People analytics & Change Management is a new power couple

02 May 2018
Article written by Morten Kamp Andersen

People Analytics is maturing fast. 2017 in particular was a stellar year if the published cases, presentations at various people analytics conferences and interest from the wider HR community is suggesting anything. However, for this trend to take a more permanent grip, it must in my view be recognized as an area of importance across the wider organisation, something it is not currently. An answer to this is to look in another direction – a new avenue.

A third avenue

I see people analytics used in primarily two areas; 1) making better (evidence-based) HR decisions and 2) solving business issues. The first includes a wide array of things from improving on internal people reporting and scoreboards, engagement surveys to creating predictive models for turnover, talent performance, recruitment success or assessing leadership training and innovation processes. The second area uses people data to answer questions such as “How to we sell more widgets?”, “What engagement activities creates the best service delivery which impacts customer retention the most?” or suchlike.

But there are challenges with both, which makes it problematic for many People Analytics departments/teams/units in many organisations. The challenge with the first type is that HR processes themselves only creates limited measurable value – or is not perceived to create a lot of value. The problem with the second is, that there are only few business issues where people analytics presently is used either due to lack of relevant data to answer the questions, that HR/People Analytics they are not asked to contribute with an answer or that the issue is not people related. In any case, while on one hand there are many great People Analytics projects, studies, examples out there and the size and quality is increasing a lot and on the other hand the impact across the organisation is still relatively small.

I believe there is a third avenue for People Analytics to add value, namely by working closely with Change Management. Change management is in many mature organisations (project wise) an integrated part of the most strategic projects but is in need of support.

What exactly is change management?

Change Management is a structured process with a specific set of tools to ensure the people side of change and is an essential part of projects succeess; project management delivers the solution on time and budget and change management makes the organisation ready to embrace and utilise the solution. But whereas project management is a well-established discipline with industry standards with well adopted tools and best practice, Change Management is still relatively young and is still looking for ways to improve.

Because most organisations are executing their most critical strategic initiatives – or Must Win Battles – as projects, and a large part of the potential success of those projects lie in successful Change Management most companies are looking for ways to make Change Management better. People Analytics can play a major role in delivering excellent Change Management and hence directly impact the successful implementation of strategies within an organisation. This is in my view an under-utilised avenue for People Analytics to affect business results.

How can people analytics support change management?

There are many concrete ways HR data and People Analytics can support Change Management; engagement data can help identify likely resistance, the new generation of real-time employee sentiment tools can help assist in the implementation phase, network models can identify useful change agents/ambassadors, effective evaluation of effectiveness of training classes, predictive models for adoption usage, effective dashboards for usage of the new solution and many other activities. I trust the list is long. In a recent Harvard article, social media analytics was used as an example of HR data usage in change management.

It is a win-win really; Change Management need more data to assess risks, progress, adoption and usage and People Analytics needs to apply its findings find more value. A partnership between the two functions will instantly create measurable value. Some might question if organisations are actually ready for this. Let us step up to the challenge.

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