The best HR and People Analytics articles of March 2019

March was a phenomenally busy yet rewarding month. It started with a meeting of members of Insight222’s People Analytics Program at Swarovski’s HQ in Zürich.

March was a phenomenally busy yet rewarding month. It started with a meeting of members of Insight222’s People Analytics Program at Swarovski’s HQ in Zürich. Next it was a rambunctious UNLEASH show in London ( download my slides here) before I headed off to Barcelona to speak at and chair the Leading with Talent Analytics conference. This week, I’ve hosted a TrustSphere and Culture Amp event on Moving towards Data-Driven D&I in New York and will end my travels in Philadelphia for the Wharton People Analytics Conference.

What is abundantly clear from all of these events is that people analytics continues to grow and thrive. Data has emerged as a core foundation of all parts of HR – from recruiting to performance management, from efforts to design and improve the employee experience to programs focused on diversity and inclusion. The rise in use of organisational network analysis (ONA) continues and the focus of the community to ensure that people data is used for good remains.

Whilst trying to escape Brexit and the increasing ineptitude of the British political class, I’ve found plenty of solace in a vintage collection of articles this month. I hope you enjoy learning from them as much as I did.

Look out also at the end for news of the People Analytics & Future of Work conference in London on 24-25 April, but without further ado let’s get into the articles I’ve selected for March:


There’s certainly not a shortage of ideas when it comes to people analytics, but as Dave Ulrich highlights in his excellent article, it can all be a bit overwhelming at times. Instead, in order to ensure analytics provides sustainable impact, Ulrich advocates organising these ideas into three relatively simple questions: How? (“analytics that matter and that improves decision making”), What? (“analytics that link to business outcomes”), and How? “making analytics actionable”). If that wasn’t enough, Ulrich also provides an assessment enabling users to conduct analysis on their own analytics (see FIG 1).

Analytics without impact is a like writing a story or essay without an audience


The Human Resources profession needs to change. It must become more digital and analytical to deliver greater business value – and as the findings of our recently published HR Skills of the Future study reveal, this is recognised by HR professionals themselves too. As FIG 2 shows, 28% of respondents said People Analytics was the one skill they’d like to develop most in 2019. Jonathan Ferrar highlights some of the key findings in his analysis of the report covering the Skills of the Future as well as the Future of Learning. The full report is available to download.


Josh Bersin shares his latest thinking on some of the key methodologies for ‘Employee Experience’ (“design thinking, moments that matter, workforce segmentation, process harmonisation”), and the growing plethora of technology tools to help diagnose and improve employee experience. He goes on to provide a number of recommendations such as the need to pay special attention to onboarding, creating personas and engaging the people analytics team. Bersin has long spoken about creating the ‘irresistible organisation’ (see FIG 3), and implies heavily here that employee experience holds the key.

A major part of the employee experience is simplifying the technology experience and designing HR programs that happen ‘in the flow of work.’


It’s become increasingly obvious that the business value of traditional performance management models has disintegrated. In this excellent MIT/McKinsey study on rethinking the field we learn how the future of performance management is more data-driven, more flexible, more continuous, more development-oriented and shifting towards teams. Features insights from a plethora of CHROs including Donna Morris (Adobe), Diane Gherson (IBM) and Dean Carter (Patagonia) as well as the likes of Peter Cappelli, Ben Waber and Anna Tavis.

Team performance is overtaking individual performance as the workplace’s salient unit of analysis


A brilliant article from Deloitte, which outlines that against a climate of 90% of companies exploring organisational design, how ONA can help leaders understand the formal and informal networks in their company, and consequently provide insights that result in more successful organisational redesign and business performance. The immense promise of ONA is captured perfectly by the authors when they liken adding ONA to other organisational design indicators, to adding MRIs and brain scan capabilities to the humble x-ray. For more on ONA, please see my article: The role of ONA in People Analytics.


I was fortunate to catch-up recently with Dawn Klinghoffer, Head of People Analytics at Microsoft, to collaborate on an article that examines the role of employee trust in creating and sustaining an advanced people analytics function. As well as explaining her three core pillars of trust, Dawn provides an example of a people analytics/ONA project at Microsoft (see FIG 5) that provided demonstrable value to employees. The interview was inspired by Dawn’s recent speech at PAFOW in San Francisco.

