Home News The Best HR & People Analytics Articles of December 2020

The Best HR & People Analytics Articles of December 2020

The Best HR & People Analytics Articles of December 2020

As I wrote in my HR Predictions for 2021 article, 2020 has been a year where we’ve had to get used to expecting the unexpected. I’m sure there’s a pretty unanimous sentiment from those reading this that we all can’t wait for the year to be over. Frankly, it’s been an annus horribilis.

It has been a year where HR has been at the center of organizational response to the crises that have beset us in a tumultuous twelve months. Employee experience and wellbeing has been prioritised in forward-thinking companies, and people, analytics teams has been further elevated not just in helping during the crisis, but in reimagining how ‘work’ and the ‘workplace’ will look in the post-pandemic future.

All of these topics feature in the articles I’ve selected below for December.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that it’s not the end of December yet, but I wanted to publish ‘The best articles…’ before I go on my Christmas break. I will capture any gems that I miss in my annual round-up for 2020 in January.

Before we delve into this month’s selections, I’d like to wish readers a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all the best for a healthy and successful 2021. Let’s hope that next year will be markedly better than this one. Thank you to everyone who has supported me, Insight222, myHRfuture and the Digital HR Leaders Podcast in 2020. It’s been quite a year!

Right on we go…


KEITH MCNULTY – Handbook of Regression Modeling in People Analytics

There’s only one place to start this month and that’s with an incredible resource created for the people analytics community by Keith McNulty, who as many of you will know is the Global Head of People Analytics and Measurement at McKinsey. Keith describes the writing of The Handbook of Regression Modeling in People Analytics, which is freely available, as a labour of love designed “to give others working in my increasingly growing field of people analytics a starting point for a practical learning of regression methods, with the hope that they will see immediate applications to their work and take advantage of a much-underused toolkit that provides strong support for evidence-based practice.” Keith has certainly achieved his objective with the e-book, which also contains a foreword by Alexis Fink.

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FIG 1: Handbook of Regression Modeling in People Analytics, Table of contents (Source: Keith McNulty)


STACIA GARR & PRIYANKA MEHROTRA – People Analytics Tech 2020 Article | Report

The team at RedThread Research top off a year off stellar research with their second annual study of the People Analytics Technology (PAT) Market. Key findings include that the market continued to grow (there are now at least 121 PAT vendors; 1-year market growth rate was 35%, 4-year CAGR was 55%, current market estimate is $2 billion), the market responded effectively to the unique needs of 2020, many solutions are not as user-friendly as the tech firms believe and new capabilities that emerged include advanced NLP and deep machine learning. This is a terrific resource for companies looking to understand the market (see PAT Solution Matrix in FIG 2) and for considering their next technology investment.

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FIG 2: People Analytics Technology Solution Matrix (Source: RedThread Research)


LISA MORRIS, VOLKER JACOBS, TI PEOPLE – Advancing the Human Experience of Work

TI People’s sophomore follow-up to last year’s excellent State of EX report makes a persuasive case of moving beyond employee experience alone, and instead think Human Experience, in order to make meaningful impact for everyone, everywhere. The report is a true practitioner perspective, with insights from over 100 leaders who specifically lead work or are part of a cross-functional effort aimed at directly impacting the human experience of work. Learn about the nine key building blocks essential to impactful experience management (see FIG 3) and how not one surveyed organisation has established practices in place across the board. The report also highlights common challenges including: i) prioritising what to focus on to improve experience at macro and micro levels, and ii) collecting and analysing data to better understand the needs of people at work, to guide this prioritisation.

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FIG 3: The nine key Experience Management building blocks, and percentage of organisations with these established (Source: TI People)

JOSH BERSIN – Employee Experience 4.0: Shortening The Distance From Signal To Action

Josh Bersin’s analysis of the EX market is that it is advancing faster than ever due to the pandemic and finds that companies are getting much better at delivering a meaningful, productive employee experience. His analysis complements that of TI People in finding that an agenda that may have started in HR now spans the whole company (think IT, Facilities etc). Josh believes the market is now entering its fourth stage (see FIG 4) of ‘Continuous Response’ where companies collect signals in multiple forms – not just survey. We can certainly see this in public examples of continuous listening from Microsoft and IBM, as well as in the report Josh’s article promotes in companies like Walmart and Johnson & Johnson.

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FIG 4: Employee Engagement market evolves (Source: Josh Bersin)

ANNA TAVIS – Employee Experience as a Team Sport: Key Lessons from the Pandemic

Anna Tavis also highlights how EX has shifted from primarily an HR led initiative to one that thanks to the pandemic is at the centre of organisational strategy. Anna then highlights some great examples of how CEOs and other C-Level leaders played an active role in EX including how a triumvirate of CEO, CFO and CHRO has emerged with a primary purpose of ensuring business continuity with people at the centre. Anna’s article is one of a number collected together on EX here to commemorate the 40th anniversary of International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM). Other articles worth delving into include those authored by Ravin Jesuthasan, Frida Polli, Eric Bokelberg and Stela Lupushor.

