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Beyond HR: Democratizing People Data is Key to Business Success

Turning people data into actionable insights doesn’t have to be daunting. Learn how to take the first steps from spreadsheets to storytelling for better business outcomes.

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Business leaders usually rely on financial and other data to make predictions and insightful decisions that guide their companies. However, many companies still treat people analytics as merely an HR function, even when their people are the company’s most important asset. At Merck, a major pharmaceutical company, Jill Sparacio, Associate Director of Workforce Analytics, and Darcy Varga, Associate Director HR Reporting and Insights know that using data-driven insights to ensure their employees are happy, motivated, and productive is a major business imperative. 

In our final webinar of the Leapgen x Visier series, Leapgen’s Co-founder and CEO, Jason Averbook, and Visier’s Director, Product Marketing, Caitlin Bigsby, joined Jill and Darcy to discuss how organizations can get started using data from their already-existing HR systems to make better business decisions. In case you missed it, continue reading for the recap. 

People analytics is a crucial tool which many businesses aren’t utilizing to their full advantage. How do you get data insights into the hands of the managers and leaders who can make good decisions? Whether a company has barely started on this journey or has enviable analytics teams like Merck, every company can make better business decisions by taking a good look at the people data they already have.

Webinar attendees were asked whether or not they thought their own organization prioritized the need for people analytics: 46% said yes, 38% no, 17% were unsure.

5 Areas Where People Analytics Drives Critical Impact Banner

Prioritize the bigger picture questions related to your people 

The first question you ask is the most important one of your analysis so it’s imperative to ask the right one. According to Caitlin Bigsby, “The first question is going to direct the second question. If you think you’re asking the most detailed question that will solve all your problems, you’re too far down the path and you might be addressing the wrong problem.” 

For example, internal mobility is a great thing, but it might not be the key to your retention problem. Start higher up and understand the patterns first, and let that direct the next question. Once you’ve gathered your information, making business stakeholders take action on them is the next step. 

Get business leaders on board 

“Make things relevant for people. Make sure the insights are things they care about.”


Managers and leaders are more willing to see the value of people data insights if it addresses topical business questions rather than what’s trending in the industry or what’s easy to gather data on.  “Take something like strategic workforce planning,” says Jill. “It’s a big word, it’s out there, people are talking about it, but maybe now is not the time your organization is thinking about that.” 

Jill said Merck’s consulting arm has a strong connection with the business and its needs so their research aligns closely with what’s top of mind. But how can you bring people data insights to your managers and decision makers in your organization without a consulting arm? Jason Averbrook, Leapgen CEO, advises organizations to start by unlocking the data they already have: “Are you using your data or are you just collecting it?” he asks. 

Visier has demonstrated how much organizations can learn from just eight data points. It doesn’t take a lot to sift through and uncover some patterns to get you better questions, which leads to the momentum to get better results.

After getting the basic data in the hands of managers and their business partners, Darcy Varga, Associate Director of HR Reporting and Insights at Merck, offers another tip for people analytics teams to get buy-in: Less is more. 

“One mistake we made early on was giving business partners everything, and it was too much. It was overwhelming. That’s when we came up with the idea of curating content for them,” says Darcy. 

Her team put together a series of custom guidebooks for even urgent business needs, such as insights about a recent divestiture. This let them get the basic data that business partners and managers needed to see and kept it focused. And when analysts do need to connect with business leaders further on fings, using storytelling to communicate insights is key. 

Analytics is a Whole-Business Issue

Merck did an analysis on how long it took to fully onboard product development teams to the point where they were performing at an optimal level. The analysis included different performance measures, 360 results, and team results, which revealed it took up to two years for people to really be fully onboarded. The business launched an official onboarding program for these product teams which was a direct result of this analysis.

The way Visier lets Merck pull data from multiple systems made this process easier. “The way Visier lets you swap out attributes and metrics, you can easily do regrouping of values in your attributes,” explains Darcy. “Those are capabilities you don’t often see in the core HCM systems… Also, the ability to create analysis in Visier eliminates the need to constantly create powerpoints and move screenshots to powerpoint. You can have analysis that’s easily updatable and dive from that into additional data exploration. It really offers a nice layer on top of the core HCM. And we’re feeding data from Workday to Visier on a daily basis. The data all came in the night before, and that minimum amount of delay is negligible when you’re talking about analytics.”

HR data deals with a lot of moving parts, making it notoriously difficult to keep everything up to snuff. It’s next to impossible to have perfectly clean HR data—but that shouldn’t stop you from getting to the next level of analytics.

“If you could do one thing, I’d say get started. Don’t wait to have clean data. Just get started. That’s the best you can do,” Caitlin says. “Everyone has multiple HR systems. You probably have multiple LMS. Visier doesn’t care. Your data can be on an old spreadsheet from three years ago, we can take it in. Our goal is to bring it all together. Come get inspired.” 

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