Here’s the interview we did with David Green at HR Tech World in Amsterdam (now UNLEASH).
This is the transcript of the interview above.
David Green: So my name’s David Green. I’ve got quite a lucky job really, I travel the world and write and speak about people analytics and its role in the future of work.
I also work with IBM customers on their people analytics journeys, and also increasingly on how they’re weaving in things like personalization and machine learning into their HR processes for employees, and then the third part of my role is I work for the Smarter Workforce Institute, which is IBM’s research team, which is looking at aspects of the future of works such as people analytics and employee experience.
Why are you excited about HR analytics?
David Green: I think it’s three things. I think number one, I think it can help the business have better outcomes… and in doing so, it can help increase HR’s impact in the business, which I think to be fair, there’s room for improvement.
But I think the thing I’m most excited about actually, particularly with some of the new methodologies and capability that’s coming in, is it can really start to improve the employee experience, and the wellbeing of people at work, and if that’s not HR’s role then I don’t know what is.
Why is HR analytics so important?
David Green: I think it can really start to unlock insights that actually help drive a better employee experience, better health of employees at work, but I think it can start tying some of that to actually improve business outcomes as well.
As I said, I think if HR is going to have relevance in the organization of the future, it needs to start providing insights that actually have an impact on the business, and I think by having an impact on employees, you can have a positive impact on the business as well.
Employees are demanding a different experience at work now, they want the sort of experience they get as a consumer, where things are personalized for them, and information is pushed to them that is relevant.
We hear a lot about that at this show at HR Tech World around tools that do that but unless you’ve got good data and analytics underpinning it, you’re not going to be able to provide employees with relevant information.
How are we further going to develop our data maturity level?
David Green: Well that’s a good question, I think that’s where a lot of organizations struggle. I think the first thing they have to stop doing is stop looking at things in silos. So, we want to improve recruitment, we want to use data to do that. That’s fantastic but once people join, then their experience of the organization and onboarding as you said and all the way through.
So I think we can improve that partly because things like engagement and performance are moving from a once a year event to something that is more continual. The ability for people to provide feedback on a regular basis. I always think that people analytics is putting steroids on organizational network analysis, which is something that’s obviously been done for a long time but then suddenly you’re able to do it on a regular basis.
It’s less based on surveys, although probably you’ll want to augment that in as well, and you can really start to understand the central nervous system of the organization, what makes teams productive, what maybe impacts on burnout of your high performers.
I think that’s information that the business wants to know and it’s information that HR wants to know, so they can devise programs that actually try and eliminate that.
What part of analytics are you most excited about?
David Green: Well I think you probably got me on the organizational network analysis. I mean we saw Josh Bersin this morning, he was talking about how, you know the HR systems of tomorrow perhaps are moving to understand and improve productivity.
Well I think, again, once you get into the central nervous system of the organization and how it actually works, that’s when O&A and people analytics powering that could really help to unlock what those insights are. Iif HR can help solve the productivity problem in companies, then HR is going to have relevance and it’s going to have impact.
What are the biggest challenges for HR analytics?
David Green: I think it’s a skills and capability challenge with HR people generally but what they have to remember is they don’t have to become analysts themselves, they just need to either hire people who can do that work or work with people in the business who can.
They need to be a bit more data-fluent, I suppose would be a good way of putting it. But actually, I think the biggest challenge probably facing this space is the whole ethics and privacy debate.
I mean some of the tools that we’re talking about that people are potentially using, analyzing email, analyzing wearable data, you know there’s lots of questions that need to be answered. I think you can answer that to some extent, obviously there’s the law that we need to stay within but I think the main way to answer that is: If you can’t articulate what the benefit is to the employees of doing something, then you probably shouldn’t do it
I think of all the functions within the business, I think HR is mostly likely to go with that kind of mindset.
I think the whole ethics versus employee benefit debate is probably the big discussion that we’re going to be having over the coming years.
What will analytics look like in 5 years?
David Green: I think it will be a core part of what HR does. I think it will underpin pretty much every HR program. I almost get the impression that we won’t be talking about analytics so much because it will be a core component of each of the programs that we deliver.
I’d like to think that everyone within HR, well at least the wide majority of HR, will be comfortable talking about data and insights and how it drives business performance and employee experience. But I’m an optimist!
What are your wishes on improving HR analytics in the future?
David Green: Well the thing I wish for is a core component of HR. I believe that it is vital for the future of the HR function, and if we don’t do it and do it well then another part of the business will. And I suspect they will have more interest in business outcomes than they will in employee wellbeing and experience. So, I think it’s important for HR to grasp this opportunity.