A really good people analytics leader knows how to be innovative without eroding employee trust


In this insightful study, IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute team examine the nature of diversity and inclusion, explore biases as an inhibitor to more diverse and inclusive workplaces, and provide insights into the role that AI can play in mitigating biases. There are several interesting insights including FIG 6 below, which highlights that over 20% of HR professionals are concerned that AI could perpetuate or worsen bias. Practical recommendations – including the need to use the right data and the right algorithms – are also offered to organisations looking to adopt AI in their HR practices.

FIG 6: One in five HR professionals are concerned that AI could perpetuate or increase biases (Source: IBM and UNLEASH Professional HR Study, 2018)

A pair of terrific articles on diversity and inclusion. In the first, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (in a sneak preview of his new book, Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?) discusses the need to stop associating leadership with masculine features in order to truly remove bias between the genders. The second article examines the impact of a lack of inclusion on individual employees, especially when they are a minority, and argues to put an end to costly workplace isolation (see FIG 7) experienced by many women, they should be clustered on teams and also improve the promotion process.

The main reason why competent women are less able to emerge as leaders than they ought to be is that our preference for incompetent men is far more acute than it should be


As Cade Massey writes ” in the messy real world of ambiguous evidence and contentious objectives, organizational decisions – especially those about the people you’re hiring, developing, managing, and trying to retain – usually hinge on relationships and trust.” This means that black boxes should probably be avoided and instead if you work in people analytics, you must learn to deal in the currency of trust to make an impact. It’s not enough to be right. You also have to sell your model or idea. An excellent and thoughtful piece.

You need to explain the machinations underlying your advice in the language of the decision maker. This ability can make or break an analyst

I’m not sure how I missed this fabulous article by Jordan Pettman the first time around, but it’s time to redress the situation. Jordan, who is Global Head of People Analytics at Nestlé tackles the need to balance demand for reporting whilst ensuring that people analytics can realise its full promise. Jordan recommends a blend of harnessing technology to automate reporting together with a drive to help HR business partners improve their data literacy. All this is designed to give people analytics teams the time and space they need to increase their impact within the business.

A data literate, data driven, and analytically minded HR community can change the face of decision making in all of our businesses

A common mistake in people analytics is focussing on easily-accessible data, not the right data. In this article, Andrew Marritt writes on how to combine qualitative and quantitative data to create better models and therefore make better decisions.

The best analysts know when to use quantitative approaches and when to use qualitative, exploratory approaches. In almost all instances the best approach is to combine them


A terrific collection of the types of insights that can be generated through people analytics, with nine examples covering areas such as leadership, recruiting, diversity and network analytics from a series of organisations – large and small as well as from the public sector. Features commentary from a host of practitioners including Olly Britnell (Experian), Greig Aitken (RBS), Andrea Owen (Office of National Statistics) and Toby Culshaw (Philips).

People tend to measure everything that moves, rather than what matters

Having a CHRO that sets the agenda for a data-driven approach is a critical element in creating impact, value and sustainable capability in people analytics. Katarina Berg is one such CHRO and her article describes the approach to people analytics at Spotify, which is composed of three distinct buckets related to i) process transformation, ii) cultural transformation and iii) top-down strategic transformation.

Our People Analytics model enables us to be factful storytellers who dare to be contrarian


Some great analysis here from Stacia Garr, who having reviewed over 30 published articles and academic papers (some of which she highlights), summarises the key trends in the space including: growth and maturity, a focus on the employee, collaboration and ethics, as well as some of the gaps.

There is an existing gap in the literature as to what kind of analyses should be run and how to run them

As Keith McNulty writes here, building a great analytics function isn’t just about having the right people. Having access to the right technology is crucial to getting the most out of your team. Keith’s article then goes on to describe a multitude of technologies across four areas: collaboration (e.g. Slack and Circuit), agile management (e.g. Trello), document and app sharing (e.g. R and Python), and version control (e.g. GitHub).

