Predictive Analytics World Workforce 2015: Highlights

PAW Workforce 2015 highlights include: analytics is now redefining Human Resources, Analytics lessons are quite applicable to workforce questions, and unique challenges of Workforce analytics.

Predictive Analytics World Workforce 2015: Highlights

By Chad Harness.

paw-workforce-2015What if your online social self could be used to predict whether or not you would be a good fit for a job, sparing job seekers and companies valuable time and money?

What if your current job could be improved by your employer months before you ever became sufficiently dissatisfied to seek other employment? What if bad bosses, bad employees and bad colleagues became such rarities that the very concepts stopped being sources of commiseration and started to be stories used to tell the next generation why they’ve got it so good?

Questions like these (and proposed solutions) were prominent at the inaugural Predictive Analytics World for Workforce conference, held in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Greta Roberts, CEO and Co-Founder of Talent Analytics, Corp., with the assistance of Rising Media, set a high bar as conference chair by uniquely assembling an eclectic group of forward thinking HR professionals and sociable data nerds, all of whom shared a vision of using data science to find business-relevant solutions to workforce management challenges.

Here are my five key takeaways from the event:

  1. Now that workforce analytics has its own separate conference at a truly predictive-focused event,it’s time to recognize that analytics is now redefining Human Resources.
  2. Lessons learned and technical skills developed in other areas of analytics are quite applicable to workforce questions. For example, many of the same modeling techniques, e.g. machine learning, survival analysis, time series analysis, ensemble methods, are already being used to address workforce-related questions. In fact, quite a few of the presentations displayed some rather ingenious ways of translating, mixing and applying these techniques in new and creative ways. Genevieve Graves, Chief Data Scientist at HiQ Labs, is automating fuzzy matching algorithms to map individuals correctly to the set of their online social profiles – how cool is that?
  3. PAW Workforce is a bona fide predictive analytics conference.If you already are an analytics practitioner, you’ll be very interested to discover what’s being accomplished and what appears to be just around the corner, not just in the workforce space but across the entire field.According to Holger Mueller, Principal Analyst and VP at Constellation Research, analytics’ next challenge will be to build models that predict the best models to apply to a given problem – how cool is that?
  4. Workforce analytics presents at least one opportunity that does not arise naturally in other parts of an organization: the chance to combine the strengths of HR professionals, who know better than most how effectively to navigate an organization, with the strengths of analytics professionals, who know how to combine, connect and generate insights from financial, employee and customer data. In other words, workforce analytics sits in the heart of the organization’s organic communication network – I won’t say it but you know what I’m thinking.
  5. Workforce analytics also presents some unique challenges. First, the (incorrect) beliefs that HR is either immeasurable or unimportant to the business must be overcome in order to be successful. This is why, even though technical skills are transferable, people skills are even more critical to success (a common theme among a plurality of presentations). In other words, if you only want to create models, then this may not be the best field for you. Finally, questions of ethics and privacy are paramount - we’re not modeling a customer’s purchasing behavior, we are modeling a colleague’s livelihood.

While I could go on about the exciting workforce analytics work and topics that were abuzz at the 2015 Predictive Analytics World for Workforce conference, this post has a word limit that I’ve already exceeded (but, oh, the things I wish I had the space to mention!). If you want to learn more, you’re in luck: the second PAW Workforce conference is scheduled for April 4th-5th, 2016. If you’re serious about advancing this practice in your own organization, then I highly recommend that you bring your HR/Workforce counterparts. I hope to see you both there!


Bio: Chad Harness, @chadharness, is a workforce analytics professional and has held a variety of quantitative positions, primarily within the financial services industry, throughout his eight year career. In addition to finding creative ways to use data to solve problems, he is passionate about developing quantitative leaders, teaching math and computer science, and constantly learning.