driven culture pays off not only in terms of tangible business outcomes, but in creating a better employee experience too.

For example, I had the good fortune to interview Leena Nair at CogX in London a few weeks ago where we discussed how Unilever has infused AI and analytics throughout the employee journey. One of the many insights Leena revealed was that through people analytics, the HR team at Unilever has quantified that for every $1 invested in health and wellbeing initiatives, they get a return of $2.50. That provides a perfect demonstration of both the business and the employee value of people analytics.

This seems like the ideal point to dip into this month’s selection of articles…


NEIL IRWIN WITH BRETT OSTRUM, DAWN KLINGHOFFER & RYAN FULLER - How Data Can Help You Win in the Winner-Take-All Economy 

Not only did this article see people analytics feature prominently in The New York Times, but it conveys a stellar example of the business value of people data, which makes it a shoo-in for the Article of the Month. Through a powerful story and input from Brett Ostrum (who runs Surface and Xbox at Microsoft), Dawn Klinghoffer and Ryan Fuller, Neil Irwin reveals how people and network data provided critical insights about work-life balance in a high-performing team at Microsoft. File under must-read.

Data alone isn’t insight. The key is to listen to what data has to say — and develop the openness and interpretive skills to understand what it is telling us


LEXY MARTIN - Secure the Right HR Business Partner Manager for the Future | JENNY ROPER – HRBPs must be people analytics evangelists

Enthusing, equipping and enabling HR Business Partners (HRBPs) and improving their data literacy is key to creating a data-driven HR function and therefore sustainable capability in people analytics. In a series of interviews with HR leaders, Lexy Martin found that only 10-25% of HRBPs are analytical. As such, she concludes that the role of the HRBP Manager is absolutely critical and provides a job description for a strategic and data-driven HRBP Manager. Jenny Roper’s article summarises a panel Lexy moderated at UNLEASH in London and features insights on the crucial role of HRBPs from Olly Britnell (Experian), Ben Bartl (Dentsu Aegis) and Leandra Griep (Merck).

Getting HRBPs and business managers ‘in a room together’ to discuss analytics is crucial. This creates ‘real appetite in the business that HRBPs then need to keep up with’


JENS JAHN, THOMAS RASMUSSEN & REINHARD MESSENBÖCK - Unlocking Change Management with People Analytics

Thomas Rasmussen, Head of People Analytics at National Australia Bank, partners with BCG for this must-read article on how people analytics has shifted the goalposts with regards to business transformation and change. The article offers several examples of the business value of people analytics including FIG 2, which highlights how in one company business units with high engagement had twice the sales volume compared with units with low engagement.

People analytics has changed the game, with engines that can generate quantitative behavioural data on what people do at work, how a transformation will affect their work, and how changes in behaviour can improve financial performance

FIG 2:    Business units with high engagement scores generated greater sales (Source: BCG Analysis)

FIG 2: Business units with high engagement scores generated greater sales (Source: BCG Analysis)

ANDREW MARRITT - How to use technology & analytics to improve employee-driven innovation 

Employee-sourced innovation can deliver significant economic value for firms. In this article, Andrew Marritt provides a captivating description of how technology and analytics can help realise innovation and value from employees. Andrew’s suggestion of combining surveys, text analytics and Organisational Network Analysis seems like a winning recipe to me.

ONA offers an opportunity to help understand and proactively form the structures and communities that facilitate innovation in firms

TIM FOUNTAINE, BRYAN McCARTHY & TAMIM SALEH - Building the AI-Powered Organization

As the authors of this HBR cover article explain culture rather than technology or talent is the key to companies seeking to scale AI. With only 8% of firms engaging in the core practices required to support widespread adoption, there is much work to do. The article describes three steps to make the shift (“from experience-based leader-driven to data-driven decision making at the front line”), how to set the firm up for success (“balancing feasibility, time and value”), organising for scale (see FIG 3), education (“to ensure the adoption of AI, companies need to educate everyone, from the top leaders down”) and reinforcing the change (“most AI transformations take 18 to 36 months to complete”). A comprehensive and absorbing read.

Technology isn’t the biggest challenge. Culture is

FIG 3:    Organising AI for scale (Source: Fountaine et al, Harvard Business Review)

FIG 3: Organising AI for scale (Source: Fountaine et al, Harvard Business Review)


DAVE ULRICH - What’s Your Experience with Employee Experience?

