People Analytics and Future of Work - London Day 1 summary

Despite the Brexit rallies happening next to the Queen Elisabeth II conference center in London – the people analytics community around the world once again gathered together to People Analytics and Future of Work (PAFOW) event to share the latest insights and discuss about the progress and opportunities of applying data and analytics techniques to people related decisions.

This was my third year in a row participating in this event – last year as a presenter and this year simply enjoying the content and collaboration between practitioners and peers. Given this perspective and the fact that many of the companies presenting have been participating the event in previous years, the progress in the field was clearly perceivable.

With progress in the field I mean both breadth and depth: although the pioneers in the field keep pushing the limits of what is possible, most companies out there are still simply getting started in figuring out what to do with their people data. I believe many new joiners to the event were quite overwhelmed after the first conference day and having realized that “people analytics” is not simply re-branding of the old HR reporting function nor it’s not enough buying a new shiny HRIS system that allows you to create nice looking drill-down dashboards of your employee data.

Again, there were many tracks happening simultaneously meaning that it was not possible to cover everything on your own. Hence, here are my key takeaways from Day 1:

David Green’s welcome and orientation:

As David Green noted in his opening speech, People Data was #1 trend in Deloitte’s HR trend survey in 2018 – but this year it did not make it to the list. But by taking a closer look of the 2019’s report, the people data and analytics aspect was instead infused to pretty much everything out there – rather than being a trend of its own. To us practitioners this simply means that the field is maturing up and the discussion is no longer about whether companies need to focus on people analytics or not, but rather how to conduct it appropriately and effectively with a focus of doing good for the various stakeholders: the organizations and their decision makers, the shareholders and perhaps most importantly – the employees.

The Future of Work & Leader Decision-Making with Al Adamsen:

In the second presentation one of the pioneers in the field, Al Adamsen, shared several great reflections and frameworks with the audience. Despite the great progress being made recently – Al noted that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible to achieve in the long term.

This is true mostly because the data available today is often ill suited to answer the needs. One of the key reasons here is that most (HRIS) systems today have been created to simply run a process – rather than designed to collect necessary data and deliver insights to inform/optimize/augment decision making.

Al started and concluded his presentation with an important point for the audience: If we don’t do it (workforce related analytics initiatives) – someone else will. Success may be risked if, say IT department, one day comes with an AI / Analytics initiative that affects the workforce and the way work is done – and fails to appropriately make the broader considerations and impact assessments of those initiatives beyond the straight forward technical aspects.

Accelerating People analytics maturity at Rabobank

In her session, Annemieke Nennie shared several practical guidelines and examples of Rabobank’s journey from building infrastructure and tools, leading analytic projects and coaching business partners towards a fact-based mindset and way of working. Rather than simply settling for ad-hoc reporting, Annemieke discussed their ambitious vision in developing a digital human bank, supported by digital assistants to help people grow, generating a holistic 360 view of the employees, being able to challenge the status quo of managers and delivering valuable insights to the employees.

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Ethics and Privacy were a big theme is this year’s conference and many speakers championed using people data for good. In my opinion, Annemieke provided the most pragmatic framework for privacy and ethics considerations for people analytics projects (see picture above).

Swarovski – Driving Better sales with People Analytics

The presentation by Oliver and Roberto from Swarovski was one of my favorites, which also was contributed by their visible progress compared to last year, when they had basically just started their analytics journey. The passion and excitement towards the range of opportunities and value that people analytics can deliver along the road was directly transmitted to the audience from these two gentlemen.

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Swarovski’s People Analytics focus areas were 100% driven by the business objectives and the areas where they saw most potential in. The needs and application areas for Swarovski’s people analytics vary greatly by the functions and business areas of their company – ranging from studying conversion rate drivers in retail to aging workforce in crystal production and turnover, quality and efficiency in jewelry production.

It goes without saying that with the clear focus on business needs and value, Swarovski’s People Analytics function already earned top management attention with their initiatives. Expect to hear some great progress from them again next time!

TrustSphere – Organization Network Analysis

TrustSpehere is one of the leading solution providers for Organization Network Analysis (ONA). As the saying goes, it’s not only what you know, but increasingly who you know.

ONA clearly classifies itself to the “creepier” side of people analytics – collecting data from various sources like email, multiple collaboration platforms as well as archive data sources. Rather than conducting one-off surveys, TrustSphere conducts network analysis in an ongoing basis and measures and quantifies relationship strength between individuals.

There are two obvious challenges within ONA: how to earn employee trust and how to comply with GDPR regulations?

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According to recent survey by Accenture, 92% of employees are open to the collection of data about them – as long as they can get some personal benefits from it.

ONA can be applied to surprisingly many areas – from identifying influencers to champion change, studying team effectiveness, identifying attrition/burnout risks, etc. From individual perspective, think about the potential of providing relationship focused onboarding experiences for instance.

People Analytics Tech study: who is doing what, where & how

Stacia Sherman provided a brief sneak peak to the coming People Analytics technology study. If you’re a people analytics tech provider – I encourage you to take the survey by 3rd of May here:

Stacia’s session well concluded the first day by summarizing the current state of the people analytics technology landscape being kind of like a teenager: full of huge potential, growing quickly, a bit disorganized, and not quite sure what it wants to be when it grows up!