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An Intuitive Approach to Data Democratization

Data Democratization Empowers Businesses to Make Better Decisions

Arming managers with accurate, up-to-date, reliable data to inform their people decisions seems like a no-brainer that any organization would be eager to do—and many are. Getting data rapidly in the hands of decision-makers can help them make better decisions. But data democratization can be a challenge and different companies will approach the process differently based on their unique cultures, size, and data needs.

Here we take a look at the experiences of two people and talent analytics leaders who share how they approached the rollout and enablement of Visier, the challenges they faced, how they overcame them, and the impact data democratization had on their organizations.


A simple approach to data democratization to ensure HR support 

Dr. Anna Merritt is Head of People Analytics at Block, Inc. (formerly Square). Block has been using Visier since 2016, beginning the rollout with just their people team and then to their business partners. Within about a year, Merritt says, they were ready to expand access to the entire manager population. This included anyone with at least one employee or per diem.

The potential to give managers access to new data, and to make that access more visible and more meaningful, excited them. “We thought Visier would be a really powerful tool for them,” Merritt says. 

In 2020, Block migrated to the Visier People project and decided to enhance their offerings. “Our approach was that we wanted it to be so intuitive that people could use Visier with, essentially, no training,” Merritt says. 

Data Democratization Empowers Businesses to Make Better Decisions Quote


Keeping data simple, and meaningful

They focused on using plain language, simple views and simple analyses—like “how much are my team members paid?” or “how long have they been in their current jobs?” In addition, they added a number of help texts to their Guidebook to respond to questions like “what are these metrics?,” “why are they important?,” “what’s a healthy range?,” “when should you reach out to your HRBP?” 

“We didn’t want them to run off and do something with this data without HR, so we built that in as texts,” Merritt says. “It makes the Guidebook a lot longer, but we wanted the experience to be like there was an HRBP sitting with you and helping you understand.” For instance: “If you see a concerning spike in resignation rates, talk to your HRBP.”


Collaborating to address management needs 

The people analytics team didn’t create the Guidebook in a vacuum. They partnered with data champions in HR and worked together to identify what they wanted from managers, what managers are most concerned about, and the questions HR most often receives from managers. Then they built an initial draft and shared it with all HR business partners for their feedback. “HR has a really great perspective on what managers care about,” she says. “Find one to three to partner with in the initial design stage to get their perspectives.” That, she says, really expedites the data democratization process and allows it to move along quickly.


Driving adoption

Despite the open access to a wide range of people data at Block, “a challenge we still face is definitely awareness and adoption of the tool,” says Merritt. While Visier is heavily used by the people team, it’s not as well used by managers. They are, she says, “just so busy with their day-to-day.” An approach they’ve taken to address this is to embed links to Visier when it will be part of a manager’s workflow for something specific. For instance: “When it’s time for compensation review and the promotion cycle in the Guide for managers we include a link to Visier analysis about promotions.”

Pointing to analysis that covers a specific question or problem, Merritt says, “is more effective than giving them information about a generic tool that isn’t tied to something concrete.” 

“We’re really thinking about people analytics tools as a product that we’re launching internally and we’re following the practice of designing for your end user and making things really intuitive,” Merritt says. 


Visier’s Ian Cook shares the opportunity of the “Last Mile” problem, and why getting data into the hands of people managers is key. 


Taking a “slow drip” approach to data democratization

Panasonic, says Lydia Wu, Head of Talent Analytics, has leveraged Visier to bring together the data from several different systems into one place. “Visier has been able to help us connect the dots of all the systems,” she says. “We’re able to bring everything under one umbrella and give a holistic view into the people data.”

Managers don’t yet have direct access to the data, Wu says, but it’s something that is being explored. Her concern is related to training—“how do you roll out a massive analytics training to managers who think about HR but, when push comes to shove, it really becomes a secondary topic.” 


Learn how Panasonic is taking a different approach to rolling out Visier.

Culture has also had an impact, Wu says. Panasonic is a very old company—“people data is very closely guarded.” So, initially they took a “slow drip approach.” But then managers started to feel the impacts of turnover. Experiences over the last two years of the pandemic suddenly made turnover intent much more real to the company’s business leaders.   

Like Merritt, Wu feels that “less is more.” Historically, she says, the company would produce “gigantic PowerPoint presentations around people analytics, but a lot of the critical message gets lost.” Now, she says, her team focuses on what their internal audience needs most, limiting their presentations to a 3-5 bullet point conversation. “Anything beyond that we’ve found to be very ineffective.” The focus, she says, is on the “so what” for each business unit.” 

At a high level, says Wu, her team uses data to explore four key people issues:

  • Who’s coming into the organization?
  • What’s happening internally in terms of promotions, movements, and performance improvement plans?
  • Who’s leaving the organization?
  • How are people in the organization feeling? Here, she says: “We look at turnover intention, job satisfaction, engagement scores, and—most critically—net promoter scores.”

Wu says that one of the biggest challenges Panasonic has faced is managing expectations. “A lot of time when a major technology gets rolled out, it’s seen as the one tool that will literally solve everyone’s talent problems,” she says. The key, though, “is getting the foundational data right—what do you want to do with the data?”

Initially, Wu says, “one of the biggest things we realized is that everyone wanted access because everyone wanted to get their hands on the data.” But, she adds: “When we started to explore what they wanted to do with the data we discovered the difference between curiosity and actionable aspects of access.”

While Block and Panasonic have approached the rollout of Visier internally differently, both have found that providing access to people analytics can help analytics, HR and management teams make more well-informed people decisions. 

 

About the author: Linda Pophal

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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