Why data is all about the people

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WDS chief people officer David Bowes on why HR data is all about the people

“Our business used to be fragmented. We created operational entities around the world as we grew and ended up with several different businesses. We needed to join the organisation together and create a common sense of purpose and way of working.

“Our limiting factor was talent and expertise. We didn’t have enough expertise to seize the market opportunity. We also didn’t have a common view on what an expert was. People relied on gut feel. But how do you know? There was no standard, and no data we could gather.

“Our technology requirements were linked to our business strategy. Quite often HR and IT functions think about their requirements based on what they’re doing without thinking about what the business needs. But we couldn’t find what we needed. We didn’t understand how we wanted our organisation to work in this new world, what skills we needed or where we wanted accountability to be. So we spent a year redesigning our organisation and went back to market. The technology had moved on, and we started working with [management software firm]SuccessFactors.

“In our call centres, it’s about what good performance looks like. We are able to understand and map performance. For example, normally you move people around because you need bums on seats, but it could have a detrimental impact on performance because the team leader isn’t right to manage that type of person. You can make better workforce planning and management decisions.

“There’s a point at which call centre tenure becomes detrimental because people become complacent or bored. They need challenging, so we can move them into ‘expert roles’, where we have scarce talent resource. That creates a more cost-effective talent pipeline and gives me a story to attract people. If people are leaving or unsuccessful in the business, I want to hold recruitment accountable. It’s a more balanced view of how effective a recruitment function can be. It’s about quality of hire.

“I’d love to be able to put a market value on our human capital. If someone wanted to acquire WDS, they’d look at the tangible assets, but we’ve got a bunch of clever people. How do you put a value on that? I’m also trying to draw connections between sales, financial and people data.

“We can create that line of sight in terms of metrics: the number of experts we have directly impacts our ability to sell. We sell higher and more because we have better people, and that leads to more revenue. The outcome is revenue, and the key driver is expertise – I can create a clear line of sight from HR to finance.

“In HR, we’ve got to talk the language of business, and that boils down to numbers. If you can understand the drivers, you can translate it. What drives financial metrics? Sales and products. Who delivers that? The people. It all boils down to people. If you really want to control your business and improve financial results, the only lever you can pull is people.”

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