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

There was a lot of reading to catch up on following my two-week break with the family in Turkey as August proved to be a busier than expected month for data-driven HR themed articles.

Perhaps this is an indication of the continued growth of the people analytics field. Certainly, a recent study by Thomsons Online Benefits found that the number of global organisations building people analytics teams has risen dramatically over the last three years, from 15 percent to 68 percent.

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 – could herald an even bigger focus on people analytics. It will be interesting to see if what is essentially thus far a PR exercise becomes a reality for this group of leading US companies. This is a point already made by the B Corporation Group – a group of companies who have already passed legislation requiring them to deliver value to all stakeholders.

This apparent shift is certainly something I’ll continue to watch with interest over the coming years. For now, let’s press on with the selection of articles for August.


JONATHAN FERRAR - What are the Six Types of Governance in People Analytics?

The best people analytics functions are built on solid foundations. This is rooted in having strong governance with clear purpose, standards, privacy, ethics and security. In his article, Jonathan Ferrar walks through how to develop strong governance practices through implementing six different types of governance (see FIG 1) for people analytics in your organisation.

Governance is the underpinning element of all analytics

FIG 1   : Six types of governance in people analytics (Source: Jonathan Ferrar, Insight222)

FIG 1: Six types of governance in people analytics (Source: Jonathan Ferrar, Insight222)


FRIDA POLLI – Seven very simple principles for designing more ethical AI

Users must be empowered, not overpowered, by technology. The only way to stop questionable AI from collecting and using personal data is to design it with the end user in mind. Insightful read from Frida Polli, Co-Founder and CEO of pymetrics. Look out for Frida on an upcoming episode of the Digital HR Leaders podcast (available from 10th September).

AI must use unbiased data. Any biased data used to train algorithms will be multiplied and enhanced by AI’s power

RAVIN JESUTHASAN - The 8 Ways Companies Get Work Done, and How to Align Them

To succeed in this new world of work leaders need to focus on two things according to Ravin Jesuthasan. They need to have a better understanding of the eight different sources of labour, and they need to better align the interests of these sources of work to create a unifying culture. Ravin quotes Leena Nair to describe that what this essentially means leaders need to “use culture as the new structure.”

Today it (culture) is defined by a compelling narrative that aligns the diverse interest of a distributed and highly heterogeneous group of work providers


ALICIA ROACH - Why you can’t afford to NOT do Strategic Workforce Planning | QUINN SLAUGHTER - The 5 Steps of Analytics-Driven Workforce Planning

With companies in a perpetual state of transformation and the rapidly changing world of work, Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) has arguably never been so important. In her article, Alicia Roach provides compelling data (see FIG 2) to back-up her assertion that it is imperative organisations invest in building a solid strategic workforce plan that is not only aligned to but underpins their business strategy. SWP is becoming ever more intertwined with people analytics, and in her article Quinn Slaughter outlines five steps towards data driven workforce planning.

FIG 2:    The impact of Strategic Workforce Planning (Sources: Alicia Roach, QHR, Sierra Cedar and McKinsey)

FIG 2: The impact of Strategic Workforce Planning (Sources: Alicia Roach, QHR, Sierra Cedar and McKinsey)


ANDREW CHAMBERLAIN & DANIEL ZHAO - The Key to Happy Customers? Happy Employees

Can companies help to achieve high customer satisfaction by investing in employees and ensuring that those who deliver goods and services are themselves satisfied with their jobs? That was the tantalising research question tackled by Glassdoor’s Economics team. The results summarised in this article may not be definitive, but they are certainly compelling e.g. the study calculated that a one star improvement in a company's Glassdoor rating equates to an increase of 7.8% to 18.9% in their long-term market valuation. You can access the full report here.

FIG 3:    Positive Link between Employee and Customer Satisfaction (Source: Glassdoor Economic Research)

FIG 3: Positive Link between Employee and Customer Satisfaction (Source: Glassdoor Economic Research)

VOLKER JACOBS & MARK LEVY - How Do You Create a Culture That Supports Employee Experience?

