Simply Knock Three Times For Positive Workforce Impact

“Oh, my darling, knock three times
On the ceiling if you want me
Twice on the pipe
If the answer is no…”

Tony Orlando & Dawn

It started with an e-mail. The latest OnStar diagnostic report from our Saturn VUE chock full of data analysis on nearly every single facet of the car: engine and transmission system, air bag system, antilock braking system and more. We had green checkmarks across the board except for one: emissions system.

Argh. Yes, the engine light was on. “How long has the engine light been on?” I asked my wife who usually drives the VUE.

“I don’t know. I think about two weeks,” she answered.

“Wow,” I said.

“What? It’s been running fine.”

“Wow. Those idiot lights,” I added, channeling my father but not referring to my lovely wife.

So I called OnStar and they ran another diagnostic real-time and sure enough the recommendation was to take it in to a GM dealer and have the emissions system checked.

Which is what I did, and when I was getting a shuttle ride back, one of the other passengers, a young lady in her early 20’s, was on the phone with her dad. She said to him, “I have a question.”

I heard her say, “Knock three times? What? That was a song?”

She smiled and laughed and then I said, “Tony Orlando and Dawn.”

She repeated it to her father and then nodded at me. “Yep, that’s what he was just singing to me.”

Funny. It’s not knock four times or three times on the pipe – it’s repetitive precision is exactly how we remember the 1970’s pop hit. At least, those of us who do remember it. All of us have those single sources of musical truths baked into memory banks year after year.

And then it hit me (finally, right?) – the single source has been lost in the fact that since the early 1980’s cars have become more and more computerized, to the point today that data is constantly streaming from cars to servers to diagnostic outputs alerting us to all things that are well and unwell. This is true of most manufactured electronic “things” today that have microprocessors and they can tell both the manufacturers and the consumers exactly what’s going on inside.

This has also been true of finance, sales, marketing, supply chain management software and technology database systems for decades. Business leaders are now demanding the human resources (HR) data and analytics. The talent data and analytics that inform them about recruiting, performance, compensation and learning strategies. The analytics that will drive the enterprise’s workforce strategy and support the financial results the organization wants.

But aggregating and maintaining the sheer volume of workforce data available today, required to maximize that very investment, can be daunting to even the most progressive enterprise. It’s highly complex and costly for large global organizations due to the number of databases and data systems they maintain.

At the very heart of talent analytics is access to clean, collected, and unified workforce data. Early adoption is now occurring in organizations that are organizing and maintaining data so that it is transformed, standardized and reportable, so that they will be able to glean useful information that can in turn lead to measurable improvement in financial performance.

But they’ll need to have a primary data conduit from which HR and other vital business and finance data can flow to and from every internal and external system, all managed in a unified platform – a single source of truth.

How do we get to that single source of big data truth? I asked Marc Rind this question on the TalentCulture #TChat Show. Marc is the VP of Product Development & Chief Data Scientist at ADP and he told us that they’ve been working on a data exchange platform with a very simple API (application programming interface). It allows companies to bring in data assets from other systems and combine them with workforce data in order to bring out valuable insights into the state of their talent and where they’re going.

For example, Marc referenced a healthcare organization that unifies and analyzes their data to identify hiring patterns as well as projecting their overtime and scheduling needs real-time. Their everyday managers can also get the information they need to what their new hire attrition rate is, why it is, how it compares with their competitors, and what they should do to reduce it and be more competitive.

Another example included a retailer trying to understand not just how the sales are going in various locations or store locations, but also understanding how overtime impacts sales and what are the skills they should be hiring for elsewhere and other factors impacting positive outcomes based on those locations that are beating their sales goals. Nice weather plus optimal customer service leads to an extra 10% jump of foot traffic and great sales outdoors versus the mall stores.

These little ditties of insights can and do pay dividends. They are the HR tech pop songs that many providers of unifying platforms and data integration and management solutions are singing today with more to come tomorrow. Companies no longer have to sacrifice their favorite “tunes” – features and functionality – from the best of breed talent management solutions they’ve invested time and money into in exchange for moving to one unified core HR and talent management platform with subpar TM functionality. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Having access to meaningful data standardization and analysis as a single source of business and HR truth leads to strategic reporting and insightful analytics. Both provide critical guidance for organizational decisions, reinforcing the relationships among HR, finance and supply chain management.

So there you go, HR. Simply knock three times for positive workforce impact. After you’ve unified your data, of course.

But First, A Single Source Of Business Truth

“He picks up scraps of information
He’s adept at adaptation
Because for strangers and arrangers
Constant change is here to stay…”

—Neil Peart (musician and writer), “Digital Man”

So I’m standing there and this HR VP walks up and asks:

“What does the ‘predict’ mean?”

