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In this week’s Oven-Ready HR Podcast we turn to the subject of HR and Data Analytics – the umbrella term that’s used to cover the use of people data in an organisations to identify trends, boost productivity, help with engagement, develop talent, promote wellbeing and solve business problems.
Data Analytics isn’t of course restricted to our relationship with our employer. Data Analytics increasingly affects many of life’s major and minor decisions such as who we date, what food we eat, the clothes we wear, where we spend our holidays, who we vote for, what movies we see and where we live.
And let us not forget that Data Analytics, for the past year, has had an enormous impact, for better or worse, on all of our lives. Data has been used and shared daily to combat the pandemic with the now famous “R” number the number 1 indicator of success or failure of measures to deal with Covid.
Daniel Dore is co-founder of LightWork Global a specialist consultancy business that helps organisations using the leading HR capital management software Workday derive insights and analytics to improve culture and performance.
Chris Taylor]: Welcome to the Oven-Ready HR Podcast. We tell compelling stories from the world of work to bring you captivating and thought-provoking conversations with expert analysis and insights. To find out more about your show host, Chris Taylor, visit OvenReadyHR.com, and please do remember to rate and review us. You can also follow us too on Twitter @OvenHR. Thanks.
In this week’s Oven-Ready HR Podcast, we turn to the subject of HR and data analytics, the umbrella term that’s used to cover the use of people data in an organisation to identify trends, boost productivity, help with engagement, develop talent, promote wellbeing, and solve business problems.
Data analytics isn’t, of course, restricted to our relationship with our employer. Data analytics increasingly affects many of life’s major and minor decisions, such as who we date, what food we eat, the clothes we wear, where we spend our holidays, who we vote for, what movies we see and where we live. Let us not forget the data analytics for the past year has had an enormous impact for better or worse on all of our lives. Data has been used in the shared daily to combat the pandemic with the now famous, our number, the number one indicator of success or failure of measures to deal with COVID.
So, with analytics and algorithms increasingly influencing our major life decisions with work, of course, one of life’s key decisions, I’ve turned to a data geek whose mantra is “data beats opinion” to find out more. Joining me this week is Daniel Dore, co-founder of Light Work Global, a specialist consultancy business that helps organisations using the leading HR capital management software, Workday, derive insights and analytics to improve culture and performance. Dan, welcome to Oven-Ready. You’ve described data as the oil of the 21st century, and without it, organisations are the equivalent of a deer walking down the country lane in the dark presumably the about to be hit by a car. Tell me a bit more about that.
[Daniel Dore]: Hi, Chris. Yeah. Thanks so much for having me on. So, yes. If you look at the biggest companies in the world right now, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and we all know more. They’re basically data companies. Data is the oil of the 21st century. It’s how companies fundamentally use that data and unleash that data to understand their clients, their business, and the direction they’re going to be taking going forward. , ultimately, companies that aren’t leveraging that data are going to get left behind.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. So, in terms of the workplace, what problem areas or issues, in particular when you’re talking to HR leaders, what are they turning to analysts six to help solve gave us a flavour of the problems that you know, people come to you and say, “Look, we want to know this.”
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, sure. The biggest problems to start with is actually HR leaders just don’t know how much data they’ve got at their disposal. The first thing we talked to them about is the fact that they’re sitting on this massive mountain of incredible business value data. If they can unleash and then we’ll come on to that, that can transform their HR Department, their team, and ultimately that business. It changes HR from being a department that supports the business to actually a department that can ultimately help drive the business. The first thing is unleashing that data, and then, first of all, you need to ensure that you’re maintaining our data because without quality data is going to give you misleading results.
Then the next step is what we call data analytics, which is effectively the drilling machine that takes the oil out of the ground. With data analytics, you can then look to mine that data and unleash the visibility and insights that it can give you as a business.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. If you looked at something like diversity and inclusivity, I mean both big keywords at the moment in HR and obviously organisations looking to increase both of those things. How would you apply then that method that you’ve described to those issues?
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, there’s different types of data analytics. So very quickly, you’ve got descriptive analytics, which is basically what has happened in the past. You’ve got diagnostic analytics, which is, why did it happen? Then you’ve got predictive, which is what is likely to happen in the future, and ultimately prescriptive, which, what actions can you take?
So, if we just look at the basic level, which is what has happened in the past, and that’s ultimately, if you think about it, is this the standard reports that most HR leaders will probably get from their systems anyway, but done well. What you can do is use that to understand the breakdown of your departments, of your company, your employees.
