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How Bertelsmann Group is Accelerating HR...

How Bertelsmann Group is Accelerating HR Transformation with People Analytics

Kai Wehmeyer, Senior Vice President of Corporate HR Strategy & Systems at Bertelsmann shares his experience on effecting meaningful HR change in large, complex organizations.

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A person looking toward an open doorway surrounded by data connections, representing HR transformation with people analytics.

Bertelsmann, a global powerhouse with over 150,000 employees spread across seven divisions in 50+ countries, defies easy categorization. Managing HR in such a diverse environment presents a unique set of challenges.

For instance, our supply chain services division demands keen attention to workforce planning, cost management, and adapting to fluctuating labor demands. Striking the right balance between a more skilled workforce due to increased automation and adjusting workforce volume, particularly during peak periods like Black Friday, is imperative.

In contrast, our TV production unit necessitates recruiting highly specialized individuals, often for short-term projects that dissolve once completed.

How to harmonize and standardize workforce data across a diverse corporate landscape

Conventional wisdom might suggest we started with core HR data. However, demand didn't originate there. Undertaking the monumental task of standardizing all HR systems, with an unclear goal beyond transparency and potential cost benefits, seemed a protracted endeavor. Instead, a more impactful signal emerged from the necessity for uniform talent acquisition and recruitment processes. This was our starting point.

The culture and governance of Bertelsmann couldn't be overlooked. Divisions and locations within the organization maintained a degree of independence. This autonomy is intrinsic to how the business operates. Recognizing that 100% data harmonization was an unattainable ideal, we acknowledged the existence of certain grey areas.

As representatives of Global HR IT, supported by the Bertelsmann board and its CHRO, we outlined the advantages for those parts of the Bertelsmann group undergoing changes. We didn't promise cost savings, but rather a spectrum of capabilities that would result from new processes. These outcomes would empower managers to make clear, decisive decisions at corporate, divisional, and local levels. We also pledged time, patience, and support, recognizing that change couldn't be forced, but had to be persuasively advocated to independently-minded business leaders.

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The journey was a marathon, spanning seven years. Starting with learning, we engaged every HR unit in every division multiple times, coaxing and assisting them toward adopting new processes. Talent and recruitment followed suit, encountering pockets of resistance that required persistent efforts to make the case for harmonizing and digitizing HR systems in these areas.

This concerted effort was only possible with the necessary support, which we unequivocally received from our CHRO. While some leaders may be prone to panic at the sight of red lights, in a project of this scale and complexity, such a response is counterproductive. Red lights are a constant presence.

Leveraging people analytics as a catalyst for enterprise HR transformation

Today, we find ourselves in a remarkably different position. Recruitment, admittedly the toughest area to harmonize, now operates off a global template. Whether it's logistics, publishing, IT services, or TV production, all Bertelsmann recruitment follows the same core process.

This transformation was significantly expedited with the inclusion of Visier. It provided the speed and adaptability essential for our evolving needs. By leveraging the Visier data model and built-in visualizations with high flexibility in user roles and permissions, we quickly reach our initial goals in democratizing people data. The demand internally for such capabilities was strong, making Visier the prime choice for delivering substantial benefits to a potentially large group of stakeholders at all organizational levels.

Moreover, Visier's capabilities extend beyond immediate needs. It positions us strongly for the future, particularly in delivering data for external ESG reporting. By internalizing ESG KPIs, we will tap into Visier's full potential.

We are currently preparing the data and collaborating with our businesses and divisions once again to understand their output requirements, ensuring accuracy in what we push to Visier. Concurrently, we're partnering with our internal Bertelsmann University to establish courses that educate key individuals on how to leverage people data in the most effective ways, fostering a people analytics mindset in HR and within our divisions. This is how we ensure we extract the most value from SAP SuccessFactors, and any other HR technology we may adopt in the future. It's largely due to the journey we've undertaken, coupled with the strategic inclusion of Visier, that we find ourselves in a robust position to tackle whatever comes next.

On the Outsmart blog, we write about workforce-related topics like what makes a good manager, how to reduce employee turnover, and reskilling employees. We also report on trending topics like ESG and EU CSRD requirements and preparing for a recession, and advise on HR best practices like how to create a strategic compensation strategymetrics every CHRO should track, and connecting people data to business data. But if you really want to know the bread and butter of Visier, read our post about the benefits of people analytics.

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