World-class analytics team MUST be agile. It’s a necessity given the nature of the developing world around them


Ian Cook cuts through the hype associated with wearables, providing a powerful example of how Bank of America used wearable technology to identify that their call-centre employees with the fastest average call handling team were also their most social. The ensuing program the bank put in place generated a $15m uplift in annual productivity. Ian also provides a handy six-step process to unlocking the benefits of wearable data.

To unlock the power of wearables data, you need to first define what questions you will ask, and what business outcome you need to address


One of the most powerful examples of ONA is how GM used it to stimulate innovation and effectively disrupt themselves from the inside. The case study and the academic research behind it is documented in this wonderful MIT Sloan Management Review article. For more great articles on ONA, there is a list here.


One of my favourite books of the past year is Amy Edmondson‘s The Fearless Organization, so this episode of Let’s Fix Work is certainly worth a listen as Amy joins host Laurie Reuttimann to talk psychological safety, inviting participation, and creating a productive workplace of tomorrow.


Along with Yvette Cameron, who is also leading some ground-breaking work in this space, Andy Spence has become my go-to when it comes to understanding the role Blockchain will play in the future of work and the HR function. In this speech from the recent People Matters TechHR show in Singapore, Andy provides four examples of how Blockchain is already being used in HR, sprinkles in a dose of James Bond as well as taking the opportunity to impart plenty of dry Mancunian humour.


Arun Sundar and I together with several senior HR leaders in Asia-Pacific examine how “Social Capital” can be leveraged to enhance collaboration within organisations and consequently drive improvements in business performance and team cohesion as well as a better employee experience. The article covers applications of passive ONA and is the third-part of a series of articles focusing on people analytics in the Asia-Pacific region.

In my preview of the Wharton People Analytics Conference, I reflect on Adam Grant ‘s closing remarks from last year’s conference. Grant outlined three challenges for the people analytics community to think about: (i) bringing your data to life to challenge intuition, (ii) researching the importance of sequencing, and (iii) studying the effect of our behaviour on others.

A few weeks back, I had the honour of being MC of the inaugural SHRM Tech EMEA conference in Dubai. This article summarises my key takeaways from the event with insights from the likes of Mark Levy, Jason Averbook, Anna Tavis and Rana Askoul, topics ranging from Employee Experience, HR Technology, the Future of Work and People Analytics and how this is shaping the future of HR.

I also spoke on the Influencers stage at UNLEASH in London recently on how to create more impact with people analytics. The deck is available to download on Slideshare and includes data illustrating the rapid growth in adoption of people analytics, the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model I co-created with Jonathan Ferrar and a number of case studies highlighting how organisations have used people analytics to drive business outcomes and improve employee experience.

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Alan Walker‘s excellent Chat Talent webinar where I talked about the rise of people analytics, walked through some cases studies and presented highlights of the aforementioned HR Skills of the Future report.


Mercifully, April will be a quieter month than March and when I return from the Wharton People Analytics Conference in Philadelphia at the end of the week, I won’t be leaving the UK for the rest of the month – although with all the shenanigans about Brexit maybe that isn’t such a good thing after all. The main event for me in April is PAFOW London on 24-25 April, which I’ll co-chair with Al Adamsen. If you fancy joining me at PAFOW along with a terrific program of speakers including Nicky Clement, Isabel Naidoo, Patrick Coolen, Brydie Lear, Oliver Kasper, Annemieke Nennie, Blair Hopkins, Mark Lawrence, Brad Hubbard, Maria Manso, Jordan Pettman and many more. Click here and use my code DG200 for a £200 discount.



I’ll be chairing and/or speaking about people analytics, data-driven HR and the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model at the following events until the end of October 2019.



David is a globally respected writer, speaker, conference chair, and executive consultant on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work. As an Executive Director at Insight222, he helps global organisations create more cultural and economic value through the wise and ethical use of people data and analytics. Prior to joining Insight222 and taking up a board advisor role at TrustSphere, David was the Global Director of People Analytics Solutions at IBM Watson Talent. As such, David has extensive experience in helping organisations embark upon and accelerate their people analytics journeys.


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