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Business Insights, People Data, and Privacy: BASF on Implementing People Analytics in the EU

At BASF, people analytics has formed a key part of their business strategy in recent years. Here are some of the things they have learned along the way.

How BASF Implemented People Analytics in the EU

There is growing awareness of how people analytics benefits businesses in the EU. Across many companies and sectors in the bloc, analytics is helping organizations navigate the ongoing turbulence that characterizes business, society, and markets today and prepares them for a prosperous tomorrow. 

But there are also attendant questions, too, in Germany and beyond, about how far analytics extends, and assurances sought on how personal data is treated. At BASF, people analytics has formed a key part of our business strategy in recent years. So here are some of the things we have learned along the way.  

Why BASF chose people analytics

BASF has companies in 90 countries. We operate around 240 production sites worldwide – including Ludwigshafen, the world’s largest integrated chemical complex owned by a single company, employing over 110,000 worldwide, and over 50,000 people in Germany alone. We are a truly global business, with well-established regional local HR systems and data. Like all large organizations today, we invest in ongoing transformation to sustain success in our chosen markets to ensure we take advantage of the future opportunities a rapidly changing world inevitably brings. 

The drive to be ready for the demands of the next industrial cycle is largely about having the right people and skills in the right places at the right time and having a healthy pipeline to maintain that happy balance. To succeed in this, we needed a way for global HR leaders to look at HR data as they do with other types of business data, to support data-backed workforce decision-making on local, regional, and global levels.

Early successes 

With Visier well established and accepted in HR (this is our fifth year of using Visier), we combine different sources of HR systems and create a holistic global picture that can be sliced and diced as needed, depending on the challenge or the matter being interrogated. This has led to a great and tangible benefit in that HR business partners (HRBPs) no longer spend so much time gathering data but spend far more time analyzing it. 

Having clarity on data means transparency and ease of communication between HR and management. This enables strategic and operational discussion based on common data and a common language. The experience and positive outcomes flowing from this have encouraged us to make further data quality improvements in source systems. 

Advice for EU companies

It’s essential to build trust with all relevant stakeholders, especially with those tasked with data privacy matters. You need to build in time for them to understand what you're up to. It’s also a good idea to focus on data points that you may already have in different systems. Reconfiguring these means you can fairly swiftly gain additional value by this data being more easily and widely accessible. From there you can scale up from early successes with a trusted, secure, and flexible platform like Visier.

Keeping open channels of dialogue with our legal department, Workers Council, and data protection experts, and making sure that they understand what we are doing, has also been helpful to us. It has made GDPR compliance simple and manageable. As a global company, Visier’s ability to host our data in the EU has been a big plus in this journey. 

PA and the Workers' Council

As a global organization, we have segmented the agreements with the German group companies and the rest of the world. This allows our HR organization flexibility depending on the area of responsibility. The Workers’ Council has been influential on our approach to people analytics, especially when it comes to including detailed employee data for the German group companies. 

The approach in this area is generally more careful and we go through several rounds of consultation with our businesses and data protection experts before approaching the Workers Council with planned changes or additions. We take care that we are always transparent with our plans and that we are collaborating with other elements of the business (not imposing change), and make clear we’re guided by data protection rules and principles. The flexibility of Visier’s security model has helped us to continuously implement improvements and bring value to the organization. 

Engaging and educating employees

There are several different streams of activity worth highlighting here. At the start of our journey, we made sure we informed our major stakeholders in regular bi-weekly exchange meetings, and we built an internal communication channel for all users to connect, ask questions, and find resources. Hosting a monthly community exchange to connect with the users, major stakeholders on their challenges and use cases, and wishes for future developments was hugely helpful in developing and accelerating our plans and programs.

In addition, we provide customized training sessions to our businesses based on themes and level of maturity. And last, but certainly not least, we monitored usage KPIs and approached businesses with lower usage stats with offers of onboarding and training to get them going.

The golden metrics

Currently, some of the most interesting metrics for our senior leaders revolve around having an overview of the FTE development on a local, regional, and global level. Understandably, with so much change and challenge in business today, questions of talent analytics, development, and retention are rising up the agenda, as they should be at all industrial enterprises, especially those with multinational operations. Diversity and inclusion are key priorities, not only to create more equitable and inclusive work environments but also to make sure our talent pool is as deep and wide as possible. 

The next phase of our journey will see BASF adding our talent acquisition data into Visier to get a better view of the full life cycle of employees, and to get a deeper understanding of how skills, training, and employees' experience impact productivity, talent retention, and worker wellbeing. 

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