The pandemic accelerated transformation across industries and brought data to the forefront of business decision-making. Those changes have powerful implications for the future of HR and talent strategy.
“Data is magical. … It allows us to level the playing field. It allows us to hear what is signal and what is noise,” said Paul Rubenstein, chief people officer at Visier, during Betterworks’ EmpowerHR virtual summit. “It is an incredibly powerful tool for augmenting our intuition, challenging us, and holding us accountable for all of the choices we make.”
Rubenstein and Betterworks Chief Operating Officer Andrea Lagan and Chief Product Officer Arnaud Grunwald shared their perspectives on how companies can apply people analytics to business transformation. Check out the highlights of that conversation.
The changing role of HR
The HR function has long prioritized managing risks, costs, and efficiency. While these are still important components of HR operations, today’s HR leaders also influence the strategic direction of the business.
“The new path is, how do we really unpack business strategy to understand what is good talent strategy?’” Rubenstein said. “And how can a leader of talent and culture help align all of the small decisions that happen around people to a North Star?”
Other business functions, like finance and supply chain, arguably have made greater strides than HR in terms of performance improvement. But that’s also an opportunity for HR. “The last thing to be conquered about performance is human performance,” Rubenstein said. “ It isn’t easy to get right and not all companies get it right … That’s what everyone’s trying to unlock.”
Managing performance before it happens
HR was already becoming a more strategic, data-driven function, but the pandemic forced organizations everywhere to quickly reinvent work processes. “COVID hits, and it accelerates the digital footprint that we all leave, and now the data of HR becomes the data of work,” Rubenstein said. As employees generate more and more data during work, HR leaders have more opportunities than ever to apply predictive analytics to performance management.
“You’re able to look at the productivity data in a really objective way, as well as the precursors to productivity, which is how work gets done,” Rubenstein said. HR leaders can take the classic performance data generated by the HR tech stack, for example, and layer in additional data from where most work occurs. These data generators include systems of productivity, such as Salesforce or ServiceNow, and systems of interaction, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Then “you start to really understand performance ahead of the outcome. … I don’t want to talk to you about your performance in a retrospective way,” Rubenstein said. “I want to understand the precursors to your performance and intervene.”
The challenge for many organizations with this strategy is persistent silos. Unless HR leaders “break down those silos and ensure continuous progress, continuous conversations … you’re just not going to move forward as an organization,” Lagan said.
The difference data makes
We live in a data-rich environment where HR can draw connections between actions and outcomes. This approach should be applied to every element of your talent strategy and to every action in the workplace.
“[A] certain amount of performance is discretionary. We know that,” Rubenstein said, “Your ability to connect your work with the larger objectives, and connect your work with the mission or purpose of the organization — that’s a powerful amplifier for that discretionary effort.”
Data is especially helpful when holding organizations accountable for fair practices, as fairness is an increasingly important element of a good employee experience. Getting there starts with day-to-day interactions, Lagan said.
The speed of business is too fast to only have performance conversations once or twice per year. “The approach needs to be regular … every day, in the flow of work, and that allows for you to have a great level of objectivity,” Lagan said.
You need a constant stream of real-time data to answer questions about fair performance management practices. Do all managers have the same tools and resources? Are they providing feedback in a structured and consistent way? Are there standard procedures for evaluating performance in the flow of work?
Tech today can help: Many tools, including Betterworks, now have embedded analytics capabilities. “Having this data at your fingertips and being able to answer very simple questions is critical,” said Betterworks Chief Product Officer Arnaud Grunwald. Proactively monitoring people data provides visibility, and from there, you can continuously improve HR processes to drive the business forward.
“When you think about how you want to calibrate your organization, and the team members across your organization, you can do that in a data-based way,” Lagan said. “Objectively, with the right analytics like Visier provides, you have very quick visibility into where there are inequities in the process or … within certain areas of the business that you can quickly address before it’s too late.”