At first I don’t get it and am not sure what to say; repetitive tech talking with waves of people stretched over time can dull one’s focal strength, like trying to blow bubbles with stiff old gum that lost its flavor hours earlier.Predict

Then he points to the one of the panels in our PeopleFluent booth with the word “predict” on it.

“Ah, good question,” I say, perking up. “That’s probably something you’re hearing a lot more from your management team. How do we predict? Am I right?”

He nods and adds, “Analytics, analytics, analytics! Seriously. We need predictive analytics that can help us understand who is engaged, who is performing, and why, but we’re not sure exactly how to get there.”

Certainly one of the major themes at this year’s 2014 HR Technology Conference & Exposition, thousands of HR technology buyers and influencers hiked for miles and miles through a $15 billion landscape according to Bersin by Deloitte’s HR Technology for 2015: Ten Big Disruptions Ahead.

Bersin’s latest report states that finance, marketing, and supply-chain organizations have implemented analytics solutions for decades, but only now is HR starting to see the benefits with only 4% of large organizations able to “predict” or “model” their workforce. However, more than 90% can model and predict budgets, financial results, and expenses.

Talent analytics, analytics, analytics!

That’s why business leaders continue to shout more frequently from their rooftops about getting the right talent analytics from HR today that inform their near- and long-term recruiting, performance, compensation, succession and learning strategies — all to support their corporate financial goals and ultimate results.

And as I’ve written about before, to get there, we need a single source of business truth!

Wait, what’s that you ask? It makes common business sense, but just isn’t the reality HR executives are living in today. The majority of business leaders agree that the most vital investments for long-term growth are the people they attract, hire and employ, but too many are still focused primarily on basic (reactive) reporting.

This week in fabulous Las Vegas, we echoed TalentCulture #TChat Show guest Jessica Miller-Merrell that we just can’t get to the truth from reactive reporting and gut checks, so where do we start?

TChat Trending

Data management is where it all starts, although aggregating and maintaining the sheer volume of talent data available today can be daunting to even the most progressive CHROs. Large organizations have multiple systems managing HR and financial data, and to get to a single source of business truth, you must maintain and leverage both micro (such as individual performance data) and macro (such as organizational trends) data together, unifying it from any and all systems so that it is transformed, standardized and reportable.

Only then you’ll be able to plot past trajectories, analyze the present, and predict the future needs of your talent supply chain management, which can in turn lead to measurable improvement in your financial performance.

Mature talent analytics and positive business outcomes come to those who master their data, and, again according to Bersin, the 14% of companies that have invested in data-focused HR far outperform those that haven’t. Recruitment efforts are two times more effective and stock returns outperformed their peers by 30% over the last three years. But of course, these results don’t come without a serious investment of energy, resources and time.

The benefits of creating a single source of business truth are huge. Companies outperforming all others today focus on delivering:

  1. Recruiting Analytics – Help you understand your current talent supply, both internally and externally, and the skills needed today versus those that will be needed tomorrow. Plus, leveraging the diversity strengths of organizations beyond gender, race and geography to include the skills and expertise that lead to business growth are important predictive elements in planning for the right skills and productivity tomorrow. For example, Center for Talent Innovation research showed that diversity “unlocks innovation and drives market growth” and companies that embrace diversity “are 45% likelier to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”
  2. Compensation and Performance Analytics – Give you the ability to define your investment strategy in people because it’s less about budget management and mediocre (or worse) pay practices, and more about driving business growth relative to individual and organizational performance. This is critical to preventing future compensation increases for poor performers by using predictive analytics to highlight where these have happened historically and why. For example, according to a 2014 compensation and benefits survey by Human Capital Media Advisory Group, the research arm of Talent Management magazine, only 40% of companies say their organization’s compensation program is fully aligned with the business strategy.
  3. Learning & Development Analytics – Provide you a clearer view into strategizing continuous development and improving retention. Predictive analytics allow you to look at current sales relative to high-performer output and retention, and see how they impact long-term sales and development. Firms require an engaged and developed workforce so they can promote from within, saving on external recruiting costs that don’t ensure even short-term retention in today’s competitive talent market. In fact, according to Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell, “external hires” get significantly lower performance evaluations for their first two years on the job than do internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs.

It’s time to answer the talent analytics call!

HR can and should drive their organization’s workforce strategy from a unified platform of meaningful data and analytics. But first, a single source of business truth is critical to providing guidance for all your talent management decisions, reinforcing the relationships among finance, operations and all business units in your organization, and delivers the ultimately desired business performance and results.

Constant change is here to stay, so you may as well get comfortable with picking up the scraps of perpetual information that ultimately create the right talent analytics collective.