Two of the leading lights behind the inexorable rise of Employee Experience join forces to outline the data models that should be used to focus the efforts of the entire organisation on EX to track and benchmark it over time. The result, as illustrated below in FIG 4 and outlined in detail in their article, is the Employee Experience Index. The aim? To provide focus and to maximise the ROI of EX. A fascinating, compelling and must-read article.

FIG 4:    The Data Universe of Employee Experience (Source: Volker Jacobs, TI-people and Mark Levy)

FIG 4: The Data Universe of Employee Experience (Source: Volker Jacobs, TI-people and Mark Levy)

NEEL GANDHI & JUNG PAIK - An agile HR leads to happier employees

Interesting read from McKinsey that demonstrates the development of an agile model is a core component of next-generation HR. The article presents a model for an agile HR operating model (see FIG 5), and outlines how such a model improves business focus, efficiency and effectiveness e.g. McKinsey research indicates a 20 percent boost in employee engagement scores through using an agile model.

FIG 5:    An agile operating model for HR increases business focus, efficiency and effectiveness (Source: McKinsey)

FIG 5: An agile operating model for HR increases business focus, efficiency and effectiveness (Source: McKinsey)


STACEY HARRIS - When the Data Says You’re Wrong (and what to do about it)

Ensuring that you ask the right questions is the first recommendation of Stacey Harris in her revealing article. As Stacey then goes on to outline, data has a habit of busting myths and generating counterintuitive insights that suggest your original opinion is wrong. Beyond asking the right questions, Stacey provides a number of other steps you should take before you fall on your sword. This includes advice around areas such as data accuracy, sample size, comparative data sources, gathering more data, and of course being willing to change your mind.

Data is just information – the actions we take based on the data have the real impact


ROB CROSS - To Be Happier at Work, Invest More in Your Relationships

What’s the secret to a fulfilling career? Most advice focuses on finding purpose and satisfaction in your work. If you can just land the perfect job doing meaningful work, you’ll finally be happy. Maybe not. Rob Cross presents findings from research that suggests that satisfaction depends as much on the who (your relationships in and out of work) as it does on the what (the job itself). As ever with Rob’s articles, this is a fascinating read and a perfect example of why the field of ONA continues to flourish.

Social connections play a central role in fostering a sense of purpose and well-being in the workplace. They also impact the bottom line


SARAH O’BRIEN - Here’s How Your Word Choices Could Affect Hiring Gender-Diverse Talent

Sarah O’Brien highlights findings (including those in FIG 6 below) from research by LinkedIn into why language matters and how much of an impact words have on your hiring, diversity and employee engagement strategies.

Language can be a key factor in creating a company culture that cultivates inclusion and belonging across every aspect of the workplace

FIG 6:    The impact of language on hiring (Source: LinkedIn)

FIG 6: The impact of language on hiring (Source: LinkedIn)


HANADI EL SAYYED - Will You Have the Right Skills for HR In 2025? | JILL LARSEN - Reskilling Human Resources For the Age of Automation | BERNARD MARR - Why Is Data Literacy Important For Any Business? | KELLY PALMER - The New Role for Managers in Workplace Learning

What we learn, the way we learn and the frequency in which we learn are all undergoing significant change. Focusing on the HR function itself, Hanadi El Sayyed outlines five rapidly growing skills areas key to the future success of HR, which are likely to be widely practiced five years from now. Then Jill Larsen, CHRO of Medidata, outlines how she is preparing her HR team for the age of automation. Data literacy is one of the key emerging skills areas for HR, and Bernard Marr explains why this is important and how to promote and build it. Finally, Kelly Palmer outlines the vital role managers have in building successful learning cultures.