Employee Experience is about business’ resilience and continuity, not a nice to have HR project

MICHAEL SCHRAGE – The Transformational Power of Recommendation

Recommendation engines have been critical to the success of a plethora of digital platforms such as Amazon, Netflix and Spotify, helping customers make better choices and driving business growth and revenue. As Michael Schrage highlights in his excellent article, a study by Salesforce found online shoppers are 4.5 times more likely to add items to their shopping cart and complete a purchase after clicking on any product recommendation. Schrage’s article provides an equal focus as to how recommendation engines are being used in the workplace to help employees make better choices and boost performance, and cites several examples before pondering that “for better or for worse, (recommendation engines promise) enormous opportunities and threats. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we’re nowhere near the beginning of the end of recommendation engines innovation. It might fairly be observed, however, that we are at the end of the beginning.”


JEFFERY PFEFFER & LEANNE WILLIAMS – Mental health in the workplace: The coming revolution

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that prioritising wellbeing in the workplace is not only the right thing to but it has a positive impact on company performance too. Jeffery Pfeffer, who has written extensively on this topic, and his Stanford colleague Leanne Williams, highlight how employees need, and increasingly demand, resources to help them cope with mental health problems. They make a compelling case that: “If companies make mental health services more accessible and intervene in the workplace in ways that improve well-being, they will simultaneously make investments that will provide real improvements in employee outcomes and consequently in company performance.

The pandemic has made painfully clear that our collective emotional health is in jeopardy, and many employers are scrambling to meet burgeoning demands


ROB CROSS & INGA CARBONI – When Collaboration Fails and How to Fix It

Rob Cross and Inga Carboni present findings of a decade’s worth of organisational network analysis (ONA) studies, which sought to understand patterns of collaboration that undermine team and business unit success in companies. Their research identifies six types of collaborative dysfunction (see FIG 5), and the article captures what the authors learnt about each dysfunction, the drivers that create them and some remedies to address them.

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FIG 5: Why is your organization struggling to collaborate (Source: Rob Cross and Inga Carboni)


SERENA HUANG – How People Analytics Helps with Agile Org Design

Serena Huang, who is the global leader for people analytics at Kraft-Heinz, outlines a helpful three-step process to explain how people analytics can support organisational design: i) start with strategy (“First, translate business strategy for the future org into skills requirements”), ii) then blend a variety of data sources (see example in FIG 6) to get a clear sense of where you are (“Second, assess your current state”), and then finally; iii)identify gaps and construct a way forward (“Third, identify gaps and determine a buy/build/borrow approach to close the gaps in time to ensure the new organization can deliver the business strategy”).

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FIG 6: Potential data sources for skills information (Source: Adam McKinnon, Mikaël Wornoo, The Value of Measuring Employee Skill Data)


DAVE ULRICH – HR’s Ever-Evolving Contribution

There’s no doubt that the past year has seen HR shift from being encouraged to adapt to the ‘future of work’ to actually playing a central role in organisational response to the crises of 2020. As Dave Ulrich explains, this means that HR is tasked with reinventing ‘today’s and tomorrow’s work’ and adapting to multiple challenges that profoundly impact people and organisations – not just the pandemic but also social tensions, economic adversity and personal emotional malaise too. In his article, Dave urges, that to turn these challenges into opportunities, HR professionals should creatively answer this question: “What are HR’s unique contributions to business success?” Dave also presents FIG 7 – a model that highlights the waves of HR Evolution, highlighting that the outside-in wave sees a shift from value creation to value delivery as: “HR is now about delivering value to customers, investors, and communities outside the organization.”

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FIG 7: Waves of HR Evolution or Maturity (Source: Dave Ulrich)

DAVE MILLNER –  The HR Practitioner of The Future – 6 Key Themes

During the pandemic, all eyes have been on HR and there have been countless examples of how the function has played an important role to support organisational response to the crisis. As we hopefully emerge from the crisis sometime in 2021, now is the time to drive new expectations of the people function. Borne from research spanning ten years my old IBM sparring partner Dave Millner, who many of you will know on Twitter as @HRCurator, shares six key themes that will create the people function and HR practitioner of the future.

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FIG 8: Six themes of the HR Practitioner of the Future (Source: Dave Millner)

BART DE LANGHE & STEFANO PUNTONI – Leading With Decision-Driven Data Analytics

Ever wondered what the difference is between a ‘Data Scientist’ and a ‘Decision Scientist’? Wonder no more, as this excellent MIT Sloan Management Review article reveals. As FIG 9 summarises, a data scientist will anchor on the data that is available to make a decision whilst a decision scientist will identify the optimal data that is needed to make the best decision. It’s a subtle but important difference, and hence makes this article required reading for all in our field. A hat tip to Andrew Marritt, who brought this article to my attention through his excellent Empirical HR newsletter, which I heartily recommend subscribing to.