You can start to look at what location they’re in, what gender spreads you’ve got, diversity type, analytics. You can really help you gauge where you are as a business and start to tell you if you’ve got problems. We’ve got one client whereby generally they thought they were doing fantastic from a diversity point of view, but there was one particular geography somewhere in the world whereby it was obvious that the males within that business unit were getting paid far higher than their female equivalents, and that hadn’t been visible until we were able to use data analytics, to highlight and shine a light on that. So, then that becomes really useful and then obviously you can do something about it.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. And did that come as a surprise to this particular client then that there was sort of a glaring gap between those two, between the agendas?
[Daniel Dore]: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, they couldn’t quite believe it, actually. There’s other examples. So, through the recruitment process, we found that again, in one particular geography, there was some sort of bias going on, either subconsciously or consciously, whereby more males were getting through further stages in the interview process than females.
So, again, he was able to shine a light on that. The company was able to look at the reasons why, and as I say, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad is happening or whatever, but it means they can do something about it and just understand if there is a bias that they built into the process around recruitment for example, there’s causing that to happen.
Okay, because I mean, HR has always struggled to measure the impact of its efforts. You’d say the analytics sort of helps to solve that age old issue, wouldn’t you say?
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, definitely. I mean, human resources is fundamentally about people, and HR people usually get into HR because they love working with people and dealing with people.
[Chris Taylor]: One would hope.
[Daniel Dore]: Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, and you know, what we’re seeing is that unfortunately, a lot of HR people are ending up spending hours and hours on Excel and Forms, understanding data. Of course, that’s so labour-intensive. By the time they’ve created their incredible Excel spreadsheet is probably full of errors anyway. It’s almost immediately out of date. Usually, you have a lot of these new HR platforms, including work they use. The data is being collected every minute of every day of every year all through the year. That data is just building on a constant basis, all about their people, the recruitment process, everything about their business is starting to be saved as data within their systems.
Once they start unleashing it, it can really transform how an HR department works. We would never say that the data should only be the thing that you base decisions on, but what it does, it informs you and gives you insights and helps HR teams and leaders understand where they might have issues, or conversely, where you might well have a recruitment team that’s just hitting it out of the park in terms of getting the players into the business.
So, how would you leverage that? How would you then look at that team using the data, understanding what they do differently to other teams to then transform how your recruitment has done across your business. Again, us another example we worked with a client on. That data really just brings you the insights to then do something about it and either improve a situational or effects of effectively [duplicate 00:09:00] a really positive situation across your business. So, all the time, you’re lifting your capability up.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. But can you measure too much? I mean, can you have too much data and do clients occasionally? Is it a case of quality over quantity, or do they suddenly find all this magic at their fingertips and go, “Oh, we want to measure this one and measure that one and see the correlation between X and Y.” Can you do too much of this?
[Daniel Dore]: You know what, I mean, yeah, absolutely. The amount of data these systems now collect is mind-boggling, and actually, therein lies the problem because it’s daunting. It’s daunting for someone, an HR leader, or any member of the team, to think like how, how do we use this data and understand it? That’s where the skill around data analytics lies. I mean, the data analytics experts we use are data scientists. This is a specific scientific field that they’re working in.
To start with, what you really need to do is what are the questions that your CEO, your department heads, your HR leaders, what are the questions they’re asking? So, very simply, how many people are in my business? It’s amazing probably how many HR leaders probably wouldn’t be able to gather information at the end of their fingertips. It seems like an obvious number, but actually, what you can now build is dashboards and reports whereby you identify the key questions you want answered, and then you can build these dashboards with the help of data analytics experts that give you that data at your fingertips, and don’t forget, it’s real-time as well. So, it’s real-time. You can drill down into this data, and it’s always current.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay.
[Daniel Dore]: We talk about an ideal scenario where a CEO, having spent some time with that CEO, the HR leader can say, “What is the key information you want to know about your people?” So, how many people is my business? How many consultants do I use? Who are the high performers? Where have we got problems with our skills? Where have we got skills gaps whereby we need to improve it because we want to expand the business in a certain direction? They could have one dashboard on their screen anytime, anywhere, real-time that they could drill down into. I mean, how powerful would that be for CEO? If you could repeat that for the department leaders across your business, suddenly that data becomes really powerful.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. So, what new skills do you think HR professionals are going to need then to help interpret and analyse this data? Because you mentioned sort of data scientists. I mean, HR people are going to have to be a lot more analytical, aren’t they, in terms of the skillset?
[Daniel Dore]: Yes, absolutely, Chris. I mean, I think it’s—we don’t have to be experts in terms of technology to do stuff these days. I mean, HR people like working with people, and what they’re going to need to do is supplement their teams with data experts, or obviously get people in that are experts in that field.