The more data literate your organisation is, the better your results will be…


ALISTAIR SHEPHERD - Why do most HR analytics projects fail? | MATTHEW LYMBERY - Getting insights from People Analytics is the easy bit. Return on Investment? That’s far, far harder | MAX BLUMBERG - People analytics: Why some companies are making a fortune while others are losing out | KATHI ENDERES & MATTHEW SHANNON - How technology can democratise people analytics

As people analytics continues its exponential growth, it seems an apt time to group a selection of articles that provide a contrasting view on the state of the field. Alistair Shepherd explains why concerns about privacy and lack of clarity on the ‘why’ cause many projects to fail. Next, Matthew Lymbery’s article captures perfectly the fact that insights without outcomes are essentially overheads. Then, Max Blumberg offers his view of why only a small number of companies are generating real value from people analytics. Finally, Kathi Enderes summarises the highlights of Bersin by Deloitte’s recent study of the people analytics solutions field (see example in FIG 7).

FIG 7:    Percentage of People Analytics Teams that Frequently Support Activities (Source: Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019)

FIG 7: Percentage of People Analytics Teams that Frequently Support Activities (Source: Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019)


TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC & AL ADAMSEN – The PAFOW Podcast: People Data for Good | ANDREW MARRITT & JOHN SUMSER - HRExaminer Radio – Executive Conversations: Episode #335 – Text Analytics | MATT BEANE - How Robots and AI Are Changing Job Training

Three superb podcasts for your aural listening pleasure this month. First up is a superb discussion between Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Al Adamsen on their shared passion of why people data should be used not only for organisational benefit but also for the benefit of individuals and society too. John Sumser covers a multitude of topics with the always-listenable Andrew Marritt in their discussion including how to measure culture via employee reviews. Finally, Matt Beane talks to HBR’s IdeaCast on how robots, machine learning, and AI are changing how we train for our jobs — not just how we do them.


DAVE ULRICH & DAVID GREEN – The role of the HR Business Partner in a Digital Age

I recently had the honour of interviewing the Father of Modern HR, Dave Ulrich, for Episode 11 of the Digital HR Leaders Podcast. We covered a host of topics centred around the changing role of HR in the digital age. You can listen to the podcast here – but we also filmed the whole episode for the myHRfuture YouTube channel. I learnt a lot from speaking to Dave, and I’m sure you all will too…


LEXY MARTIN, VISIER - Leading Practices in People Analytics Change Management

Lexy Martin has featured in my monthly collections many times and continues to be one of the most prolific and top analysts around when it comes to people analytics and HR Tech. Her latest research paper for Visier introduces nine leading enterprise change management practices for people analytics, related case studies, several interesting data points (e.g. see FIG 8 below on people analytics team sizes) and ways to enable HR Business Partners and business leaders with analytics. A must-read paper.

FIG 8:    People Analytics Team Size: Advanced versus Emerging Organisations (Source: Visier)

FIG 8: People Analytics Team Size: Advanced versus Emerging Organisations (Source: Visier)


People analytics that impacts business

A write-up from Vallari Gupte of my workshop at the People Matters TechHRIN conference at the start of August based on the Nine Dimensions of Excellence in People Analytics model, co-created with Jonathan Ferrar.

Digital HR Leaders Podcast and Video Series

I continue to be blown away by the positive response to the Digital HR Leaders podcast and video series. Tune in to new episodes in September with Ian O’Keefe, Frida Polli, Jill Larsen and Jason Corsello and catch up with the first 11 episodes by clicking on the links below and watching the video highlights on the myHRfuture YouTube channel.


It’s a busy start to September as I’ll be heading to New York tomorrow ahead of the PAFOW Conference in Philadelphia on 4-5th September - I hope to see some of you there. Later in September c60 of our Insight222 clients will be gathering in the New Forest for the 2nd Annual Global Executive Retreat, so plenty to look forward to.

September will also determine the winner of The Ashes series being played out in England, and in tribute to the heroics of Ben Stokes in the 3rd Test where he single-handedly resurrected England’s hopes, I have to leave you with this all-time classic from The Stone Roses.


Invest in your career and learn the HR skills of the future. The myHRfuture Academy, of which I am part, provides you with an on-demand platform where you can get access to short, bitesized learning content to help you build knowledge in the skills that you need to prepare for the future of HR. Join here to get access to exclusive content on People Analytics, Digital HR & HR Technology, Design Thinking, Workforce Planning, Consulting & Influencing and Stakeholder Management.



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. 

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