Olly Britnell is the Head of Global Workforce Analytics and HR Strategy, Experian – a leading player in credit data and business and consumer analytics.
His team’s focus ranges from delivering core MI to predictive capabilities across the full employee life cycle. They deliver strategically aligned people measurement, providing insightful analytics to support all people decisions in Experian. This has included developing predictive capabilities leveraging Experian’s proprietary consumer data sets.
Olly talks to People Matters about the role of data and analytics for HR in decision making and the future of work.
How do you see the rise of new technologies and the future of work?
We can see the world of work is changing at a pace never seen before. Change is something that great businesses do well, in response to or ahead of changing markets, in order to stay ahead of the competition. But the pace of which the world around us is changing creates big opportunity and big risk. Multiple trends are merging; hyper-connectivity, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, robotics, deep analytics, bitcoin, blockchain and self-learning systems, and this disruptive technical evolution that we’re seeing is creating a real acceleration in knowledge.
There is a big opportunity for HR to utilize the data sets they have to make evidence-based decisions that drive robust strategies, help evaluate workforce impact, enhance efficiencies and improve the overall wellbeing and effectiveness of the workforce
With this and the ten thousand people who are retiring a day, there’s becoming a sizable gap in workforces. This and the evolution of a candidates’ market means we’re already seeing a continued global war for talent. This impacts what we need to be doing now as well as how we equip ourselves for the future.
How can HR bring real value as we move ahead with the future of work?
The business trends and pace of change we’ve seen in recent years have meant that many organizations are better realizing the value of their employees, or human capital. The cost of human capital can be up to 70 percent of total business costs and arguably the most valuable asset, according to a study by a Paycor survey.
Many methods of competitiveness such as access to capital and product differentiation are easily matched, but HR can deliver higher value by offering talent and organizational capability that gives a unique advantage to win customers and contribute to business growth.
HR is now more commonly recognized as a strategic business function and the driving force behind organizational development. To be this strategic business partner however, HR needs to be powered by data insight, as this allows you to make evidence-based decisions that can demonstrate true value and bottom line impact.
So how do HR utilize this data and to what extent?
The accelerated growth of HR technology and capability has meant that HR have more data today than ever before. I think there is a big opportunity for HR to utilize the data they have, along with other available data sets, to make evidence-based decisions that drive robust strategies, help evaluate workforce impact, enhance efficiencies and improve the overall wellbeing and effectiveness of the workforce.
The amount of data created in just one minute today, is greater than all data that existed in total in 2000 and this will continue to grow. Analytics need data to deliver insights and so to produce the best insight, your data needs to be correct. Deep learning is only as good as its data and so if you find you have missing or incorrect data, spend time on cleaning and defining it, and getting HR business partners to understand why it’s important, and their role in keeping data clean.
We transformed our one-dimensional view of our employee base by developing a predictive analytics tool that combines data from up to 200 employee attributes with our unique Experian MOSAIC and Financial Strategy Segment data. The tool, which has saved us c. $14m over two years and which we’re now offering to other organizations, delivers key, statistically significant attributes, to generate an attrition risk score for each employee – helping to make evidence-based decisions on the workforce.
This is one way such data can be analyzed and utilized to inform better HR strategies and decisions with bottom line impact. The extent to which you can use workforce data is vast and I believe this will only continue to grow in a world ever more fuelled by data. Those not thinking about making data driven HR decisions run the risk of getting left behind.
How are companies using HR data strategically?
It’s great to see the HR role evolving in more organizations to that of the strategy partner, where we have a part to play in the formulation of business strategy with executive management.
Engaging in the strategy decision making is the future of HR and this is key to the success of organizations, as HR play a crucial role in analyzing whether the required skills and resources are available for strategic projects before the business embarks on them. As people are such a valuable and costly business asset, getting this right is critical to business growth.
Executing the role of strategic partner is no easy task and rule 101 is make sure that your data and analytics are aligned to support your business and HR strategy. Understand how they inform decisions across the employee lifecycle. Some thought provoking examples I have seen, and we use at Experian include:
Learning – Creating Netflix style content, built on data tracking of behaviors, sentiment and 360-degree feedback. Using consumer style marketing to support proactive learning content – think of Amazon/Google adverts when you have just booked a flight, it then knows to offer you hotels in the same city. Apply this approach to learning about your employees and you’ve got a tailored employee learning experience.
Recruitment – Providers that understand movement in publicly available social media content can target talent at the right time proactively, not speculatively. This is based on algorithms, when people are likely to be looking for a new job for example, understanding publicly available changes in LinkedIn profiles or connections made to a Recruiter via Twitter is enabling businesses to be one step ahead in targeting key talent. Using a range of data sources to automatically screen and vet candidates to make the right hiring decisions also helps reduce the time to hire and protects the business and employees from bad hires.
Engagement – Daily or weekly sentiment tracking is now becoming more popular – organizations are now using this to target “nudges” based on certain responses, whether that be about flexible benefits take up, health/well-being support, resource planning or training.
Monitoring changes in employee data and making sure reference records are up to date can flag any issues that may need addressing. Changes in personal circumstances such as financial vulnerability can be addressed – helping support the individual whilst protecting your workforce and your business from challenges such as internal fraud.
Retention – With our predictive analytics solution, we’re able to test and learn various scenarios – predicting future trends to proactively manage issues before they occur. We can also identify high risk employees to drive proactive action to retain them.
This has not only safeguarded our talent, but it’s allowed us to create a more fulfilling culture and has been transformative in driving positive outcomes for employees. HR teams now spend less time recruiting new employees. Instead they can focus on using the data available to ensure existing employees are fully productive, engaged and enabled.
All these examples, have one thing in common, they are all enabling a proactive data-led HR function with demonstrable value towards business growth.
And what do you think the future holds for HR in a data driven world?
Great opportunity. We are now looking broader than traditional HR data sources – email, calendar data, wearables, some even factoring in weather and climate data. Within Experian we utilize consumer profile and financial security data from our proprietary data sets to provide a whole different lens on our workforce, which is proving hugely valuable and insightful. This type of approach is transforming the role of HR. I’d say the future for HR in a data driven world is bright.