Anybody got any gum?


photo credit: ♔ Georgie R via photopin cc

That Single Source of HR Data Truth

“Memory banks unloading
Bytes break into bits
Unit One’s in trouble and it’s scared out of its wits…”

—Neil Peart, “The Body Electric”

She looked at me as if I’d pushed her. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes blackened like collapsed stars where no light escapes.

“But according to this Bloomberg Businessweek article, ‘the National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Britain’s Royal Society, the European Commission, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others, have all surveyed the substantial research literature and found no evidence that the GM [genetically modified] foods on the market today are unsafe to eat.’”

I shrugged and added, “Period. End of story.”

Probably not the way I should’ve handled the discussion, but I’m not always the brightest light in the night sky when it comes to debating my lovely wife (even though we “dance” very well with one another).

She threw up her hands and waved me away, “I don’t care. I’ve read plenty of reports that counter that and show how detrimental genetically modified foods are.”

Now I shrugged. “Because everything we read on the Worldwide Interwebs is true, right?”

That’s when the light was sucked right out of me.

“Sorry,” said Unit One, scared out of it’s wits (me, of course). Isn’t Businessweek a single source of journalistic truth? I thought but thankfully didn’t say.

Ah, but it’s all in how you collect the data and serve it up, right? A single source of sometimes misinformed truths depending on where you sit or stand?

That’s a cynical viewpoint, but unfortunately data is both a staunch ally and an even fiercer enemy depending on it’s current subjective state, where it’s from and why. The sheer volume of data is staggering. According to IBM Research, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone (and that was from two years ago!). Seems like research surveys alone pummel the social media atmosphere like meteor showers, most of which disintegrate on impact.

And a big ol’ Milky Way of that data there is, created by us and distributed by us – some clean, vetted and valid, and much of it not so much. Organizations have a unique challenge today when it comes to managing this expanding-universe people data, as well as galaxies of other business-related data.

John Sumser, the founder, principal author and editor-in-chief of the HRExaminer Online Magazine, asked this question in his recent (highly recommended) HR Technology series:

Is there an opportunity for HR to harness people data across the entire spectrum of data sources to find the best utilization of people?

Indeed there is. There are finally HR technology solutions and systems on the market today, and some still being developed (always being developed), that combine with the computing and storage power of a thousands suns (maybe not that much, but still), and that allow for large volumes of data to be managed and integrated and reported on, extracted from so much light and dark online matter.

But according to Josh Bersin, founder of leading HR research and advisory firm Bersin by Deloitte, “Large organizations have seven or more different systems managing HR data. Bringing this data together for meaningful analysis has become mission-critical, driving tremendous demand for integration tools to help rationalize, integrate and analyze people-related data.”

Seven or more systems. Mercy me.

My friend and colleague, Jim Bowley, a long-time HR technology executive and mentor of mine, again reminded me that data collection is a very expensive process in which multiple participants need to synchronize their activities to pull together, transform, and build integrations that in turn will lead to the kind of workforce discoveries that are the very essence and continuous origin, the “Big Bangs” of talent and the true integrated experience. These are what business leaders are demanding today, hence the conundrum for HR.

But before we can solve for and get to the true integrated and insightful experience, we’ve got to understand the data basics and two other related terms:

  1. Data, Metrics and Analytics. Data are specific points of information an organization collects and maintains – like applicant source and key skills. Metrics are measurements with a goal in mind – like what constitutes quality of hire. And analytics are the identification of meaningful patterns within the data and metrics – like what key skills from what populations and locations drive quality of hire within the organization, predicting what and who to look for next.
  2. Data Harmonization and Transformation. Harmonization is about creating the possibility to combine data from varied sources into integrated, consistent and unambiguous information sets, in a way that is seamless to the end-user. Transformation is about converting a set of data values from another source data system into the data format of a new destination data system.

Harmonization, transformation and integration of data from multiple sources in a single solution that can make sense of all the interstellar mess, putting the data to work in far more strategic ways than it ever before – creating that single source of HR data truth. Only then can we get to the telling analytics and insight organizations have longed for (and are finally getting).

That’s where we’re going in HR technology today and tomorrow. Steve Boese, a co-chair of Human Resource Executive’s HR Technology® Conference and a technology editor for LRP Publications, and a recent guest on the TalentCulture #TChat Show, told me that one of the major themes for this year’s HR Tech show is the proliferation of HR data and better ways to measure talent initiatives with metrics and analytics, and there will be some exciting case studies shared to underscore this progress.

Yes, welcome to the Big Bangs of talent, breaking bytes into future-telling bits.

photo credit: c@rljones via photopin cc