Setting up a people analytics function at GSK

GSK's global people data and analytics team sits within the talent, learning and organisational development centre of excellence (CoE) in HR

First, a confession. I am not a data scientist, mathematician, statistician, or anything similarly ‘techy’. I am in fact an organisational change and development specialist who believes in the value of evidence-based decision-making when working on complex organisational challenges. So when the opportunity came up to lead the new global people analytics team at GSK, I jumped at the chance.

My job is not a technical one but is essentially change management – helping GSK’s global HR function become more data savvy and using workforce data and insight to aid better business decision-making.

My global people data and analytics team sits within the talent, learning and organisational development centre of excellence (CoE) in HR. Being in a CoE (instead of in operations or being decentralised in the business) has allowed us to grow our capabilities in a focused way and to develop people data and analytics products, services and standards globally for the HR function.

I don’t believe being in a CoE is necessarily the only option for a people analytics team, however; and once we have established a strong enough global capability in people analytics, I would expect that to be deployed more directly to support the business units.

As it is today, the global people data and analytics team is organised into four groups:

  1. Organisation and people analytics – data analysts and business consultants who focus on solving complex organisational questions with clear business outcomes, such as what workforce factors are driving higher sales performance.
  2. Reporting and insights – focused on providing high-quality insights from our core HR systems and using relevant business intelligence software to visualise workforce data, making it easy to understand and act on.
  3. Surveys and measures – focused on the design, delivery and analysis of GSK’s core culture and leadership measurement processes, such as the global employee survey.
  4. Master people data management – this is a new extension to the team which we’re just in the process of standing up to ensure we have appropriate governance and standards to deliver high-quality workforce data and insights.

Having a team that takes a global perspective brings value to HR and the business. It has enabled us to develop some common global data and insights products and services for HR, such as a Global Workforce Dashboard containing core headcount, talent, diversity and other vital datasets used by senior HR leaders around the world.

It’s allowed us to deploy expert resources on challenging issues such as the people dimension of manufacturing quality outcomes in our supply chain. And it’s given us the ability to measure things that are difficult to measure, like company culture and the quality of people management practices.

But it’s not all plain sailing. Because of the complex, unpredictable nature of people and organisational data, demonstrating and delivering hard, tangible business benefits from people analytics takes time. Additionally, the ethics of how we use employee data is of paramount importance.

But this slows things down. In an era where there’s much talk of ‘Agile’ ways of working and the appetite to consume more and more data is growing exponentially by the day, it’s a constant challenge for us.

It’s one which requires careful stakeholder management to set clear expectations about what can realistically be achieved in what timescales.

Tim Haynes is VP and head of global people data and analytics at GSK

This piece appeared in the October 2019 HR Technology Supplement