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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

This article was jointly written by Visier team members Elliott King, a Sr Business Development Representative, and Michael Stanuszek, an Account Executive.

People analytics drive value across many core areas – creating a path to profound economic impact. In fact, publicly-traded European companies using Visier have a 51% higher return on equity and 48% higher operating margins than the European average. 

We took the opportunity at the fantastic HR of Tomorrow Conference to dig deeper into people analytics value areas, asking attendees – a combination of CHROs, Heads and VPs of HR, CXOs, and Directors  – where people analytics would drive the most impact in their organisation. Here’s what they said:

  • Building critical skills and competencies – 31% 
  • Workforce planning/future of work – 22%
  • Organisation design and change management – 22%
  • Employee experience – 22%
  • Current and future bench strength – 3%

Keep reading to explore why these priorities are more urgent today than ever before and how people analytics can move the needle. 

1. Building critical skills and competencies

It was no surprise to see building critical skills emerge as the top people analytics value driver, with 31% of the vote. The need to identify and fill skills gaps has been an urgent priority for years – but most enterprises have made little progress, despite big gains in people analytics maturity.

Fragmentation and inconsistency are the major stumbling blocks. “The primary need right now is to make sure people are aligned to business requirements as the organisation evolves”, says Ian Cook, our VP of People Analytics. 

Do you have a standard job taxonomy that allows you to easily understand skills across your business? Can you easily compare yourself to the market? Do you have a consistent, coherent organisation-wide skills framework? 

In likelihood, no. The nuance and complexity that comes with scale means you probably have several different terms and competency descriptions that apply to, say, a salesperson. And your competitors probably have several more terms and descriptions, poorly aligned to yours. 

That’s a problem because you can’t easily understand which skills you need, or where your potential gaps are. People analytics addresses those challenges by stitching fragmented data – internal and external – together into a coherent whole and providing insights you can act on.    

Anglo American was committed to harnessing people analytics to power agile, strategic workforce decision-making. But data inconsistencies and an extremely fragmented technology landscape made aggregating data and dispersing company-wide insights extremely difficult. 

With Visier, Anglo American now has common definitions and data standards for employee data. For the first time, business unit leaders can get actionable insights about their workforce and skills pipeline – and Anglo American now has the clarity to meaningfully set and sustain progress towards goals.

2. Workforce planning and future of work

During the pandemic, realigning talent to different projects to better meet customer demand was a success-defining priority. Workforce planning registering as the second driver of people analytics impact (with 22% of the vote) is testament to the continuing challenge and opportunity here.

Given predicted slow recovery times and accelerating disruption, agility has firmly cemented itself as a core muscle for business success. The organisations with the data visibility to shorten workforce planning cycles have emerged strongest – and will continue to strengthen their lead. 

Like building skills, better workforce planning hinges on connecting fragmented data to create a single source of truth. 

“People analytics can combine and standardise various data sources, internally and externally, to create a unified whole. That single source of truth means companies can start to make sense of their data, and begin answering critical questions about their workforces”, explains Mike Everitt, Senior Solutions Consultant at Visier.

By bringing together disparate people and business data from across the organisation, HR leaders can make truly data-driven decisions that drive strong business outcomes. 

3. Organisation design and change management 

Nearly a quarter of respondents identified organisation design and change management as the biggest area of people analytics impact. That’s testament to today’s increasingly competitive and continually disrupted business environment, which makes an organisation’s design integral to success–and even to survival. 

Organisation design is most effective when you take a collaborative, cross-functional approach – HR leaders working alongside business unit leaders to integrate action.

For Jacob Nielsen, People Insights Specialist with Grundfos, the major challenge here is upskilling HR leaders to be confident in interrogating data so they can approach business unit leaders as proactive idea creators. 

“We want our HRBPs to go to business leaders, not to ask ‘what can I do for you?’ but say, ‘here’s what we should do for the business’”, Jacob explains. “This approach is critical to gaining buy-in as the trusted advisor for the business and not only HR”. 

That’s where people analytics has transformative potential. The right platform democratizes data, empowering broad participation and elevating everyday decision-making.

4. Employee experience (EX)

Our poll reflects the increasing strategic importance of EX, with 22% of respondents identifying this as the biggest impact area for people analytics. The pandemic accelerated urgent questions around how we design and deliver better employee experiences. 

Once an HR-only priority, there’s now widespread C-suite recognition of the business impact of great employee experiences. In particular, of the causal relationship between employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX) – and the subsequent impact employee metrics have on your most important business metrics. 

Driving progress on EX means understanding your people’s as-is reality. As Ian says: “The key to focusing on the right employee experience levers is to get the right insight – and then take the appropriate action”. 

People analytics give you robust, continuous, and contextual insights about how your people are really feeling in the workplace. So you can pre-empt issues, spot trends, and identify the right actions to drive impact for your people and your customers. 

Multinational energy infrastructure company Enbridge was using employee experience management software to collect feedback at multiple touchpoints – but they were struggling to operationalise continuous listening or scale insights. 

With Visier People, they can integrate internal and external data into one central platform – analysing data in context, to give more nuanced insight. With improved employee listening and people analytics, Enbridge can now crowdsource insights, report back to participants on results, and show how employee perspectives impact decisions. 

5. Current and future bench strength 

Although only 3% of our respondents identified bench strength as the biggest impact area for people analytics, it’s a critical challenge. And an intensifying one, given Gartner’s prediction that more than 40% of leadership roles will be significantly different within five years.

Says Sari Wilde, Managing VP at Gartner: “This uncertainty around what the future of work looks like and what skills leaders will need to be successful makes it difficult to successfully build a strong leadership bench”.

Predictive people analytics are especially powerful because they empower a shift from reactive supply-based planning towards proactive demand forecasting. 

“Using analytics to understand where your skills requirements are likely to change, and how big the gap currently is, will inform how aggressive your team needs to be in closing those gaps through recruitment and training”, says Ian.

Elevating HR’s impact with people analytics 

As the pandemic increases urgency around many of HR’s biggest challenges, there’s a clarion call to harness people insights as a catalyst to drive change. 

But driving impact can feel insurmountable, especially if you classify people analytics as just a data and technology problem. 

“Success with people analytics comes from identifying the business questions that need answering and then working backwards from these, through the metrics to the raw data,” advises Ian. 

For immediate impact, start by identifying your most urgent workforce questions, prioritising based on business value, available data and resource alignment.

As Grundfos’ Jacob Nielson points out, “You have to win your first wars: succeed early and build trust.” 

About the Authors:

Elliott King: As Senior Business Development Manager for Visier, Elliott’s responsibilities include making sure best practice and thought leadership is shared with the EMEA market as well as helping customers get started on their People Analytics journey at Visier. As well as this, Elliott is a keen motorsport and performance car enthusiast and can often be found at the local race track.

Michael Stanuszek: Michael is a jack of all trades with experience in financial planning and analytics, and more recently blending this with people data to bring both topics to the forefront of the conversation. Big interest in challenging the status quo as an ex-tech consultant and now analytics sales professional. Besides the world of HR and Finance, Michael walks his dog ‘Lola’ at least 3 times a day with the added luxury of WFH and currently training with the Police to become a Special Constable on a voluntary basis.

About the Author

People-centered ideas and insights by the editorial team at Visier.

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