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Human Truth Podcast | Ep. 11: Just 3% of Managers Have Access to People Data. Here’s Why That’s Bad for Business.

In this episode of the Human Truth Podcast, find out why giving managers access to people data is a top HR trend for 2023.


Welcome to The Human Truth Podcast where, each episode, we take a closer look at a popular workforce statistic ripped from the headlines and ask: Where’d it come from? Is it true? And why should we care? 

In this episode, we examine this stat from Deloitte:

Only 3% of managers feel like they have the information they need to make decisions that affect people on their teams. Decisions like who should be promoted, who is at risk of burnout, or who are the top performers?

Host Ian Cook is joined by Marc Solow, Human Capital Analytics & Insights Solutions Practice Leader at Deloitte, to discuss why enabling managers with people data is a top HR trend for 2023, and how companies can bring up that low percentage. Marc helps executive leaders with how to use technology to run the people side of their business, and has worked extensively with large, multinational clients to help address their most critical and complex HR-related issues. 

On the podcast this episode:

  • Host, Ian Cook is Visier’s VP of People Analytics

  • Guest, Marc Solow, Human Capital Analytics & Insights Solutions Practice Leader, Deloitte

Mentioned in the episode: 

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Episode transcript: 

Producer:  Are you ready for the future of work, Visier's Workplace Trends 2023 report is out now. Download for our top 10 trends to prepare for, including company culture and hybrid work, talent acquisitions, new paradigm, increase pay, transparency, and more. Visit visier.com/trends to get the report.

It's the Human Truth Podcast where each episode we examine a workforce statistic ripped from the headlines and ask where did it come from? Is it accurate and should we care? This week, we're looking at a stat from Deloitte that found that only 3% of managers feel like they have the information they need to make good decisions about their teams. For that, let's get into it with host Ian Cook and special guest, Marc Solow, Human Capital Analytics and Insight Solution, practice leader at Deloitte.

Ian Cook: Hi, I am Ian Cook, the host of the Human Truth Podcast, where today we are talking about enabling managers and how that's a key workplace trend for 2023. To discuss this topic, I am joined by Marc Solow, a Human Capital Analytics And Insights Solutions, practice leader at Deloitte. Marc is the person executive leaders turn to for ideas and guidance on how to use technology to run the people side of their business. And he's worked extensively with large multinational clients, helping them address their most critical and complex HR issues. So, thank you for joining us today, Marc.

Marc Solow: You are very welcome. So, happy to be here with you today, Ian.

Ian Cook: It's a great way to start the year in this conversation. I'm talking about managers, talking about 2023, talking about what's it going to be working in the current economic climate. And one of the reasons we wanted to invite you on Marc is this stat from a piece of Deloitte research. It found that only 3% of managers feel like they have the information they need to make good decisions about their teams. Let's start with what sort of decisions are managers making about their teams?

Marc Solow: And let me just share a little bit more insight, Ian.

Ian Cook: Sure.

Marc Solow: And then, I'll talk about the key decisions and it wouldn't be an analytics podcast without some statistics.

Ian Cook: Perfect.

Marc Solow: So, dead on and research that we recently performed, 3% of 6,300 managers that we surveyed said that they don't have the information they need to make sound people decisions. What is even more interesting in the same research, 72% of the organizations that participated told us that people analytics were a high priority for their organizations. Only 38% of them understand the key data that needs to be captured in order to provide insights. And only 25% of these organizations feel that they're effective at integrating different types of data.

I wanted to share those additional insights with our listeners because delivering analytics and insights at scale is not easy and generally requires investments in new human and technology capabilities. So, to answer the question that you asked right out of the shoot, what are the decisions that managers are making? It really runs the gamut of the human capital life cycle ranging from workforce planning. How many people am I going to need over the course of the year and what skills am I going to need resource management, how am I going to deploy the people that I have line up my best resources against the best opportunities? How do I manage team and individual performance or productivity, compensation, talent attraction and retention and career progression decisions.

