"People analytics teams must balance partnerships with technology vendors and with HRBPs."

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Nicky Clement, VP HR, Organisation Effectiveness & People Analytics at Unilever, spoke at the CIPD’s annual conference about making your people analytics function successful.

She said that employees are a ‘strong base’ for data-driven organisations, because “we don’t have to buy datasets on customers. We have the data there. We can survey employees and ask them questions directly.”

For Unilever, people analytics is a good way to prove their work around wellbeing and sustainability is valuable to the organisation. She says HR professionals should focus on metrics that make it easy to show ROI.

Attrition, for example, should be a focus. Nicky said they use the people analytics dashboard “like an aeroplane,” seeing what “buttons light up” (what data points require investigation) and then looking in more detail.

She said the organisation analysed attrition in Brazil after the system flagged up something noteworthy. In this instance, however, the anomaly was explainable and required no further action.

This example is why Nicky suggests balancing gut instinct with data - one is not supposed to replace the other. The real power, she says, comes when you “marry gut instinct and data together.”

She also mentioned emergent tensions that organisations must manage: the predictive analytics agenda, for example, should not replace the basics of HR that will always be important.

Additionally, the people analytics team must balance out their partnership with technology providers with the HR business partners who are, after all, still at the coalface of the business.

People analytics professionals must continually balance speed and value; there may be areas ripe for experimentation, where accuracy isn’t as critical, but there are certain areas where accuracy must trump speed, such as attrition or engagement data. HR must ask: in which areas can the business not tolerate inaccuracy?

She also said that people analytics teams must focus on business impact if they want to build their reputation and value to the business. When Kraft's takeover offer become known to the company, Nicky said, the people analytics team were immediately briefed because of their perceived internal value.

Finally, to help HR professionals categorise themselves on their people analytics journey, Nicky suggested they place themselves in one of three buckets:

  1. Curious about people analytics
  2. Started to spend money on people analytics
  3. Pushing boundaries in people analytics, about three to four years in

About Jamie Lawrence

Jamie Lawrence, HRZone

Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.

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