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People analytics adoption: "desire" is key

Thoughts on encouraging adoption of analytics, and on the new digitally-focused HR professional, from People Analytics 2016

"Desire" among HR teams to use new people analytics systems is key to a system's success, according to Helen Gowler, EMEA regional lead and global head HR portal lead, HR operations at Avon.

Speaking at the Tucana People Analytics 2016 conference, Gowler described how vital it was to Avon’s roll-out of a new Workday system – designed to harmonise people reporting across 60 countries – that the value of the new technology was quickly shown to those HR generalists in each country using it. The central HR team needed to quickly “show the business why they invested in this system”, said Gowler, adding: “They [the business] needed to trust this data.”

Talking to HR magazine after her keynote, Gowler said that a parallel process of ongoing improvements and additions to the system centrally, and being open to feedback and ideas from users across the globe, ensured engagement. “We need that desire to grow,” she said, adding: “One [of the above parallel processes] adds momentum to the other... the more we can give them, that gives them more dynamic data, higher value information."

Gowler said ensuring true engagement with the system was an ongoing process however. “I'm sure in certain countries they love Workday and use it more than they do in others,” she said, explaining that while all are using it consistently, for core HR processes, the longer term target was “each one of those HR generalists seeing the value.”

She explained that Avon has used ‘cluster change leads,’ tasked, on top of their normal responsibilities, with cascading this change to the business. “The messaging around the system has been really invaluable with us, rather than us saying: ‘This is a system. Use it,’” she said.

Gowler also spoke on the kinds of skills now needed within HR to ensure a more digital approach, and the importance of upskilling. “I think we should start looking internally first rather than thinking we need to go externally... So do I think we need more data scientists? If we are smart enough about it, technology should be doing it for us,” she said.

Also speaking on day two of the People Analytics 2016 conference was Sofia Sanchez, chief HR officer at Millward Brown. She also spoke on HR upskilling itself digitally, describing the importance of a balance between people well-versed in “traditional HR”, and data experts who can “help us think outside of the box” and “bring everything to life to help us make the right decisions".

Speaking on the same panel, chief HR officer at CGB Enterprises Mark Berry warned of becoming overly fixated on a new type of HR practitioner, and so “throwing the baby out with the bath water." “I don’t think the solution is to hire people with no pedigree in HR… taking an engineer and putting them in HR would be silly,” he said.

“There are a lot of us looking to drive an evidence based approach; we don’t necessarily need to be experts in data analytics,” he said, adding: “If we don’t get distracted by the bright, shiny objects HR gets distracted by sometimes, we’ll be fine.”