Ian Cook: You're hitting the high points there, Marc. And I think that's leads me to some of my next questions that... And many managers have all these decisions and they come across, sometimes they're planned and staged, like your compensation review performance, the annual planning cycle. Sometimes they're just sort of in the moment in terms of either a request or a pay raise or request to go on a learning course or a quest for a transition to a different project team or whatever.

They happen very much in the moment, but a lot of managers from Visier survey found at 91% have had no formal training in being a manager. They went from being really, really good at what they were doing and people said, "Well, you're good at what you're doing. Why don't you manage other people to do it without much of an input into here's how." From your perspective and the work you've done, how does that affect a manager in terms of their work, their confidence, their process in terms of making those decisions?

Marc Solow: And Ian, in the best case scenarios, managers are making decisions oftentimes with limited or imperfect data. In the worst case, they're relying on gut instinct and judgment to make decisions. Hopefully oftentimes those decisions are good decisions and the right decisions, but a bad decision can be really, really costly for an organization. And at the pace that we're operating in business today, it's just going to be essential to try arm managers with the tools and the enablers that they need to make the best decisions they can in the moment.

Ian Cook: I think it hit something really important there, Marc, and that some stuff that we're seeing around our resignation data is the managers are resigning at higher rates and sometimes people are resigning from the management positions to go back to being an individual contributor. And a lot of that comes down to the extra stress, the component uncertainty around, well, I made this decision, I use my best instincts. I have no idea if it was right or not. Most managers want to do well so they end up worrying or having that challenge of how do I manage my stress levels when I'm not supported by data, I'm not supported with training there, all those various things.

It sounds like we're in a world moving to this next focus. It seems like this is why this is a top priority, a really high priority for 2023 because we're going to be in a labor constrained world does for all the conversations around economic slowdown, the latest information I saw around job openings of 9.9 million job openings in the US, there's not 9.9 million people looking for work. So, we've still got this mismatch and that just puts even more pressure on managers having to hold on to the folks they have, having to try and get the best from the folks they have, having to manage that pressure for more pay. So, why would you say, looking forward to 2023 as we start the year, why is it so important to think about how we enable managers?

Marc Solow: Well, Ian, it's also really interesting. The statistics that you just cited aren't spread equally across all industries, all sectors. So, you've got managers that don't have enough capacity or people to deliver against their organization's mission. And then you've got other organizations primarily in the tech sector right now and other sectors where they're shrinking their workforces. And again, kind of different decisions, businesses that are operating at really high velocity and you've got to do your best to try and enable managers to perform at their highest levels in order to keep the organization moving forward.

And if we've learned nothing from last year and the year before that we're living in an age of constant disruption and the economic headwinds are another new disruptor that we're going to have to manage through. And anything that we can do to help managers manage their people in the workforce better, fantastic. The other thing I'll say, looking forward to the remainder of 2023, HR has lagged all other business functions in the way that they leverage analytics and insights and data. And I don't think that that's going to be accepted anymore. It's really hard for a manager who has sales information or operational information supply chain data at their fingertips to manage a workforce without the same level of insight.

Ian Cook: No, I suspect you're having similar conversations to myself, Marc, where we're connecting in with people on groups where they literally can't keep up with demand and then demand is coming from, not from the CEO or the board, they've always had concierge service. When it comes to insight, it is from that front line where whereas I'm having to make very timely, very critical decisions to manage through the disruption.

I would love to have as you say something like what sales provides me. Something like what marketing provides me, maybe some insights that I've kept around my customers to do with the people who are doing work for me. So, we're definitely seeing that poll from the business as you say that it won't be acceptable. There's one other theme I'd like to double down on this. This is the notion of hybrid. I'm of the view that hybrid in some shape or form is going to be an ongoing part of our working world spread differently across different businesses for different reasons.

Again, an interesting study from Microsoft that I saw towards the end of last year was 87% of workers feel like they're more productive at home, but only 12% of business leaders are confident. There's this real imbalance between, again, what people perceive as happening, what people they think is happening. This is just imbalance and perceptions around work that is comes to a real, a pressure point between the employee and the managers.

