Article: Chris Leone talks about the need for HR to bring data skills

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Chris Leone talks about the need for HR to bring data skills

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In this interview with People Matters, the business leader shares his perspectives on the importance of data, consumerization of IT and what it means for HR
Chris Leone talks about the need for HR to bring data skills

Chris Leone is Senior Vice President of Development for Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud, including Oracle Global HR Cloud and Oracle Talent Management Cloud. In this role, Leone oversees strategy, product management, development, and product go-to-market functions. In his career spanning over two decades, Leone has developed enterprise software applications for large and midsize companies. He has been ranked #16 on Business Insider’s Most Important People in Cloud Computing list.

In this exclusive interview with People Matters, Chris Leone talks about the skill sets that HR professionals need to develop, the evolution of human capital management solutions and trends in Indian companies.

It is said that the future will belong to the ‘HR Data Ninjas’. In your opinion, what kind of insights do they bring to the organization?

“Data Ninjas” understand how data is formed and how it can be leveraged. It means having a background in mathematics or statistics and science, and combining that with an understanding of the functional area that one is trying to provide information for. The key is to couple information gathered from different sources and articulate it in business terms. For example, let’s say you are starting a new business with a workforce of 500 people and you need to get to 1000 in 12 months with a 10 percent attrition rate. How many requisitions do you need to support the process? How would you drive the business to achieve the target? Turnover is a combination of attrition and the number of hires that you bring in. So you need to look at multiple data sources to understand the value you can provide to the organization. Thus, such insights can be effectively furnished by Data Ninjas. 

Do HR professionals need to develop data skills? 

It is a skill that HR needs to bring to the organization as a competency. The aspiration of the HR function is to be valuable to the business — whether it is downsizing, opening up a new business division or plan for an aging workforce. If they can bring critical thinking to the business, they’re going to be better business partners. These skills could be enabled by education and work; most universities are already offering major and minors in Data Science. 

As companies turn to data analytics, what are some of the challenges and opportunities you foresee?

The key challenge is to make sure that the information or data provided is situated in a context that can be easily understood by the business. Often, the analysis is provided without conclusion or the analysis is too complex to account for the majority of the business. Today, analytics is much more predictive and forward-looking, and predictive models that actually look at historical patterns can recommend a forecast of what the future will look like or what can happen. At Oracle, we look at about 130 different employee attributes and we can predict an employees’ propensity to perform, based on all the characteristics that we have gained overtime of that employee, including the employees performance rating, pay raise, manager’s last performance rating and promotion. We can take all of this information and apply data science at the start to predict what could potentially happen in the future, based on a historical pattern. 

What paradigm shifts have you observed related to the impact of technology on human capital solutions over the years?

There are a number of concepts that just didn’t exist a few years ago. Take the example of “Consumerization of IT”. In the consumer world today, everything is mobile. I buy tickets on my phone, I travel using my phone, and I can do everything on my phone. Today, that is the expectation from HR software — your employees don’t want to log into the system, they want to check their paycheck on their phone. 

Learning is a great example — previously, in the consumer world, there was a lot of emphasis on completing compliance courses on LMS. Today, people go to YouTube to learn anything—a peer-based learning platform to help them learn about best practices. We’ve taken that same concept of peer-to-peer sharing and applied that to the enterprise.

HR needs to think about the experience that employees are already having outside of the office

Is there an excessive emphasis on numbers and data? Where do qualitative feedback and conversations with managers fit in?

I think what we’ve seen in the consumer world, as social media has become more popular, people are getting more familiar with giving updates on social networks on a continued basis. So whether it is on Facebook or Twitter, they are more attuned to communicating about what they like and what they don’t like. Feedback, traditionally, has been given in an annual performance review, but managers today are required to give feedback on a continuous basis.

I do think that we can get somewhat disconnected by doing everything on a phone and not have conversations in person. Managers need to ensure that they are having conversations and they are documenting them online, so they can give formal feedback over time. You have to be careful with things becoming too ‘digital’ so that you do not disconnect emotionally from your team. 

If you were to give a few tips to HR professionals, what would they be?

I would say that HR professionals need to think about the experience that employees are already having outside of the office. If you’re not moving your organization to be more mobile, social and data driven, you’re going to be left behind. And if you are not providing those capabilities and experiences inside the enterprise, you’re not going to retain the best talent because candidates want to work for a company that moves digitally forward.

If HR can bring critical thinking to the business, they’re going to be better business partners

What are some trends you are observing in Indian companies in terms of investments?

One of the global trends that we’re seeing is that companies are investing heavily in cloud-based suite of applications. Companies are transitioning from a traditional on-premise deployment where they customize the software to more nimble cloud-based solutions. New capabilities come more frequently, and companies don’t have to manage databases, operating systems, the full technology stack, and they also don’t have to manage the application component. We’ve seen this globally across multi-nationals and this transition is not just restricted to a particular sector or size of companies.

What does Oracle’s outlook for India look like?

Oracle has a lot of employees in India, and we continue to grow. We just inaugurated our new development center in the GIFT city (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City), Ahmadabad. It’s part of our “Make in India” program for our global customers.

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