Paid Program: Anthem Leans on People Analytics Capability, Team to Improve Talent Decisions

By Rob Preston

November 16th, 2017

Lots of HR organizations talk about becoming more “strategic” and “data-driven.” But the talent management group at health benefits company Anthem Inc. is stepping up to that challenge, having assembled an HR analytics team and created a People Data Central (PDC) portal to improve recruiting, hiring, promotion, succession and other decisions-and ultimately boost the productivity of the entire company.

Anthem, whose subsidiary health plans serve more than 74 million people and which posted $84 billion in revenue last year, is already an industry leader in analyzing data to coach consumers on ways to improve their health outcomes. Now it’s extending that data expertise to its own talent management practices.

Key to that effort is the PDC portal, featuring an interactive “workforce intelligence” dashboard that lets HR and other Anthem users access and ask questions of a range of internal and third-party data. What does our turnover look like in a specific region for a specific job function? What is the cost of that turnover? Are we differentiating rewards for our top performers? How many of our nurses might retire within the next couple of years?

A newly formed Talent Insights team curates a different slice of data each month. For example, it recently broke down Anthem’s workforce by generational age bands and the potential ramifications for company performance, highlighting its analysis in the portal’s “insight spotlight” section.

A high-level “executive scorecard” feature explores the relationship between HR metrics and business outcomes to support short and long-term planning. The team’s latest report described the relationship between customer growth, Anthem’s net hire ratio and total costs associated with internal and external labor. PDC also provides links to additional analytics and relevant external reports and reporting tools.

Make It Visual

The beauty of the portal is that it presents and filters data in highly visual dashboards, reports, graphs and other formats so that the data is easy to consume, comprehend and manipulate, says Joe Knytych, the staff vice president who leads the Talent Insights team. “Our goal is to quickly enable HR business partners to explore and interact with the data to inform real-time business challenges,” he says.

Part of that team’s responsibility is to help users mash up different kinds of internal and third-party demographic, performance, compensation and other data. For example, it’s working with Anthem’s wellness team to crunch data on employees who make use of company wellness credits, to determine a possible correlation with reduced absenteeism and employee turnover. Third-party data is used to benchmark salaries, identify geographic areas for expansion and for a variety of other purposes.

The cloud-based PDC pulls together data from, and is built on, a range of third-party applications, platforms and infrastructure services, leveraging Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service and Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud at its core. Previously, much of Anthem’s talent and other HR data was scattered among myriad systems and spreadsheets, making it difficult to aggregate and compare.

Basic questions such as “How many open positions do we have?” and “What’s our turnover?” would yield different answers depending on who was asked, even within the same workgroup or location. Getting a standardized, enterprise view of the data opens the prospect of applying analytics to derive higher-level insights, Knytych says.

“From ‘hire to retire,’ we’re using data to zero in on important needs and potential solutions,” he says. “These insights allow us to invest in our people with confidence and sharpen the associate experience.”

Connecting the Dots

One recent PDC innovation is a custom-built channel that encourages employees to weigh in confidentially on their work experiences, as often as they like, using emojis and limited text entries. Those ongoing sentiments are dynamically turned into “team vitals” reports, letting company leaders quickly identify and address potential productivity risks. Behind the scenes, Knytych and his team use that wealth of data to connect aggregate trends to performance, advancement and other talent outcomes.

“Engagement is now a daily topic, as opposed to an annual event,” Knytych says. “More importantly, we’re learning what drives a positive experience and what might happen following a downtick.”

In many cases, he notes, company leaders find nuggets they can act on immediately, such as ideas to improve processes, enhance systems or reprioritize resources. “The voice of our associates is stronger than ever,” he says. “We’re tapping into local insights and formulating long-term plans based on data, not speculation.”

More broadly, the Talent Insights team is helping the other centers of expertise within Anthem’s HR organization (diversity and inclusion, benefits, HR business partners and so on), as well as decision-makers outside of HR, see “multivariant” views of people data, Knytych says. For instance, how are the high-potential associates they’ve invested in advancing compared with people elsewhere in the company?

“The business partners typically have had access only to their business unit data, looking at their people and talent,” he says. “Now they have access to enterprise talent trends, either to benchmark against or to say, ‘Let’s connect with another group that seems to have solved this problem.'”

As such, PDC is helping Anthem’s talent management team forge new relationships and raise its profile across the company. For example, the team developed a model that identifies causes of turnover and accurately predicts first-year attrition, which Anthem leaders are using to increase retention and inform future hiring profiles.

Deep-Dive Projects

In addition to standardizing on key metrics, managing the self-service data capabilities and deciding which views and stories have the most relevance, the Talent Insights team has committed to taking on several high-impact, deep-dive data analytics projects a year, chosen by the senior HR management team in association with the company’s other executive leaders. Among the current priorities are projects around workforce productivity, turnover and diversity.

“There’s no shortage of demand,” Knytych says. “Generally speaking, people see value in data and analytics. The constraint is capacity, as these projects can be resource-intensive and iterative in nature. Relentless prioritization is needed to ensure we’re focused on the right questions.”

Anthem’s business leaders have used data and analytics for years to make informed decisions and investments, he notes. Now-thanks in part to its Oracle-based cloud platform, which took less than six months to deploy-the HR organization is able to match that same level of sophistication when it comes to decisions about the company’s people.

“Taking advantage of new technology and lessons learned, we are leapfrogging traditional investments,” Knytych says. “We’re not building a data center for HR. We’re not hiring teams of database administrators. With support from our IT organization, we’re going straight to the cloud, all-in, maintained by Oracle and managed by us. This approach improves total cost of ownership and enables HR to move at the speed of business.”

A critical consideration, he says, was finding a platform that’s flexible and scalable enough to accommodate ever-increasing amounts and new types of data-“and not break what we’ve done before.”

The future of analytics, he says, is “analytics for everyone.” That is, any non-technical associate should be able to go into PDC to form a hypothesis or “curate a story” for their own purposes. Using “guided path” views and a variety of data filters, HR managers and other associates can dynamically generate reports and dashboards to help them improve hiring, promotion, succession and other key decisions.

“We’re not trying to put our arms around it and say we own data and analytics,” Knytych says. “We want everyone in HR to take ownership of analytics and use data to improve talent decisions.”

Rob Preston is editorial director in Oracle’s Content Central organization.

WSJ. Custom Studios is a unit of The Wall Street Journal advertising department. The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content.


Article by channel:

Read more articles tagged: People Analytics