How do you think this is going to play out in terms of that tension between people saying, "Let me work, when I work best so I can do my best work." And organizations saying, "Let me see you work so that I know you're working and then I'm comfortable that you're productive." How would you see that playing out through 2023?

Marc Solow: Yeah, so I think in 2023, Ian, I'm going to predict that we get closer to finding the happy medium. And it's really, really interesting topic that hits home for me. I just returned last night from a meeting of Deloitte's top 7,000 leaders. And at that meeting we had quite a dialogue around hybrid and our people. We also had a set of outside speakers come in to address the group. And one of those speakers was a C-suite executive from a very, very large technology partner of Deloitte and client of Deloitte. And this executive was talking to us about their return to the office strategy. And she shared with us that what they have seen is a trend that they call learning loss. And in their business, like many other businesses, there's a bit of an apprenticeship model and there's a lot of coaching and mentoring that happens in the moment, whether it's in the office or onsite with a customer and they're really feeling what they call the learning loss.

It just so happens that my wife works for that same technology company and last week she attended a couple of all hands meetings. She had a one-on-one with her manager and somehow the communication when it gets down to the line manager level, loses something in translation from the C-suite. So, the conversation that my wife had with her manager was, we need to get back into the office two days a week. And there wasn't the context that was wrapped around it, there wasn't the messaging around why it's important, why you'll benefit, and the company will benefit. And the reason I'm sharing all of this is I think organizations not only need to use data and analytics to make the right decisions or inform the right decisions, but they also need to put together the right communications around why they're making changes in order to get people to understand those and feel like they're engaged.

Ian Cook: No, and I think you kind of hit the perfect balance there, Marc, where we are learning our ways into a hybrid world. Hybrid is not a policy about a number of days in the office. It's a operating system, it's a mechanism by which the business gets a business done. I mean, we have a similar experience within Visier. We're doing an intentional connection. For us, it's about connectedness and innovation. So, we have pulses where we're together, we have pulses where we build learning, share knowledge, build collaboration, build connection. And then, there's phases where work gets done. And that for us has come from looking at the data, a combination of productivity for actually making product, but the other combination of, well, how innovative are we? Where are we getting the new ideas from? How many of those actually go into play? And we're able to understand what, what's moving forward, what's moving forward.

So, that notion of using the data to build an intentional operating system, which has work flexibility at its core, because I don't... Again, having experienced the level of flexibility, I think people want to hold onto it, but it all hangs around having data. Because I feel, again, I love your optimism. I hope it's true that we use this insight to actually learn new habits of work as opposed to continuing. What I see a little bit in the stats that are often put out, there's like, "Well, we believe this. Well, we believe this. Well, who's right?" Actually we're neither of us right.

We need to use the data to find a better way. Has quite a big change. But as you say, "Data at the heart of that." Again anyway, I was just thinking about some of the clients you're working with. What if you were starting to look at the kinds of information or the kinds of places they might start you're consuming information about their employees, where would you advise people to start putting out information? Any either particular initiatives that businesses might have, or particular things where managers would appreciate that data?

Marc Solow: So again, Ian, it differs based on the type of client we're working with, their level of maturity around data and analytics, the industry that they're in. But I'll give you a general framework for organizations that tend to be at the very beginning point of their journey. Often the starting point is with some kind of really essential blocking and tackling around composition of the workforce. And I use that term workforce really intentionally because it's not just about employees, it's about employees, it's about contractors, gig workers, kind of everyone who you're bringing into the enterprise to do some type of work. And what type of worker are they, where are they? What skills do they have?

Ian Cook: I think it's fascinating that you started there, Marc, fairly recently, the European Union passed a directive called the CSRD, Corporate Social Responsibility. Within that, there is some brand new mandated reporting. So, this is going to be anybody who employs more than 250 people in the EU will have to start reporting these measures. And for the first time, to your point, it included contingent workforce. It wasn't who's a full-time permanent employee, who's contingent, who's permanent, who's part-time, who's casual zero hour contract. So, those reporting standards are coming into play and as you stay, they're starting right with the basics.

