Marketing has been living and breathing data for decades to get their brands in front of the people most likely to buy them. 

HR has relatively recently embraced the potential for data to be mined to help make better people related decisions to attract and recruit the right people and get them to stay for longer.  

What about IC? We know IC leaders need to demonstrate that they are credible, data-driven advisors to get ahead.  We know we need to systematically try to understand colleague channel preferences and serve them what they want and need.  We know we need to learn from what works and what doesn’t in a real time insightful way and change our communications tune to suit in an ongoing way.  But how sophisticated are we?

What can we learn from People Analytics

While most are aware of marketing’s appreciation for and increasing sophistication with data, the HR story is not quite as well known. I’ve been following different thought leaders on People Analytics for about a year now and how it is gaining momentum in HR. It’s a story I hope IC is listening to and learning from. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.  

  • In the 1990’s and early 2000s the idea of ”HR Analytics” systems started to help global companies figure out output metrics like “total headcount,” and “retention rate” and to try clean and enhance their inaccurate people data. The main aim was to centralise and record the data for the many complex HR platforms in place. The complexity made this expensive as well as an IT headache and so few progressed.
  • For the next 10 years (2005 - 2015 approx) the HR Analytics story remained very tactical, focused on operational reporting and trying to overcome and reconcile crunching data between incompatible HR systems.
  • Predictive analytics was in its infancy and focused on ROI studies to look at whether an L&D programme worked.
  • Then there was the realisation that the focus was flawed.   Josh Berwin made this point in 2015 in his Forbes articleWhat business people want is information that helps them run the company better: “Get me the right people into the job, make them productive and happy, and get them to help us attract more customers and drive more revenue. I don’t care if your L&D program has a 200% ROI or not.”
  • David Green, People Analytics Leader at IBM shared a similar point in his 2017 blog roundup of People Analytics World Conference. HR increasingly recognise that current analytics efforts need to shift away from data HR finds interesting to data the business finds interesting. HR are “not focusing enough on the questions that matter and too much on the data in front of us.” 

Try re-reading the points above, substitute the word ‘IC’ for ‘HR’ or ‘People’, shift the timeline to 10 years later, and see the similarities? 

The remaining points all made by David in the above roundup might have you nodding some more….

  • The lack of focus on People Analytics that drive business impact remains the key challenge that is holding it back, and one that is revisited time and time again at every conference on the subject at the moment.
  • To progress, we need to turn the traditional approach of people analytics on its head and start with the business results to be achieved. David cites the Levenson’s model as a persuasive one to focus away from matters that ‘keep the lights on’ and instead focus on questions that really matter to the business helping to ‘move the needle strategically”
  • Another insightful point is that good results don’t always speak for themselves – you need influencing skills as well as the data.  As Alexis Fink notes, the “missing link in getting results with analytics projects is not in the quality of the analytics projects themselves – the missing link is influencing expertise." Influencing means working with stakeholders to select the right projects at the outset right through to identifying actions from the insights that are feasible, effective and that will be endorsed.
  • David also refers to Morten Kamp Andersen’s articles on evidence-based HR. Quoting “the purpose of evidence-based HR is not to find ‘the Right Answer’ – we are dealing with people after all. The purpose is to use all available evidence (research, internal data, analysis, experience, interviews etc.) to find the solution with the highest probability of adding the most value to your organisation.”

HR have been busy getting serious about analytics; IC can learn so much from the evolution of People Analytics to date.  I urge anyone who is passionate about IC and the impact it can have to watch this major shift happening in HR and apply key learnings to the journey you are undertaking.  I've no doubt it will help you in the quest to enhance the credibility and the impact IC can make to a business.