HBR

How people analytics can help you change

by Chantrelle Nielsen and Natalie McCullough, HBR

June 1, 2018 | 9:17 am
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People analytics — the use of data about human behavior, relationships and traits to make business decisions — can help replace decision making based on anecdotal experience, hierarchy and risk avoidance with higher-quality conclusions based on data analysis, prediction and research. We’ve observed companies using people analytics in three main ways to help understand and drive their transformation efforts.

In core functional or process transformation initiatives, which are often driven by digitization, we’ve seen people analytics used to measure activities and find embedded expertise.

In one example, a people analytics team at a global CPG company was enlisted to help optimize a financial process that took place monthly in every country subsidiary around the world. They discovered that one country was 16% more efficient than the rest on average; the same results were achieved in 71 fewer working hours per month and with 40 fewer people involved. The transformation office approached the country finance leaders with their findings and made them partners in process improvement for the rest of the subsidiaries.

It’s unlikely the CPG company would have been able to recognize and replicate these bright spots if they had undertaken transformation with a top-down approach. And, perhaps more important, it involved and engaged the people on the ground who had unwittingly discovered a better way of doing things.

In bottoms-up cultural transformation initiatives, the way things are done can be more important than what is done. Feedback loops and other methods of data-driven storytelling are our favorite way that people analytics makes culture transformation happen. Data storytelling is a lightweight way to build trust among stakeholders and bring behavioral science to culture transformation.

Top-down strategic transformation is often made necessary by market and technology factors outside the company, but here people analytics is a critical factor for execution. A people analytics team can serve as an instrument panel of sorts to track resources, boundaries, capacity, time use, networks, skill sets, performance and mindsets that can help pinpoint where change is possible and can measure what happens when you try it.

As organizations increasingly  look to data to help them in their transformation efforts, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t just mean having more data or better charts. It’s about mastering the organizational muscle of using data to make better decisions; to hypothesize, experiment, measure and adapt.

(Chantrelle Nielsen directs research and strategy for Workplace Analytics, a new organizational productivity category at Microsoft. Natalie McCullough is general manager for Workplace Analytics and MyAnalytics at Microsoft.)

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by Chantrelle Nielsen and Natalie McCullough, HBR

June 1, 2018 | 9:17 am
  |     |     |   Start Conversation

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