So, we're going to go to break. When we come back, we're going to talk a more, I think there's a lot more to unpack around how we support managers. So, let's take a break here and we'll be back to explore more how we support managers going forward. Thanks, Marc.

Producer: What will be the top workplace trends in 2023? We've got some predictions and suggestions for how to prepare in our annual report, Workplace Trends 2023 brace for a mutual impact out now. Read about HR's ascension to the C-Suite, talent acquisition's new paradigm, increase pay, transparency and more. Visit visier.com/trends to download.

Ian Cook: So, we are back. I am Ian Cook, the host of the Human Truth Podcast from Vizier. Today. I've been joined by a Marc Solow, a Human Resources and People Analytics Consultant at Deloitte. And we've been talking about getting data in the hands of managers so they can help their business do better. Before the break, Marc, we were talking about kind of headcount and that understanding the composition of the workforce as a start place, but there's other measures that managers need. What are some of the other metrics, data peak points that you think managers should be served with as they build their capability?

Marc Solow: Well, again, Ian, if you think about the last two and a half years that we've lived through, we've gone from COVID to work at home, to got focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, post the murder of George Floyd to the great resignation and now to hybrid office work. So, depending on where your organization is typically with workforce composition at the foundation, we're seeing an immense focus on diversity and inclusion metrics, collaboration metrics, also on talent acquisition and also attrition risk analyses. So, it really, really runs the range. But those are the areas that our clients are really focused on and doubling down on because that's where their managers need the most help.

Ian Cook: No, definitely mirrors our experience and compensation. The pressure on compensation is really quite extraordinary right now as well. And so then, you and I have both worked with companies that have been at this for a while, there's something unique that starts to happen as you go from building some core insights that potentially you're serving to the board to then ruling that out all the way to managers. What are some of the pitfalls that people are hitting as they go from serving? Let's just say, 50 people to serving 2000, 3000, 5,000? What are some of the barriers that people hit?

Marc Solow: Yeah, Ian, you're really touching on this challenge that we're seeing in most of our clients that we're working with around scaling analytics. And what I mean by scaling analytics, it's serving more customers within the enterprise. It's actually supporting more use cases for analytics. It's developing the human pieces of this storytelling and support of data. It's about building a technology infrastructure. And again, the typical path that I've seen in a lot of organizations as far as analytics goes is you have a problem. You actually wrangle the data that will help you gain some insight into the problem. You build a dashboard, you roll the dashboard out maybe to HR first, then to a pilot group of managers, and then a broader group of managers, and then everybody's happy.

Then the next problem comes along and guess what? You've got to do it again. So you've got to wrangle more data. You've got to visualize that data, you roll it out. And a lot of organizations do this and they meet success pretty early, but that success does not scale. And what ends up happening is it's a very, very labor intensive process and you get to a point where it actually breaks and you can't scale fast enough, you can't act fast enough. And more importantly, there's no foresight in that process, right?

Ian Cook: Yeah.

Marc Solow: You haven't established an infrastructure that will allow you to look forward and sense what's coming around the corner.

Ian Cook: Which in our current environment is super important. I think there's something again in there that I've tracked and spent time under trying to understand from people's expectations of data. I think, let's just say pre-pandemic a dashboard. If I have to do some wrangling with a dashboard to get my answer, I'm okay with that. But most of us live with phones, watches are there technologies that respond to us personally. They know who we are, we know what we do. My phone knows where I live so it knows exactly where to start.

So, I think expectations of people in terms of technology consumption have changed where waiting a week to get some dashboard back or waiting a week to get some data back, it's no longer meeting expectations. So, that personalized, focused, always available has become the bar and that process you're describing of find a problem, wrangle data, make a picture, send it, just doesn't keep up, fine. When you're serving three or three stakeholder, well say two stakeholder groups or whatever, when you get out to 5,000 managers, there's a real challenge there.

