HR/Workforce Analytics leadership conference/London/Innovation Enterprise: Summary

Two intense days, buzzing with energy, knowledge exchange, panel discussions, in short London Data Festival was a great place to be if you are a data scientist. Here is summary of speakers and major attractions of the event.

By Bruno Polach

HR/Workforce Analytics leadership conference/London/Innovation Enterprise: Summary

I have just returned from London Data Festival, brilliant event organized by Innovation Enterprise, who kindly invited me to chair the first day of HR/Workforce Analytics conference – one of 4 streams of this Big Data/Analytics focused series of workshops (other three streams – Predictive Analytics, Big Data and IoT stream).

Two intense days, buzzing with energy, knowledge exchange, pannel discussions, new business cards – all the good things, which happen at this kind of occasion.

First speaker of this major People Analytics get-together was Nicola Shaw, Senior VP of HR Operations at Warner Music Group, where she has led a spectacular HR Analytics project, which is a good example of ‘where is a will, there is a way’, when it comes to HR Analytics intentions – and actually translating these into reality = an area where majority of companies still have some journey to conquer.

Nicola and her extended global HR Transformation team at WMG went for a ‘Big Bang’ approach as opposed to a departmental/ country-specific pilot, which is an approach frequently used to mitigate perceived Analytics project-related risk. Clearly their holistic, all-encompassing approach yielded great results and people in conference room certainly got some inspiration – big bang approach also can be done.

WMG HR leader described how they managed senior stakeholders’ buy-in for this initiative step-by-step, including printing T-shirts with selected workforce analytics vendor’s logo to drive organizational awareness, to make sure that this implementation will be ‘real’ and ‘pervasive’ = that employees will actually be using the workforce anaytics software tool on daily basis, voluntarily, one platform, everyone aligned – highy desireable outcome of any analytics initiative in general.

Second speaker was Neil Claypole, Director, HR Insights and Analytics at S&P Global, who was describing workforce analytics pursuits at a company, which provides credit ratings, research and insights essential to driving growth and transparency = essential intelligence, as they call it.

Everyone involved with Big Data/Analytics should by now be familiar with the concept of Analytics Maturity Curve, however Neil came up with two other organizational maturity concepts, which I personally find interesting – technological maturity (separate from Analytics, as a matter of overall tech savviness of particular company/entity) and stakeholder maturity curve – crucial to any initiative, which needs funding, I guess.

Neil also posed a grand question, when it comes to talent management on strategic level: ‘develop, buy or borrow?’ = there is no shortage of opinions on this one (we could probably dedicate a series of posts only to this part – anyway, your thoughts welcome in comments section, as always).

Director of Workforce Insights at S&P also touched on their possible next undertakings in Workforce Analytics domain, desired development in area of sentiment analysis – for anyone, who is interested in organizational cultivation of sentiment – analyzing sentiment and its impact on revenue, operations, customer satisfaction, etc. = I would recommend having a look at or for some catchy videos about their social analytics platform.

Neil also highlighted the old ‘good enough is good’ related to an Analytics initiative – focus on the issue, which needs to be clearly articulated and subsequently solved, efficiency being the name of the game – as opposed to quest for perfection, which can be detrimental to practical outcomes (and cost of that particular Analytics effort – perfection usually involves a higher price tag as well). Focus on actionable (and measurable) Analytics outcomes.

Another curiosity-piqueing gentleman on the stage was Sjoerd Van Den Heuvel, Assist.Professor of HR Analytics, University of Twente, Netherlands, who emphasized the need for collaboration between academia, consulting firms and other purveyors of effective data management related to workforce.

Sjoerd also spoke about lack of research depth in Workforce Analytics space – probably because HR has not been the leader in Analytics field in last few years, however, I believe things are improving – number of workforce affairs related blogs and niche consulting groups increasing, hopefully more workforce analytics innovation – brought about by research, will follow soon as well.

Next noteworthy speaker was Ralf Buechsenschuss, Global HR Strategy, Analytics and Transformation Lead at Nestle headquarters in Switzerland – actually, did you know that at Nestle headquarters, beautiful small town of Vevey near Lausanne – out of 18 thousand town inhabitants, 12 thousand are Nestle employees – impressive (Ralf told me).

Ralf has a global analytics team of five members, managing some complex workforce transformation efforts across 189 countries – here the HR leader highlighted the need for one central HR Analytics software tool (in Nestle context) to streamline operations and get everyone on the same page – to an extent possible, at least – to manage this high number of member countries separately, without a unifying platform would probably be Herculean effort, if not impossible, so to say.

Ralf also shared Nestle’s ambition to embrace ‘cognitive era’ of Big Data – machine learning, artificial intelligence, wearables, etc. as Nestle certainly intends to remain a leader in nutrition, skincare and other niches, which they have been for quite some time.

Esther Bongenaar, HR Analytics Manager at Shell was talking about their Analytics journey and reated challenges at Shell, where I really liked the following question/call to action, actually: ‘are you generating another dashboard’ or ‘are you solving a business problem?’ = I believe this one speaks volumes, not only to HR function, it is equally significant to Finance, Marketing or other leaders – focus on business problem – which is nominally clear to everyone, however frequently gets lost in translation/myriad of operational issues inherenty involved in any workforce analytics endeavour.

For the purpose of comparison – I recently read an article on digital marketing leadership blog, which said – company board does not really care about the number of clicks in that particular marketing campaign or other interim pursuits – tell me about how many net new customers did we get a result of that campaign = business outcome that counts.

Another speaker was Hendrik Feddersen of European Medicines Agency, who brought some ‘data science at its best’ approach, talking about ‘multivariate semantic outliers’ and the up-and-coming importance of Text Analytics to HR function – his session required some enhanced attention levels as it was quite deep, very interesting to me, personally.

The last speaker of Day One HR Analytics conference was Edward Houghton, Research Advisor at CIPD, who mentioned the VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) concept and applied it to workforce context and related challenges. He also shared a very interesting article published by Guardian, which discusses Google search algorhytm and its potential racist implications – if you google “unprofessional hairstyles for work”, most of the search results will be black women with natural hair, while if you aim for “professional” hairdos, well-trimmed hairstyles of white women will come up – intriguing and definitely worth reading.

The last undertaking of Day One was a pannel discussion between Neil, S&P Global, Nicola, WMG and Sjoerd, University of Twente, who were answering a variety of questions from highly engaged audience – which is a regular feature of Innovation Enterprise events.

Hope to see you at next Innovation Enterprise conference or summit.

Image: courtesy of Sean MacEntee at Flickr