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FIG 9: Data-Driven versus Decision-Driven Analytics (Source: Bart de Langhe and Stefano Puntoni, MIT Sloan Management Review)



BRUCE ANDERSON – Why Internal Mobility Needs to Be a Key Part of Your Talent Strategy | GOPIKA MAYA SANTHOSH – Where Internal Mobility Is Most Common Since COVID-19: Top Countries, Industries, and Jobs

Covid-19 has sparked an unprecedented interest in internal mobility as companies that slowed hiring or stopped it altogether needed a way to redeploy their people to address their quickly changing business demands. This pair of articles from the LinkedIn Talent Blog give some helpful insights on current trends in the space. The first article provides an overview of the benefits and challenges of internal mobility and addresses the role of recruiting therein. The second provides some good data points on the countries, industries and jobs where internal mobility is currently most common and also some of the business benefits (see example on retention in FIG 10).

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FIG 10: Employees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost 2x longer (Source: LinkedIn)


MARC COLEMAN – Why HR Projects Fail Report Reveals 84% Were ‘Unsuccessful’

UNLEASH head honcho Marc Coleman reveals the headline findings of an 18 month study with over 1000 global organisations with combined HR Tech budgets of +$4 billion. The staggering headline is that 84% claim their projects were unsuccessful and haven’t delivered the exponential benefits expected. It’s not all grim news though, Marc shares helpful guidance on ‘8 Golden Rules for Successful HR Tech Projects’ (see FIG 11) and concludes that “HR Tech is coming of age and under the spotlight. Getting it right means HR can become the business value driver it aspires to be.”

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FIG 11: 8 Golden Rules for Successful HR Tech Projects (Source: UNLEASH)

IAN COOK – How to identify the right people analytics project | SHEREE ATCHESON – The Overwhelming Benefits of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace | KELLY PALMER – How to make the business case for internal mobility | JAN REZAB – 10 Things I Learned from Company Data – How to stay productive in a world in flux

In this month’s round-up of the articles from HR Tech companies there are four articles that caught my eye. First up, Ian Cook (Visier) provides a helpful breakdown of the key components that should be assessed and balanced when making a decision about a specific people analytics project or product. Next up, Sheree Atcheson (Global Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Peakon) examines how the business benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion and how ultimately this can create a sense of belonging. Then, Kelly Palmer (Degreed) provides guidance on how to make the business case for ramping up effort on internal mobility. Finally, Jan Rezab (Time is Ltd) provides ten important things he’s learned about productivity from analysing data on company collaboration.


MICHAEL ARENA & DAVID GREEN – What is the Impact of Virtual and Hybrid Working on Innovation? | RENIL KUMAR & DAVID GREEN – How Wipro uses People Analytics to Enable Hyper-Personalisation | TIFFANY STEVENSON & LARS SCHMIDT – Redefining HR EP68: Leading Inclusion across Box

Michael Arena and Renil Kumar joined me on the Digital HR Leaders Podcast for the final two episodes of the year. Michael and I discuss why the pandemic will likely fast forward the future of work by five or ten years, the role social capital plays in generating, incubating and scaling innovation, and the network impacts of the shift to virtual and hybrid work environments. Renil and I discuss Wipro’s response to the crisis, why hybrid work is here to stay and how people analytics drives a hyper-personalised employee experience at Wipro. Finally, I really enjoy Lars Schmidt’s Redefining HR Podcast and, in the episode here, Lars speaks with Tiffany Stevenson, Box Chief Talent & Inclusion Officer and Global Head of Communities, about her role leading inclusion efforts across Box.

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MANISH GOEL & MADHURA CHAKRABARTI – Leveraging ONA to Understand the Impact of Evolving Workplace Change on Collaboration & Inclusion

A few weeks ago I had the honour of introducing Manish Goel (CEO, TrustSphere) and Madhura Chakrabarti (Global Head of People Insights & Analytics at Syngenta) at the PAFOW Global Online event. They spoke about how network analytics is highlighting insights on the differential impact of remote working across network structures and the disproportionate impact on certain groups. Changes in activity don’t tell you the whole story. If you enjoy watching this, the next PAFOW Global Online event takes place on 27-28 January 2021 – see here for more detail.


ERICA VOLINI, JEFF SCHWARTZ, KRAIG EATON, DAVID MALLON, YVES VAN DURME, MAREN HAUPTMANN, ROB SCOTT and SHANNON POYNTON – Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2021: The social enterprise in a world disrupted

Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends report is always eagerly awaited, and the 2021 edition has been published at the culmination an especially disruptive year. The key headline is that “it’s time for organizations to shift from a survive to a thrive mindset.” The report outlines five workforce strategies to watch in 2021 (see FIG 12 below).

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FIG 12: The 2021 Global Human Capital Trends (Source: Deloitte)


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