Dave Ulrich draws parallels between CX and EX in his superb piece that looks at the evolution of what he calls the talent sentiment market (see FIG 4). Dave cautions that “EX (particularly around technology) alone will not create competitive organisations” and that the main focus of leaders and HR should be on providing employees with “an organization that wins in the marketplace because then the EX is possible.” I interviewed Dave recently for an upcoming episode of the Digital HR Leaders podcast and I can promise that listeners are in for a treat.

FIG 4:    Evolution of Talent Sentiment concepts (Source: Dave Ulrich)

FIG 4: Evolution of Talent Sentiment concepts (Source: Dave Ulrich)

LASZLO BOCK - Your Culture Will Make or Break Your Business | VOLKER JACOBS - 3 Steps How EX Can Change Culture

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is the famous phrase from the revered Peter Drucker, and as Laszlo Bock writes failure of culture has become the biggest destroyer of value in business. He provides three reasons why culture matters more than ever and highlights that a single intervention at Google (a nudge to help new hires settle) was worth $400m per year. In his article, Volker Jacobs outlines three ways employee experience can help change culture under the auspices of a methodology based on design, share, measure and act (see FIG 5).

The union of computer science, people science, and a strong foundation in ethics and privacy, can help leaders make measurably better, more fair decisions

FIG 5:    How EX can shape culture (Source: Volker Jacobs)

FIG 5: How EX can shape culture (Source: Volker Jacobs)


RIDWAN ISMEER - People Analytics: Job Hopping and The Science of Fit

A fascinating article by Ridwan Ismeer about a people analytics project he conducted that busted a few myths around ‘job hoppers,’ and demonstrated the importance of three variants of fit (job, cultural and manager), which he defines as “how well an employee's values align with a specific environment's values.”

FIG 6:    Examples of Job and Culture Fit (Source: Ridwan Ismeer)

FIG 6: Examples of Job and Culture Fit (Source: Ridwan Ismeer)

DAWN KLINGHOFFER, CANDICE YOUNG & DAVE HASPAS - Every New Employee Needs an Onboarding “Buddy”

In her second article in this month’s collection – written together with two members of her team - Dawn Klinghoffer outlines the findings of a program involving 600 employees. The results found three key ways buddies help new hires have a successful on-boarding experience at Microsoft. 

Onboarding buddies provide context, boot productivity and improve new employee satisfaction


KATARINA BERG – Spotify’s People Analytics Journey

CHRO Katerina Berg walks through the three-year journey of building people analytics at Spotify outlining the three beliefs (“be data-informed, not data-led”), four bets (“dare to simplify”) and beacon (“framing the work by bravery, responsibility and openness”) that has underpinned their impressive progress.

The data should be continuously discussed, challenged and pressure tested. Helping us to take better and more informed people and business decisions


ISABEL NAIDOO - 3 Roles That Will Futureproof HR

I concur with Isabel Naidoo, who leads people strategy and analytics at FIS, that there hasn’t been a more exciting time to be in HR (“The workplace is transforming fast and who better to shepherd organisations through this than the professionals who understand people?”). Isabel then outlines three roles we need to play to achieve this: digital champions, data analysts and coaches. Once you have read the article, check out Isabel’s speech at PAFOW (see Video of the Month below, Part 1 and start at 1:01:05).

We’ve had to train our HR teams in analytics to be able to develop the skills needed to drive business insights


MANPREET RANDAWA - Five Dimensions Shaping the Future of Work | AMY CAPPELLANTI-WOLF - AI, Diversity And Keeping 'Human' In Human Relations | KEVIN ROOSE - A Machine May Not Take Your Job, but One Could Become Your Boss | ANDREW SPENCE - Blockchain Workforce Update #2

Last month’s ‘special’ on the future of work proved popular with readers and with a flood of excellent articles continuing in June it seemed entirely appropriate for an encore. First up, Manpreet Randawa highlights five dimensions shaping the future of work and the human-machine collaboration that is set to occur. Symantec’s CHRO Amy Cappellanti-Wolf looks at the need to balance better tools in hiring withy ethics and fairness (“We need to keep the humanity in HR, especially if we’re going to pursue equity in hiring”). Next a New York Times article provides examples of how AI and automation is being used by companies like MetLife and IBM; and looks at the pros and cons including a telling quote from Frida Polli, CEO of pymetrics (“We can tweak data and algorithms until we can remove the bias. We can’t do that with a human being”). Finally, my go-to on the emerging Blockchain phenomenon Andy Spence, updates his indispensable Blockchain Workforce Update (see FIG 7).

