People Analytics and the Profession: HR leader event Belfast 6th September

People Analytics and the Profession: HR leader event Belfast 6th September

This week CIPD Scotland and Northern Ireland gathered practitioners in Northern Ireland to discuss the challenge and opportunity of people analytics. CIPD’s Head of Research and lead on human capital Ed Houghton, Jonathan Ferrar ex VP of People at IBM and CIPD Board member, and Caroline Van Der Feltz, HR Director of Danske Bank shared their insights with a group of HR leaders.

When we think of people data as insight which people provide freely with the objective of improving performance and return Jonathan argued, we will realise its full value. This is an issue which the marketing function already understands but we need to understand it better. This people analytics and digital capability is essential to the future of our profession he argued. Incidentally Jonathan gained this insight from his son’s desire to visit some vloggers on a US road trip!

Ed Houghton explained that the agenda around people analytics was an old one citing Jack Fitz-Enz, lamenting the lack of capability from the turn of the millennium. But he argued that critical capability was still not in place. Ed shared insight from the CIPD/Workday global research indicating the challenge we face. Based on research which surveyed HR leaders, finance professionals and other business functions, the report outlines the confidence gap. For example in the UK only a fifth of HR professionals were confident in using advanced analytics. (The kind which enable predictive modelling). The figure for SE Asia was well over double. Just over half of HR professionals thought they were capable with data whilst only a third of fellow business professionals thought their HR colleagues were.

Carolyn, HRD in NI’s biggest bank, shared how the issue of people analytics capability and digital skills was bound up with the future of banking and finance. As the bank seeks to innovate in a world of Fintech and enriched customer insight, people analytics had to match that aspiration. Carolyn pointed out that her concerns about the capability available had encouraged her to build a separate analytics function. The bank faced the challenge of whether it was a finance company with great tech or a tech company which could offer finance. As customers engage digitally her team had to glean insight on customer experience and employee impact.

Our audience as usual asked challenging and insightful questions. One leader asked how we could simplify data with a government which seemed to want to measure every dot and comma! Another asked how we could measure intangibles like culture and behaviour. Jonathan shared examples from his consultancy career of how we could focus on one or two indicators. When we drive a modern car we are surrounded by data on everything from oil quality to the functioning of the headlamps. But when we just want to get from A to B, we focus on two key indicators, speed and fuel. We know the other data is there if we need it but we do not need to constantly scan it. That was a good takeaway from the day and there were many more.

Ed and his academic collaborator Dr Martin McCracken of Ulster University who produced CIPD’s Hidden Figures report, explained how much data reporting was driving HR team to focus on selective aspects of reporting. He suggested that we should use the wider requirement to report on issues like the gender pay gap and other key reporting issues to build our capability. That said we need to explain not just churn out numbers.

We asked our speakers to give one idea that each could use to launch or relaunch their people analytics approach. Why are you doing it? Ask that question five times said Jonathan. Who is doing it? Where does the capability exist and who do you need to recruit/retain/retrain? was Carolyn’s. How are you using and is it being used ethically and insightfully was Ed’s.?

But last word to our audience. One HR leader said that as a result of the discussion she would re-examine her organisation’s people analytics strategy. Why? Who and How? Might be a great place to start.