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How to Lead with Data: A Conversation With Andrea Derler

With a background in management research, science, and human capital consulting, Andrea Derler brings her fascination with human dynamics in organizations to lead our research efforts. Learn more about our new Principal of Research and Value in this profile!

Andrea Derler, Ph.D.

Andrea Derler is a researcher at heart, a woman in business, and a mom of two kids. She’s also Visier’s new Principal of Research and Customer Value. In this role, she’ll be responsible for distilling insights from our database of over 12 million anonymized employee records into stories that will be used in content reports, research findings, and articles that tell the stories of the people behind the numbers.

“I’m trying to answer questions that the HR and business community are asking themselves about the value of people analytics,” says Andrea. “For me, this means answering these questions in a way that’s business-oriented, clear, and digestible so that they feel inspired to use a solution like Visier. This storytelling involves taking a greater piece of research and finding a data point to convey the message.” 

Andrea’s background is entirely about this notion of making sense of complex ideas. She holds a Doctorate in Economics with a focus on Leadership and Organizations, and a Master’s in Philosophy, which taught her to think critically and to look at a question from all directions. 

Because of this schooling, any time she comes across a piece of data, she asks herself: Where does it come from? Who communicated it? Can it be right? Can it be wrong? It’s a mentality that every data-driven person should adopt, she says: to dig deeper and not accept the first answer as correct.  

After Andrea graduated with her master’s she began working in sales, applying this way of thinking to her workplace. There, she witnessed unhappy employees whose managers made them unproductive and not wanting to come into work. This caused her to question whether the people in charge were the right people for the job, sparking her interest in leadership, which became the focus of her doctoral degree. 

It always leads to leadership 

For her dissertation, Andrea wanted to understand a leaders’ image of an ‘ideal employee,’ or their implicit follower theories, traits that describe followers. In the two studies she conducted—one with a U.S. organization and one with Manpower Germany—she investigated the image managers have of their perfect hire. She found that while managers said they wanted a creative individual with strong opinions, they actually preferred someone who was reliable and productive. 

“This difference between what managers say they want versus what they actually want causes a challenging dynamic when employees speak their mind because it doesn’t resonate with many managers.” She explains, “They don’t want someone who’s going to wrestle with their decisions.” 

Since earning her doctorate, Andrea has led research teams at the NeuroLeadership Institute, and the analyst firm previously called Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Her work focused on leadership theory, leadership strategy and development, as well as talent and performance management, organizational change and transformation, organizational growth mindset, and DEI related topics.

“In the last 10 years, I’ve tried to understand what are we as humans in organizations? What do we need in terms of managers, structures, processes? How does an organization work? Where can things go really well? Where can they go really wrong? What does HR have to do with it?” explains Andrea. “These all create an incredibly interesting dynamic because it’s very complex. I don’t think we know it all. I think we’re far from it. But it always leads to leadership. How do we define leadership? What does successful leadership look and feel like?” 

Andrea Derler, Principal of Research and Customer Value at Visier

When asked what defines a great leader, Andrea says, “Leadership is a process between people. If I manage to influence you in a way that inspires you to do this work together with me, that is leadership.” 

Drive change with influence

After researching HR for years, Andrea says she’s delighted with the change she’s seen in the space. One of those shifts is the increased use of technology, which has changed almost every aspect of our lives, including how we work together. 

While successful HR teams are using tools like people analytics to understand their workforce, others are still struggling to put the proper technology in place. 

“If an HR team doesn’t understand what employees need or want, or what the business actually needs or wants, they won’t make any movement,” says Andrea. “They’re going to remain the administration part of business: the resignations, the exit interviews, and the hiring, but that’s it. They’ll never move the needle on anything.” 

Organizations need access to employee data to drive real change within their business. When HR listens to their workforce, they create trust with their employees. This enables HR to lead with influence, making the programs they run more successful. And these programs don’t serve HR—they serve the business. Because of this, Andrea is optimistic about the future of people analytics: “It’s helping business leaders make better decisions for the business and for the people. There can be nothing wrong about that.”

Please welcome Andrea Derler to the Visier team by connecting with her on LinkedIn.

Author Photo
Grace Sheppard |
Grace is a content marketing coordinator at Visier, where she helps create and organize ideas. She has experience in a variety of marketing roles, including social media and event management. Outside of work, Grace enjoys writing fiction and walking with her dog, Pippy.