FIG 7:    Blockchain Workforce Vendor Landscape (Source: Andy Spence)

FIG 7: Blockchain Workforce Vendor Landscape (Source: Andy Spence)


EDEN BRITT & DAVID GREEN - How to Build a People Analytics Team in a Global Organisation | LARS SCHMIDT & PETER CAPPELLI – Your Approach to Hiring is All Wrong | MATT ALDER & TONILLE MILLER - Focusing On Employee Experience

A selection of three podcasts for your aural pleasure this month. First, Eden Britt joined me for EP5 of the Digital HR Leaders podcast to discuss the people analytics journey at HSBC. Next Lars Schmidt speaks to Peter Cappelli about his recent HBR cover article, before Tonille Miller joins Matt Alder on how she has designed employee experience at Startek.



This is a real treat. PAFOW recently staged its first show in London and these livestreams capture the full program in the main room on both days. See practitioners including: Annemieke Nennie (Rabobank), Nicky Clement (Unilever), Brydie Lear (ING), Isabel Naidoo (FIS), Mark Lawrence (GSK), Steve Scott (Lloyds Banking Group) and Maximilian Grohmann (Sixt) as well as the vendor showcase, a panel on ethics and also Al Adamsen, Ian Bailie, Jonathan Ferrar and me as well. If you like what you see, don’t forget that the next PAFOW show is in Philadelphia on 5-6 September. Check out the latest speaker list here.


NICK LYNN – Employee Experience Leadership | CHESTER ISMAY, ALBERT Y. KIM & HENDRIK FEDDERSEN – HR Analytics in R

Two books worth checking out this month. First Nick Lynn provides an insider guide to the world of employee engagement and experience – emphasising the essential ingredient of trust. Read Nick’s interview with Andrew Marritt for a preview. Secondly, Hendrik Feddersen collaborates with Chester Ismay and Albert Y. Kim to provide an indispensable (and free!) digital guide to HR Analytics in R.


GERALD C. KANE, DOUG PALMER, ANH NGUYEN PHILLIPS, DAVID KIRON, AND NATASHA BUCKLEY – Accelerating Digital Innovation Inside and Out: Agile Teams, Ecosystems and Ethics

This collaboration between MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte unveils the distinctive characteristics of innovation in digitally maturing organisations (“digitally mature companies innovate at far higher rates than their less mature counterparts”). The report focuses on key traits including agile and cross-functional teams, collaboration with external partners, governance (“digitally maturing companies are more likely to have ethics policies in place to govern digital business”).

Employee enthusiasm for ethical and social issues can be leveraged to build a culture of trust and civic engagement


JONATHAN FERRAR - How to Create a Governance Model for People Analytics

In the first course to launch from the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model we developed together, Jonathan Ferrar walks through how to create strong governance for your people analytics function and how to build the six different types of governance for people analytics. You can get 12 months of unlimited access to all of the content on myHRfuture for one amazing low price. Find out more by clicking on the image below.


Six Factors for the Adoption of People Analytics

This article presents six factors influencing the adoption of people analytics (see FIG 1), as well as providing access to the short survey mentioned in the opening of this month’s collection. The aim of the study is to provide guidance for HR leaders on how to create a data-driven culture and build adoption of analytics amongst HR professionals, so once again I’d be grateful if you could participate in the survey.

Digital HR Leaders podcast and video series

I’ve been blown away by the positive response to the first few episodes of the Digital HR Leaders podcast and video series, which launched on myHRfuture in May. Tune in to the next episode with Katarina Berg, CHRO at Spotify, check out the accompanying video highlights on the myHRfuture YouTube channel, and look out for future episodes with the likes of Dave Ulrich, Jordan Pettman, Frida Polli, Keith McNulty and Anna Tavis.


With record temperatures in France the past week, I’ll leave you with a taste of summer from the Godlike genius Paul Weller from his Style Council days.



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 2019.