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Merck KGaA fuelled advanced analytics to retain M&A talent

“Visier has had a major role in our development into people and analytics. We are now extending this foundation to do advanced analytics, which uses very targeted solutions for specific projects layered on top of Visier to get the full spectrum from analytics.”

Mircea-Stefan Glavici, People Analytics Insights and EnablementExpert, Merck KGaA

Background: Overcoming challenges with people analytics

Until 2011, all Merck KGaA talent processes–including recruiting, performance, compensation, and succession planning–were designed and driven by local countries or divisions. The lack of global processes meant that data and associated analytics often varied based on the region from which they were drawn, providing no correlations across processes and locations. 

Merck KGaA worked to standardize and integrate its processes and related data to enable a global data view. The team adopted Visier in 2016 and it has since become the foundation for evidence-based decision making at the company. Additionally, their continued use of Visier over the past three years led to achievements such as:

  • Linked performance management and team size data, and matched this information with sales outcomes to better understand optimum span of control
  • Exceeded their 2021 target of maintaining 30% representation of female employees
  • Used Visier to reconcile and aggregate HR data, allowing the people analytics team to build a prediction model on what makes people leave the company in the first year of tenure.

View their earlier case study here >

Current challenges

Now that HR and most organization managers have access to Visier, Merck KGaA is working to build its network of people analytics ambassadors and technical champions, who will help the people analytics team test new approaches and share their analytics knowledge with the rest of the HR community. 

The team is also focused on leveraging these ambassadors to be go-to resources for questions within the organization and free up more resources to do advanced analytics work to support M&A employee retention, skills gap analysis, and more. Their focus is on getting the full spectrum from Visier’s core analytics and making advanced analytics accessible to the entire population of users. 


Going deeper with adoption

Since implementing Visier in 2016, Merck KGaA has grown its user base to a network of 3,500 users, which includes the entire management population of business and people leaders, plus the HR function. Line managers make up 3,000 of these users. Rather than go to more users, the people analytics team is working with them to achieve deeper effectiveness of adoption. 

This includes leveraging their people analytics ambassadors to evangelize Visier usage and ensure that people take an evidence-based approach to their day-to-day decision making. In addition, they’re also developing knowledge champions, who will help the people analytics team test new approaches and share their analytics knowledge with the rest of the HR community. 

The HR business partners (HRBPs) are also moving towards a more consultative approach, which requires them to upskill their analytics capabilities and thinking. The people analytics team enables HRBPs to get better at analytics, including development items available in their learning platform. 

Items include completing a set of courses and sharing internal case studies that leverage Visier. The HRBP will typically share case studies in HR platforms and be a go-to person for advice on Visier and other analytics platforms.

“We’re making sure that people who are enabled are also having fun. We’ve gotten to a level where everybody speaks the same language in terms of data. Now, everyone can develop into an analytics expert, if they want to.”

Making way for advanced analytics projects

Besides stepping up the enablement, Merck KGaA also increased their people analytics capability, tapping into new methods and approaches to data analysis.

With more than 56,000 people in 66 countries, the level of complexity of organizational performance exceeds human understanding, according to Adam McKinnon, Advanced People Analytics Expert at Merck KGaA. The ultimate goal of analytics is to improve employee experience and add efficiency to the HR processes.

Data collection activity to support advanced analytics is often time-consuming, and data cleaning is very time expensive. With Visier as their foundation, providing core people analytics that can be used by all, Merck KGaA now has the ability to delve into these advanced areas.

Recently, they acquired a 3,000-employee organization with specialist expertise and technology infrastructure. To ensure the retention and effective utilization of this acquired organization, the team atMerck KGaA looked at all the patents that had been filed by this organization since 2002. They further used network analysis to identify the most influential scientists within the acquired organization over a three-year period. They looked at the intellectual output of this new organization’s people to get a sense of who might be future leaders for Merck KGaA. 

Thanks to this patent analysis, the analytics team could quantify the number of academic partnerships people had, how connected they were, the size of their second-degree network, and how influential they were. This information gave Merck KGaA insights on potential leaders that are essential retaining and engaging them during the merger. (For more on this story’s key results, download the full case study.


Since 2016, Merck KGaA has matured its people analytics practice significantly. By enabling their people analytics champions and upskilling HRBPs, they now have organization-wide data democratization. Visier acts as a single, accessible source of shared truth that can be widely used, creating time for more advanced analytics projects. 

Sometimes this means Visier is tapped to develop data for further analytics work. Other times, additional analytics inputs from machine learning, strategic workforce analysis, and organizational network analysis solutions are fed back into Visier for subsequent analysis and controlled distribution. 

One of the next exciting projects that the Merck KgaA team has embarked on is to augment an employee’s profile of skills and capabilities based on passive sources of text, including  job descriptions and development plans. This will be achieved through natural language processing (NLP), a promising concept with good use cases in the people analytics arena. 

This project will enable the team to discern the skills and capabilities of employees, which will inform learning and development initiatives. Individuals with similar jobs can then connect and learn from each other. 

“It’s like automatic organizational dating,” says McKinnon. “The plan is to synthesize the complexity of the organization’s people performance in ways that make it useful to each individual.”

An additional focus on strategic workforce planning will feed data on trending skills to guide training initiatives and the transition into new desired roles.

With an early adoption of people analytics in 2016 and a true ambition to excel in this area, Merck KGaA is determined to increase the trust in the HR function. With Visier as their solid core analytics solution, they can now focus on high-end data modeling to improve each employee’s experience.

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