[Chris Taylor]: Yeah.
[Daniel Dore]: They don’t have to be data analytic experts themselves. They almost need to think about data in terms of what do I need out of this data? That can then influence the data you ultimately collect, and also, it’s effectively an input requirement to the data analytics to produce the reports and dashboards that really had value to that business.
So, it’s more a way of thinking. I mean, let’s face it. A lot of HR professionals are probably looking at data analytics on a regular basis anyway. They’re looking at the recruitment process, and what stage people are in that recruitment process?
[Chris Taylor]: Sure.
[Daniel Dore]: And doing performance reviews all the time. It might be 360, or it might be yearly, but they’re constantly looking at this data and collecting this data. Really, what we’re saying is, make use of the tools. Make use of experts to can make this easy for you, and ultimately, the real win is it frees you up to actually spend time with your people, which is probably what you want to be doing rather than working on an Excel spreadsheet 12 hours a day.
[Chris Taylor]: Yeah. I mean, obviously, that is the holy grail, isn’t it? Is actually moving HR people, which is I think what we are suggesting, is actually enabling them to spend more time with the people that they support?
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s where their skills are best served. Again, what we’re saying is that with data analytics, they can have a better-informed conversation with their people.
[Chris Taylor]: Yeah.
[Daniel Dore]: The data can quite easily highlight where an individual might be struggling. So, rather than traditionally, what you might do is have your interviews and try and see how you can get a better performance out of someone. [Inaudible 00:14:06], and say, “Well, actually, maybe they’re missing this skillset. Is there training that we can apply?
[Chris Taylor]: Right.
[Daniel Dore]: “Is there issues outside of work?” Whatever it might be, but it means there’s an informed conversation that you can have with that individual at that point. So, everyone wins on that basis because we all want our staff to perform the best they can. If we’re able to identify ways to increase that performance, that obviously saves the business money. Cause you’re not going to start losing people, and also, you’re going to get a higher performing team.
We work with companies whereby when you have performance matrices, and all we’re trying to do is move people out to lower quadrants into the high quadrants. It might well mean that some people leave, but what we’re finding is that we’re having less people leave, and we’re understanding better how to move people into the top quadrant. And that’s again how you save company money and make money for companies.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. Sure. So, obviously, it’s having a real impact on retention rates, you’d say?
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, exactly. It makes a huge difference. What you can also do, quite often actually, another experiment we’ve been trying is using that data to actually highlight when you might have possible leavers in the next 12 months.
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah.
[Chris Taylor]: You can do data analysis, and we all know. We work for some of our businesses. The cost of bringing on a new employee. The cost of training them. The cost to then replace them if they were to leave is huge. You’ll make a huge investment in these people. If you could identify five people that the risk profile suggests there’s a high risk that they might leave in the next 12 months, you can then do something about it. So, then rather than reacting to a situation, you can confront it upfront and sit down with individuals, and maybe it’s benefits. Maybe you increase holidays. Maybe there’s a pay renumeration chat to have.
So, maybe it’s just they want to do something new. They want to try something different, but that data is again informing that conversation, allowing you to have a sensible conversation rather than it being based on guesswork.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. Is there still a role for opinion and gut-feel, do you think, in decision-making? It’s a bit of an unfair question, but in the movie, Crimson Tide, I hope everyone’s seen it. It’s great. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. All of the data is pointing to World War III and yet our hero, Denzel Washington, interprets the data in a different way, and he refuses to launch his missiles.
Are you sort of working with clients that have, for example, the finance team have data, the marketing team have data. How do you join it all up so you’ve actually got the global picture?
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah. I mean, and again, that’s the holy grail, right? I mean I’ve seen Crimson Tide. [Inaudible 00:17:00] on the face-off between Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman is fantastic. It is. They’ve got data, but they’ve got incomplete data and therein lies the problem.
[Chris Taylor]: Yeah.
[Daniel Dore]: The companies that nail this, the likes of Google and Amazon and Netflix, what they’ve done is that they’ve got all this data in one massive data lake and they are all basically data companies.
[Chris Taylor]: Is that’s what it’s called is a data lake?
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, absolutely. So, a lot of companies—
[Chris Taylor]: Okay, the European mind lake.
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and because quite often, many companies will have multiple computer systems which all have data stored in different places. All you’re doing is putting all that data into one place. That’s something that Workday does fantastically well. You can actually have a feed of data from other systems into Workday, and Workday becomes your data lake, which is incredibly powerful, especially with data analytics tools at your disposal.