So, there's the data component to this, but there's also some behavioral change. Everybody knows managers are probably the busiest people inside an organization, so giving them another thing to do is not always a recipe for success. So again, in terms of your practice and the groups that you work with, how do you go about rolling this out? How do you go about engaging managers and using this data?

Marc Solow: Yeah. Ian, we take a pretty straightforward approach. I don't know how novel or innovative it is, but it is incredibly effective. And what we do is we typically like to start by understanding the different roles and the decisions that people are making. Who are the personas that you need to serve? What are unique about those personas? What are the key people decisions that they make in business decisions that they make in kind of a day-to-day, in the day-to-day routine?

Ian Cook: Yeah, I'm nodding away here on the dark side of the podcast where people can't see me, because you sound very similar to this notion of, actually starting to build product. Dave Ulrich has talked about this a lot, that HR needs to focus less on, what do I want to tell the business and a little bit more on what does the business want to hear from me? And that means you start to break into personas. What is a manager's pain point? When does it show up? How often does it show up? How would they like the data you'd take what I think of as a product management approach, it's also a consulting approach to really understanding that and building capabilities towards that.

Marc Solow: Yeah, we'd like to refer to it as human-centric design.

Ian Cook: Perfect. Yeah, that's a perfect description. So we're running towards the end of our time here. And again, looking forward into 2023, there's some really, really key pieces of putting hands in the... Sorry, putting data in the hands of managers. If you were to give a company a piece of advice about how they go beyond that single dashboard that everybody looks at, but kind of ignores to really focused insight that would change a manager's decision process, what one piece of advice would you give?

Marc Solow: Well, I'm going to give two pieces of advice because I think it's really, really important. So, the first piece of advice is a lot of organizations don't have their data in a pristine state. They may not have all the technology that they want at their disposal. And it's really easy to say, I don't have the data, I don't have the tech, or maybe, I don't have the people and just be satisfied with the status quo. I don't think your business is going to be satisfied with the status quo. And my advice would be get started, the process of developing and delivering analytics and insights is agile and iterative.

Ian Cook: Yes.

Marc Solow: Doesn't have to be perfect.

Ian Cook: Yes.

Marc Solow: And you'll learn as you go and you'll iterate, you'll succeed, you might fail forward, but you'll fail fast and you'll start going down that road and your organization will be much better off because of that endeavor. Additionally, with good data and good insights also comes a lot of responsibility and hand in glove with the technical aspects. You have to address some of the human aspects. So, you've got to add context to the numbers, you've got to build the storytelling skills within some of your team or all of your team. And you also have to start building trust and talk transparently about how you're using data within your organization.

Ian Cook: I love those pieces of advice, Marc, because again, I think some pieces get lost. Well, I've got to wait till my data's perfect before I start. It's like, no, your data won't become perfect without starting, I think is why you saying is a really key piece. And then the other piece that gets lost like, "Oh, this is an IT project. We just have to have a chart and if we have a chart, we're done." Again, hearing the critical component beyond the chart, it's like what does it mean for our business? What does it mean for our strategies? What does it mean for the decisions we're trying to make? So, never losing sight of that really human part, which is core to HR practice about actually putting the human piece in there.

So, thanks for the advice, Marc. It's a super helpful. Hopefully, people going into 2023 can put this on their to-do list for the year.

So, thanks for listening to today's episode of the Human Truth Podcast and we've been talking about how companies have a need to better support their managers in 2023 and getting some good advice on how they can actually go about doing that. So, thanks to Marc for joining us. Thank you to the audience for joining us today, and we'll be back to discuss more fascinating workforce statistics. Stay tuned for the Human Truth Podcast.

Producer: Thanks for joining this episode on the Human Truth Podcast, presented by Visier. More links and information presented on today's show are at visier.com/podcast. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. The Human Truth Podcast is brought to you by Visier, the global leader in people analytics, whose mission is to reveal the human truth that helps businesses and employees win together. Today's episode was produced by Grace Shepherd with technical production by Gabriel Kava. Sarah Gonzalez is our head of content and Ian Cook is our host. See you next time and until then, visit us at visier.com/podcast.

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