Monday, May 14, 2012

HR Analytics for business performance

Brief: Talent Analytics is about understanding and making sense of workforce data to make decisions about people with the aim of aligning people decisions to business strategy. This article attempts to analyze what is talent analytics, how it is different from traditional human capital analytics, and where HR people are required to turn their focus.
Talent Analytics or Human Workforce Analytics is the way by which data is analyzed to generate insights on meeting the complex needs of the HR and business challenges and thereby enabling high performance organizations. In the traditional HR role, the expectation was to somehow manage the people processes through insight and interpersonal relationships. Thus the complex understanding of organizational and human dynamics happens by a most subjective process of hearsay, observation and interpretation.

Though the field of Business Analytics has made great strides in the recent years, HR processes have not yet caught up to the task of analyzing these complex dimensions to make decisions on talent management, be it acquisition, development or retention. The typical tasks that would fall under these heads would be assessing capabilities, identifying leadership behaviours, predicting performance indicators or studying retention patterns. Leveraging on analytics would mean an improvement in workforce planning, alignment of organizational capabilities, improvement of business strategies and the like, all of which lead to improves organizational performance.

Companies like Accenture are taking the lead in defining what is human analytics and developing an approach that would help companies answer some critical people-related questions on what programs really drive better workforce performance, what organizational and talent levers impact performance and efficiency, how to retain top performers etc.Companies like IBM have developed Talent analytics software that provides insight into recruitment, learning, skills, succession and retention.

In understanding what is Talent Analytics, it is important to review what gets measured in the name of metrics related to human capital. HR managers take pride in estimating their employees cost of hiring, turnover rate, replacement rate, contribution to bottomline, all of which do not have much strategic importance. They are useful in managing people and information, not in creating value to the organization.

The shift that is required is from managing efficiency to creating effectiveness. To give an example, most organizations measure employee satisfaction levels or customer satisfaction levels. Providing this data to the top management is not enough if HR wants to be a strategic partner in managing the business. The next logical step would be to understand what type of management or employee behaviours influence this level of satisfaction, what is the level of increased aspired, hence what are the behaviours that are required to improve the quality of employee or customer experience and finally, what would be the impact of this increased satisfaction on the company’s performance.

And ultimately, employee and client satisfaction do not mean anything by themselves unless they result in business performance, increased market share and profitability. Talent analytics helps in mapping how well the workforce is meeting the needs of its business, how they are aligned to the vision of the business, to identify ways in which a high performing employee will continue to contribute to the well-being of the company.

For instance, Thomas H Davenport, in the HBR article “Competing on Human Analytics”, talks about how some companies that are very high on valuing employee engagement can precisely identify the value of a 0.1% increase in employee engagement among employees on the performance of a particular store or brand. The transcript of his interview relating to the article is found at

Talent metrics is the most objective way of measuring what brings value to the organization, in fact, more objective than employee performance measures. The role of HR in providing intuitive analyses and creative thinking will still be required, but rather than applying it on behaviour, they will be required to apply it on strategy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

HR’s Role in Creating a Learning Organization

HR can’t expect an unchanging work environment. Change is continuous and HR organizations must ensure that they become adept at managing transformations in organizations and translating it to what action they need to take to ensure their people are prepared for this change. They must do this quickly and flawlessly in order to stay at the top. Only if they build the collective capacity for managing continuous change will they be able to manage this speed of transformation.

The collective capacity in any area is built if the HR organization aligns itself to business and focuses on disseminating information about what happens outside and the impact of it internally. In other words, organizations must invest and become adept at continuous learning, reflection, action planning and implementation.

This article focuses on understanding what is meant by ‘Learning organizations’ and what they must focus on doing to ensure continuous learning happens.

The Learning Organization
The emergence of the concept of the ‘Learning organization’ is wrapped up with the concept of ‘Learning Society’. Donald Schon (1973) has made a seminal contribution in this area. His work included studying how to enhance the learning ability of large organizations, institutions and governments, which, he classified as learning systems. Peter Senge’s work on ‘The art and practice of the learning organization’ through his book 'The Fifth Discipline' (1990) popularized this concept to a large extent. However, there is no single definition of learning organization that integrates all knowledge about learning organizations.