When you start adding in people data with finance data with sales data, and you then have the smart analytics to then unleash that data, it becomes incredible, and that actually gives companies competitive advantage.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay.
[Daniel Dore]: The companies are succeeding, and the companies that will succeed in the future, I gained in that competitive advantage, and for the most part, it’s through data. Going back to a question just about opinion, absolutely. I mean, let’s face it. I mean, data analytics is binary by nature. It’s just telling you something that’s factually based. Now, that can inform you that there’s still absolutely room for gut-feel and experience, and that’s so important. We know that through all walks of life that we do. We might see some data, but we also trust our instincts to guide us, not to blindly follow something. Because let’s face it, the data could well be wrong. So, you need to have an element of opinion about that data as well.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. There’s a bit of a dark side as well to analytics, isn’t there? Particularly when it comes to software that monitors productivity. There’s two that spring to mind, Time Doctor and StaffCop. These are software tools that provide an almost sort of Orwellian System of surveillance that’s dressed up as productivity. So, it measures keyboard strokes and people moving their mouses and screen-sharing software. The introduction of that sort of stuff—that is a bit dark. Isn’t it?
[Daniel Dore]: It is. Yeah, absolutely. Ultimately, I guess that comes down to the company’s culture, isn’t it? It comes down to the beliefs of that company.
[Chris Taylor]: But that suggests someone’s not being trusted, you see, and that sort of, the fact it’s called StaffCop.
[Daniel Dore]: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I must admit I’ve not come across it in any of our clients. I think it is when you’ve got almost these factory workers. I imagine it’s these companies that using help desk, remote teams, and all sorts. I agree. It’s going back to Dickensian times and how you manage people’s needs is grim. If you know data—
[Chris Taylor]: And that’s the one thing—. Go on Daniel, sorry.
[Daniel Dore]: No, that’s fine.
[Chris Taylor]: No, no, no. I mean, I think certain parts of productivity, analytics potentially, that I think that might make certain employees in perhaps in certain industries and sectors feel a little bit uncomfortable. But I think if you’re using data analytics and interpreting this information in a responsible way as a responsible employer, which is basically their data analytics company, who helped them once the American election.
So, there’s always going to be that dark side, and it’s up to companies, especially with the advent of artificial intelligence and how companies set their principles and their culture around that so that you don’t build in bias into the AI algorithms. That’s something that Google and Tesla and all these sorts of companies are grappling with because quite often, unfortunately, the people that are devising these algorithms might well be male or predominantly whites.
[Chris Taylor]: Sure.
[Daniel Dore]: There’s almost this unconscious bias that can be built into these algorithms if you’re not careful, and that will become a big topic of debate in the future, without a doubt.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay, and so the revolution’s here to stay. What do you predict now for the future? What’s going to be happening?
[Daniel Dore]: Okay. I think companies who are serious about the future will embrace data analytics. It will become a department in its own right in a lot of companies. It won’t just be HR. It will be across businesses.
You ought to have specialists, and going forward, the data scientists of the world will become the most valuable employees, probably because that data can become a profit centre for your business. So, that’s going to be a seismic change, and companies that don’t embrace it will just get left behind. I think that’s a fact, and it’s probably already being proven now if you look at businesses that are going out business because other competitors are using data to just transom.
[Chris Taylor]: Yeah.
[Daniel Dore]: Then going forward, the big progress will be around machine learning and artificial intelligence and where you can, in theory, and this is something that Workday they’re already starting to talk about is that you could almost have an Alexa type scenario where you can ask Workday or another HR platform a question. So, at the basic level, it could be how many employees have I got, and we’ll get an answer. The AI will get it their way, get you the answer, and, of course, that can then become far more sophisticated.
[Chris Taylor]: Yes.
[Daniel Dore]: I’m trying to think of some good examples, but you can actually start to say, “Who my likely leavers going to be this year,” or it could be, “I want to expand into this particular industry. Have I got the skills within my business to move into that area?”
[Chris Taylor]: Sure.
[Daniel Dore]: Then you can then start to inform again. It’s all about informing decisions.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. That’s brilliant. Thanks ever so much, Dan. If anybody wants to get ahold of you, how do they get hold of you?
[Daniel Dore]: Okay, so I’m on LinkedIn, Daniel Dore, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. So yeah, there’s a few different angles. LinkedIn is probably the best bet.
[Chris Taylor]: Okay. Dan, thanks very much. It’s been brilliant. Cheers.
[Daniel Dore]: It’s been amazing. Thanks, Chris, for having me on, I really appreciate it. You do a great podcast.
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