Data and people analytics are changing the way we do things in every area of HR. Talent development is no exception. And with a surge of new data, technology is teaching us new, better ways to identify, serve, develop, and maintain our employees.
Recently, AIIR exhibited at the People Analytics and Future of Work (PAFOW) conference held near our global headquarters in Philadelphia, PA. This event brought together “leaders, practitioners, vendors, academics, and all those interested in how people data and analytics will affect the future of work and our daily lives.”
Members of the AIIR team on Day 2 of PAFOW. From left to right: Head of Data Science Dr. Justin Zamora, Vice President of Operations Megan Danowski, CEO Dr. Jonathan Kirschner, and Vice President of Marketing Robyn Garrett.
Several members of the AIIR team were in attendance. Here are 5 key takeaways:
It was really impressive to hear Brydie Lear from ING Bank discuss her key learns as the Global Head of People Analytics. Amid a range of excellent advice, Brydie impressed upon the audience the need to “chase business value, not HR impact.” Indeed, the more our measurement and data analytics strategies focus on narrow human resources metrics, the less relevant they will be for the organization. Worse, they’ll also have less staying power. If we build our analytics strategies to measure business-relevant factors, then the analytics strategy, in Brydie’s words, will have a stronger potential to truly scale.
One of the most intriguing sessions was led by Rob Cross, Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College and Founder/Chief Research Scientist at Connected Commons. Cross presented a session titled “Relationship Analytics & Understanding How to Get Things Done.” In his session, he discussed best practices in network management. We often think about the need for workers to be collaborative, but sometimes this can be too much of a burden. Cross discussed the need to “manage the center” to ensure employees do not become too burdened with collaborative demands. He also discussed rewarding employees who make their colleagues more effective through collaboration.
Cross also discussed the best ways to set new employees up for success. This was helpful to reflect on as AIIR continues to bring on new employees and scale the business. For newcomers, having a big network strategy doesn’t always work. Instead, it is important for newcomers to be drawn into networks and to be given clear direction on who they need to reach out to first. Newcomers need to approach new relationships with openness and curiosity, asking questions to learn, not to pitch themselves.
In a session about the predictive capabilities of data, Ian O’Keefe, Global Head of People Analytics at JP Morgan Chase, posed the question, “What would we do differently if we had the answers to our questions?”
To me, this is a fascinating question and one of the most pertinent that we are facing in HR today. Until recently, there were so many ideas that couldn’t be proven. This has created a long-established pattern of one person’s leadership philosophy dictating the lives of many others. But using a more data-informed approach gives us the opportunity to solve problems more objectively.
This is particularly interesting when it comes to hiring. No matter how well-trained and well-intentioned your hiring managers may be, it is likely that they have unconscious biases. O’Keefe shared that their machine learning models were able to look at a wealth of diverse people serving in various roles and analyze several success factors. This information was then used to predict which candidates might perform best in these same roles. The results were then incorporated into their applicant tracking system in real-time. While we should still think carefully about whether the machine learning systems themselves may also be biased, this data-informed approach represents a string of new possibilities that are about to explode across the HR industry.
International authority in psychological profiling and people analytics, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, presented two sessions on the topic of talent and leadership. In addition to serving as an AIIR Board member, Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic is the Co-Founder of the assessment technology company Deeper Signals. He also recently authored the timely and provocative new book, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And What To Do About It).
In his solo talk, Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic focused on how data and people analytics can be a force for good. “Even though, objectively speaking, economic conditions are strong, we are still not unlocking human potential,” he said. “For that to happen — and this has huge implications for employees and speaks to the importance of using technology, AI, and people science in an ethical way — to increase fairness and help people, people will need to be understood better by their organizations. And we will also need to democratize this information so that people understand themselves better.”
In the panel that followed, Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic was joined by Frida Polli, CEO of Pymetrics. Polli is an academic neuroscientist that spent a decade at Harvard and MIT. Her mission with Pymetrics has been to go beyond the resume and find a better way to match people to their jobs. The two discussed how new technologies (and the data they collect) can use better predictors of success than a candidate’s alma mater. As a wealth of new data becomes accessible, both for organizations and individuals, new opportunities are emerging. Companies that don’t embrace these new opportunities are likely to face stiff competition from those that do.
With the introduction of enhanced data collection, machine learning and artificial intelligence in HR, companies are unlocking billions of dollars worth of insights. Beyond enhanced talent recruiting, leadership development, and employee retention, insights from sophisticated people analytics programs can build highly effective teams, nurture strong brand advocates, and even support the health and wellness of employees.
But, with great power comes great responsibility. As advances continue, the lines of ethical use of talent data are being challenged from all sides. Ethics have always been important when we talk about the use of data in talent development, however, the conversation has historically been around confidentiality. Today, the technologies we use to interpret talent data have advanced significantly, and come with their own ethical challenges. So too do the intention of the people analytics programs themselves.
Companies seeking to leverage the full power of talent data have a responsibility for transparency. Informing their people as to why such analysis is valuable, what data will be analyzed, how the data will be analyzed and who will have access to the data can establish the trust necessary for such programs to be successful. What was clear from PAFOW speakers is that an ethical Future of Work is being decided by today’s business leaders. Unlike medical data, there are no major privacy laws protecting employee data. The choices of our leaders today will set the standard for tomorrow.
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