Organisations are facing radical changes in the workforce, the workplace, and the world of work. Technology trends will drive some of these changes, but leaders also need to focus on data-driven ways to better organise, manage, develop, and align people at work.
My colleague Russ Clarke and I had the pleasure of attending the People Analytics and the Future of Work Conference held in San Francisco (PAFOW 2017). Hosted by Al Adamsen and David Green, the conference featured many leaders in the people analytics space. Here are my three main takeaways from the event:
1.“Organisational design will be challenged everywhere”
Josh Bersin gave a summary of the Bersin “Predictions for 2017” report. Organisation design remains the number one concern of CHROs, whether driven by digital, regulatory, globalisation (or in some cases, de-globalisation).
Michael Arena of General Motors presented a great case study on using Social and Organisational Network Analysis (SONA) and other interventions to help drive innovation in their business.
It is very clear that there is excitement in the USA around SONA as a model for addressing the pace of change and disruption. In my view, some complications remain:
- Can traditional objectives of hierarchy around prioritisation, funding, resourcing and risk and holocracy models work together to achieve a healthy mix of agility and control?
- While SONA can provide great insights, it can expose relationships that perhaps the workforce would consider personal rather than business related and could have impact on employee trust
2. Business relevance is a key driver of people analytics success
Jonathan Ferrar, Mark Berry and others spoke of the critical importance of making people analytics relevant to the business. While analytics around the talent life cycle (attraction, hiring, employee experience and retention) are critical for many businesses, the risk is that the rest of the business sees this work as “HR for HR”.
In discussion with some of the other delegates, I suggested a 2×2 (Figure 1) to make sure that workforce analytics functions are at least considering their wider business impact on both a strategic and operational basis. Here is a strawman of the kind of model I propose:
Figure 1. Activities that will make workforce analytics more relevant to the business
My own view is that workforce analytics is much more powerful when workforce data is combined with finance and other business data and that the most effective approach is likely to be cross-functional analytics teams. However, I acknowledge that not everyone is ready to take that step.
3. People analytics as an “application”
We are beginning to see organisations building people analytics tools in-house. Ernest Ng, Senior Director at Salesforce did a great job of presenting apps built to connect workers with similar profiles using machine learning.
Larry McAlister, VP of Global Talent Management at Equinix, presented a highly pragmatic approach to transforming culture by emphasising the importance of manager conversations in the business, reinforced by performance management and pulse surveys. Equinix are also using home-grown apps built using Sharepoint.
Finally, I want to mention Gregor Teusch, Head of Rewards, Systems and Insights at WeWork who I thought presented some of the most compelling, concise write-ups of workforce analytics case studies that I have seen anywhere.
Figure 2. Five minutes of fame in 2017 -done
All-in-all, Russ and I had some great conversations with practitioners, influencers and other vendors and we are very excited about continuing to build our relationships and grow our business in the USA. Thank you again to Al and team for organising the event.