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People First: How Royal DSM is...

People First: How Royal DSM is Democratizing Data to Drive Business Strategy

Laura Stevens shares how Royal DSM drives business strategy with people analytics, and the power of bringing strategy, analytics, and employee experience into one system.

Laura Stevens, PhD leads DSM’s Strategy, Analytics & Employee Experience CoE. As a People Analytics Translator, she is dedicated to bringing insights and analytics to the centre of decision-making. She brings a depth of understanding of how the analysis of complex organisational and people data sets can unlock strategically relevant and actionable insights for senior leaders.

I am proud to be part of Royal DSM’s global leadership team, reporting to the CHRO to truly bring the value of people analytics to business leaders. Our job is to empower other teams and leaders with the insights, tools, and training they need to make strategic decisions that impact the overall business. The best way to do that? Leverage a powerful people analytics solution.

In this article, I’ll discuss our transition to Visier and the key successes we’ve seen since implementing the tool in January 2022.

Our journey to data integration

Royal DSM had systems in place to monitor people metrics, but these systems were not integrated. Several discrete systems reported through Power BI, making it possible to produce dashboards for, say, employee experience or headcount. But lack of integration meant we could get only a siloed view of what was going on. We could investigate across the systems to find out much more: for example, what was the experience of female executives, and were their attrition rates higher than the mean over time? But finding such answers took specialized teams many weeks. 

Bringing strategy, analytics, and employee experience under one roof with Visier cleared the way to build a leading and credible people function that regularly delivers evidence-based advice to the very top of the organization. We saw credible data and analytics as a way to get to alignment faster and avoid conflicts. 

With Visier in place, we wanted to ensure our team could get the most business impact and most positive outcomes from the people analytics solution. So one of our first wins was to set up the people analytics teams as a Center of Excellence (CoE). This meant the teams would take no ad-hoc requests, but only work on what had been agreed upon as valid projects. Doing this is important to avoid overloading teams, particularly with tasks that haven’t fully been thought through. It also ensures that their time and energy is focused on creating value for the business.

Are you just getting started on your company’s people analytics journey? Learn how Visier helps you use insights from people data to hit business goals by downloading our handy guide.


Consistent, democratized data

Integrating our data with Visier has also helped with the data quality issues that every organization faces. This has enabled us to take more targeted action to repair data in low-quality patches. We are in the process of granting access to our finance teams, which can use Visier and the people data on the platform for their own purposes. 

Future work also includes connecting more with different types of users, who want to use technology in different ways, or who think about business in different ways. This can help enable more personalized and persona-driven interactions. 

Strong leadership adoption

If a system is not easy to use, if it has not been designed with the end user in mind, and if it is not a pleasure to use, adoption will be very limited. Luckily, adoption of Visier at Royal DSM has been strong. Several HR leaders are now self-sufficient in their use of the platform and associated tools. Higher levels of access mean that we, in analytics and employee experience, have time to support valuable outcomes across the business, rather than simply creating reports. 

Visier is fun to use. That might sound trite, but your platform needs to be fun to drive adoption. That’s the main takeaway. A platform needs to engender a sense of excitement. 

If you have a platform that is complex, difficult, and boring to use (as many are), your people analytics team is likely to remain focused on serving the demands of others—and adoption will remain a distant dream forever. Crack adoption, which is a design principle, and you’re on your way to helping your business meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Better, faster people analytics

With Visier, we are bringing people data further into annual reviews and performance assessments. We can get insights on attrition or report on headcount evolution in the blink of an eye. This means we can now address problems at all levels in a better, faster way. In the future, we will look deeper into scenarios for workforce planning and talent acquisition to support our business’s strategy. We are building a community of users in which people analytics experts, leaders, and mentors help to regionalize our approach to people analytics and the benefits that flow from it. 

In the past, I believed it was important for a business to build and own its own technology platform for people analytics. What’s changed my mind? More than anything, it’s speed. No team or executive can afford three years to build something before putting it to use in the field. That said, we are indeed building something here at DSM: our own infrastructure to run alongside Visier. It doesn’t have to be build or buy. It can—and in many cases should be—both.

Build, buy, or both? Choosing the right people analytics solution for your company doesn’t have to be complicated. Download our checklist to help you decide what’s best for your needs.


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