There are three definitions of Learning Organizations:
  • Learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. (Senge 1990: 3)
  • The Learning Company is a vision of what might be possible. It is not brought about simply by training individuals; it can only happen as a result of learning at the whole organization level. Learning Company is an organization that facilitates the learning of all its members and continuously transforms itself. (Pedler et. al. 1991: 1)
  • Learning organizations are characterized by total employee involvement in a process of collaboratively conducted, collectively accountable change directed towards shared values or principles. (Watkins and Marsick 1992: 118)

Creating a Learning Environment
There are various characteristics of learning organizations that HR organizations must understand and embrace in order to create a learning environment.
  • Management responsibility – to articulate continuous learning as a value and showing linkages to business success, to provide continuous learning opportunity for employees, to create infrastructure to support learning, to link individual performance and organizational performance, foster a culture of openness, risk-taking and creativity, and establishing learning objectives for every goal.
  • Employees responsibility – make use of the learning opportunities, give their personal commitment to learning, continuously translate their learning from the interaction with the environment into their work, permeate this culture to new entrants into the organization.
  • Systemic responsibility – Get the commitment of both Specialists and Generalists to drive learning. Often it is seen as the Specialist’s role to create learning in the organization, for instance the Training or Learning & Development anchor is given the responsibility for ensuring that learning happens in the organization. Generalists, on the other hand, operate from the business angle or the operations side and consider themselves as merely recipients in the learning process.
For example, one of the L&D initiatives in an organization is to identify employees for succession planning. These employees would be high performing individuals handling successful teams and they would be put through a rigorous one-year developmental programme, running alongside their routine responsibilities. The selection of these people is done through a participatory process every year, where the management reinforces it’s commitment to learning initiatives, the employees vote for people who can go through this developmental programme and Managers are responsible for identifying potential people who can go through this programme. HR is only a facilitator who receives applications and processes them.

Aspects of a Learning environment
Learning in organizations cannot happen through intent alone. There needs to be a rigorous systematic, planned effort from the Human Resource group to create space for continuous learning. Learning can happen through formal and structured interventions or through a natural process fostered by the organizational climate. The most important way by which Formal and Structured learning happens is through Training. When every change in the environment, every innovation in the market and every new regulation in the industry provokes discussion on the implications for the organization and is followed by the creation of action plans, the organization is said to have a natural process of learning ingrained in the culture.

A learning intervention that is able to recreate learning and provides for easy retrieval is one that will be more effective in the long run. The analysis, design and evaluation are critical stages to ensure that the learning intervention meets the outcomes set.

The most important aspects of a learning environment are:
  1. Learning Needs Analysis
  2. Instructional Design and Development
  3. Training programs & Learning events
  4. Evaluation and Measurement of learning effectiveness
  5. Alternate learning methods - E-Learning, Learning applications, On-the-job learning
  6. Facilitating informal learning
  7. Strategic Planning & Change Management
There is an increased need for perpetual learning as people try to keep pace with technology and emerging markets. A learning organization that keeps its’ employees completely engaged by providing a fun-filled, challenging and innovative environment while at the same time constantly providing new learning and perspectives for business success, can be called a successful learning organization. People in such organizations experience a very high level of personal and professional growth which in turn translates into high performance and low attrition.

This article has been published in People and Management Magazine in March’2012.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Career Transition Services in India

Companies often use Career Transition Services to manage layoffs. This article looks at the benefits of outsourcing this service to an expert.

One of the contemporary HR practices that has changed the way people think about retrenchment and lay-offs, is Career Transition Services (CTS). Simply put, CTS is the service provided to an employee who is being handed the pink slip. Organizations engage specialized consultants to offer this service.

But, let’s first look at the few reasons why organizations retrench people. One, and most poignant, is the change in Strategy. This could mean anything from the decision of the parent company to enter or withdraw from certain geographies, consolidation of their businesses, change of location within the geography, withdrawal of certain products from the market, change in people strategy etc. Sometimes mergers and acquisitions can result in laying-off people.

The other reason could be a change in Performance Strategy for re-distribution of available competencies or re-skilling. Productivity studies, efficiency and effectiveness parameters are all then introduced parallely.

The Career Transition Services is offered to help employees go through separation, and provide professional services to handle the transition. These specialist organizations have both psychological and career counselors, who work with the employees in providing alternate meaningful careers.

The Career Transition Services also include resume sprucing, support in getting them onto social networking sites, helping them in their job search, and providing the necessary contacts for networking. If the specialist organization also has a recruitment wing, the candidates are also placed in other organizations that the specialist works with. Typically, the company that engages the CTS provider pays for the service.

Though CTS is a well known phenomenon in countries like US, UK, Canada and Australia, it is less common in India, where companies engage recruitment consultants to do the job. CTS services are a good alternative which help companies manage transition in a more holistic fashion.