On October 18th, the AOG School of Management organized an event about big data and HR analytics in the Netherlands. Three keynote speakers spoke about the future of HR tech and analytics. In this article I would like to share with you the main – and very interesting – takeaways.
Tom Haak (HR Trend Institute) – Twitter
The world is changing rapidly and we need to know how we can adapt to it. For example, Thync is a company that makes wearable technology that stimulates your brain electronically, and can make you happier. Would you wear this device?
Or, would you hire a company like Keencorp to dig through all your employees’ emails to continuously measure employee engagement?
Whether you like these technologies or not, you should ask yourself these questions now. Thync can make employees happier, and Keencorp gets rid of those annoying employee engagement surveys. That’s a win-win situation, right? Or is it?
As we all know, HR is changing rapidly, and the employee experience is changing simultaneously. Employees no longer want to be treated as employees, but as consumers. Being a consumer is much more fun. This is called consumerization. Take recruitment, for example: in Wasabi Waiter, a selection game, job candidates need to manage a sushi restaurant. In-game performance is indicative of job performance: it delivers an accurate assessment of a candidate’s characteristics and competencies that might be hard to perceive during an ordinary job interview – and it is much more fun for the applicants.
Would you prevent the food from getting burned, clean the restaurant or serve the customers? In-game performance in Wasabi Waiter predicts job performance.
The same is happening to performance management. A biannual performance review doesn’t really add value to the employee, so companies either reinvent the performance management system, or stop doing it all together. However, not conducting performance reviews leads to lower productivity and employee dissatisfaction. HR needs to come up with smart solutions to solve these problems.
In order to fix this, HR is becoming applificated, meaning that HR increasingly uses specific niche systems that solves its specific problems and makes work more enjoyable.
Wasabi Waiter is a great example, and so is Personality Insight. Personality Insight uses IBM’s Watson to analyze someone’s personality based on their writing. Through this service, I analyzed my three most popular Analytics in HR blogs and this is the personality profile that came up:
The profile is moderately accurate. Results from traditional personality tests show that I am an introvert with high scores on openness and conscientiousness, while having low scores on agreeableness. However, I don’t write in my native language and over time I have learned to write in a more accessible and laid-back fashion… Would the machine therefore assess me as more of an extravert?
As mentioned before, HR is changing faster than ever. It is becoming increasingly agile, data-driven and individual-focused. This evolution offers great opportunities for both employers and employees – but it also involves privacy and ethical challenges, like Thync. Should employers influence their employee’s brains? Or are they already doing that by playing music to make boring jobs more enjoyable? This isn’t really being discussed, and maybe we shoud.
At the end of Tom’s talk, the person sitting next to me told me that Thync’s happiness stimulator is somewhere around 300 bucks, and the company guarantees a 30-days money back policy. The website says: “If you don’t love it, send it back for a full refund”. Maybe I should try it out…
You can find Tom’s presentation on his slide share account
Sjoerd van den Heuvel (HU University of Applied Science Utrecht)
In his keynote speech, Sjoerd explained what HR analytics is: “The systematic identification and quantification of the people-drivers of business outcomes, with the purpose to make better decisions”. This quote can also be found in his publication: Heuvel & Bondarouk, 2016.
When we apply HR analytics, we aim to understand, explain and predict data. Once a company is able to accurately predict what will happen, it will gain a significant competitive advantage. That’s the beauty of analytics: it enables people to go beyond opinions and experiences by looking at data and metrics. However, looking at metrics is not enough.
Analytics is a way to use data and metrics to gain insights.
To explain why, Sjoerd gave an example of research done amongst dock workers in the ‘70s. Because of astronomically high unemployment levels, dock workers didn’t know if they could work on a given day. They waited in line every single day, and when they were picked to work, they worked very, very hard in order to get picked out of the line the next day as well. Productivity was high, but satisfaction was low.
This changed when all workers received social income: a standard payment independent of whether or not they worked on a given day. Productivity amongst workers dropped while satisfaction skyrocketed.
This example shows that if you only look at the productivity metric you would only see part of the picture. That’s why analytics are so useful. Analytics show how psychological constructs are related, they enable you to predict the future and to gain insights into the data. Sjoerd also mentioned that a large majority of existing software does not offer these analytical capabilities – even though they claim to do so anyway on their sales page.
Besides HR analytics, talent analytics and workforce analytics were also mentioned. Each term has a different connotation. The term HR analytics focusses too much on HR: HR is not considered particularly data-savvy, and often has issues with data quality. Workforce analytics has a slightly more exploitative connotation, while talent analytics seems to be focused on ‘talent’ alone.
Sjoerd concluded that employees should have a more central position in the people analytics debate. People analytics offer great opportunities, but should ultimately be in service of the employee.
Rob Vinke (AOG School of Management)
Rob concluded the day by connecting HR analytics to human intuition, which is so prevalent in HR. HR analytics is useful and needed but the human side of HR should not be forgotten.
However, there is always a balance between being human and being strategic. This holds true for talent management: “Everyone has talent, but not everyone has strategic talent”, according to Rob.
Big data and data analytics are the future, however, we should always ask ourselves whether or not we make a strategic difference with what we do.
This changing landscape forces the HR professional to adapt. The HR professional should become a more data-driven specialist – but at the same time he/she should realize that not everything can be captured in data. There are always employees who are not necessarily the most productive employees, but in the background they add tremendous value by taking care of colleagues– even though this might be hard to measure. We should therefore never loose our human perspective when being indulged in HR analytics.
The AOG School of Management is based in the Netherlands and offers executive education to HR professionals.
Heuvel, S., & Bondarouk, T. (2016). The rise (and fall) of HR analytics: a study into the future applications, value, structure, and system support.