People and processesChange ManagementPeople analytics: a threat or an opportunity?

People analytics: a threat or an opportunity?

Sean Green, IT Director for the City of London Corporation and City of London Police, discusses the emerging and exciting use of People Analytics and the opportunities and threats it represents

Sean Green, IT Director for the City of London Corporation and City of London Police, discusses the emerging and exciting use of people analytics and the opportunities and threats it represents

As a manager of 30 years and a technologist I am fascinated by the way IT, and now digital technology, gets discussed so much while the people aspects receives very little attention. That’s despite the fact that in my experience the 80/20 rule applies really well for the successful implementation of any new technology that I have been involved in implementing – 20% technology and 80% the people aspects of the change.

This is why I am really excited with the subject of people analytics.

People analytics is an emerging and exciting use of data. Particularly personality profiling data and applying statistical analysis techniques to the data to empower employees and help managers and executives make data driven intelligent decisions about their workforce throughout the employee lifecycle. An interesting article on this topic can be found here.

Analysing personal psychology has been a trending topic for the last 70 years. It can be used for personal understanding and as a way to inform career direction. Studies have shown people who are informed and self-empowered are happier, healthier and overall able to deal with the stresses and strains of whatever life throws at them. Surveys like the Big Five psychometrics can be completed to provide people with an accurate understanding of their personality for free. Examples of platforms using this include the newer people analytics platforms like Weavee, which are able to map personality types to job descriptions and career paths.

Opportunities for smart use of your people data

Whereas HR has traditionally only touched managers during recruitment, compliance with policies (occasionally dealing with the consequences of non-compliance), appraisals and exit, with people analytics managers get to be involved with proactively managing their most valuable asset throughout the employee lifecycle.

For example, during recruitment, a financial services company thought that the competencies for successful traders were a degree, analytical skills and a risk appetite. However, what they found when using the new breed of employee analytical tools was that diligence and resilience were the required attributes.

In an era when managers are open to considering that unconscious bias can lead to poor decisions, when building a successful team HR analytics can be a useful tool to add to the kit bag for improved recruitment decisions.

Organisational culture

Another neglected area for executives and managers where people analytics is making great in-roads is organisational culture development. Click here for more information.

By using frequent employee engagement surveys, organisations can get a snapshot of their current underlying culture and reinforce, through messages, the behaviour and rewards the aspects that are consistent with the culture and which the organisation therefore wants to develop and build.

In an example, VoloMetrix (now owned by Microsoft) found that a client using their big data software discovered some of its junior managers spent more than 30-hours every week “managing up” with reports to senior executives or in status meetings. Bottom line: that left just 10 hours of time for “real” work for the host, not to mention the ripple effect across their own teams.

What’s in it for the employee?

For employees, people analytics finally does put them in charge of their career. It enables them to visualise their own data and progress within their current role and, perhaps more importantly, allows them to see their data in comparison to the roles they aspire to achieve, showing not only levels of skills but also the intrinsic capabilities required for those positions. Equally, it may help employees make decisions sooner about leaving an organisation that does not suit their motivations and career aspirations.

Weavee found with their clients that whilst initially engaged to help improve their recruitment decisions, the employees of those clients significantly improved engagement with their employer and positive motivation scores. This was particularly true when given access to analytical tools (built on the widely recognised big five personality profiling tools) that helped those employees make smarter decisions on how they could shape their career development in the organisation.

What’s the downside?

There are always perceived threats and concerns with the use of new and innovative technology when first introduced into organisations, particularly in an area like HR, which has used IT systems and software for more transactional and administrative reasons.

Staff are more likely to feel threatened by the use of data to make decisions that they may not understand. This is especially true when algorithms are used to inform decisions based on the data being analysed.

To help ensure personal data is managed in an ethical way, managers need to confirm that the use of people analytics is implemented with consultation and the engagement of staff. They also need to demonstrate the security measures used to protect personal data and prevent it being viewed by those without the authority or reason to see their data. They also need to demonstrate to staff that the decisions are being taken to improve their success in the organisation – and that through their success the organisation’s wider success is being driven.

Despite the concerns, in my view evidence-based decision making is always going to trump intuition. In the words of organisational psychologist Adam Grant, from Wharton’s School of business, it is all about the data: “Though HR departments have long been seen as the softer, intuition-based side of business, the potential to make a major impact with robust analytics is not to be overlooked”.

 

About the author: Sean Green is IT Director for the City of London Corporation and City of London Police. Previous experience as CIO in three other London Boroughs and board level roles in Housing and the NHS.  In addition to his role at the City of London he is Chair of London SOCITM and a Director of the London Grid for Learning (Provides IT Services to over 1 million children) these roles affords him the opportunity to provide IT leadership across London.

He is particularly proud of delivering a recent organisational wide transformation programme that moved circa 3000 staff to Office 365, Windows 10, One Drive and InTune over a six-month period, replacing 80% of user devices.

Note: The views are expressed in this article are those of Sean Green and do not represent those of the City of London Corporation

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