HRchat Podcast - Interviews with HR, Talent and Tech Experts

Analytics and the People Impact Gap with Ian Cook, Visier

September 08, 2022 The HR Gazette Season 1 Episode 481
HRchat Podcast - Interviews with HR, Talent and Tech Experts
Analytics and the People Impact Gap with Ian Cook, Visier
Show Notes Transcript

Bill Banham is joined in HRchat episode 481 by Ian Cook, Vice President, People Analytics at Visier, to talk all things people analytics.

Ian is an advocate for the crucial role that people play in helping companies thrive. His career has focused on enabling people, teams and companies to perform at their best. For the last 15 years, Ian has been helping leaders elevate their HR strategies and programs through the effective use of people analytics. At Visier, Ian led the development of their market-leading solution and is now focused on the overall strategy for the people analytics business.

Questions For Ian Include:

  • In your work you talk about a People Impact Gap.  What is this gap and why do you think it is so important?
  • So if this gap exists and is crucial to business, what does it take to close the gap? - Do you have any examples?
  • You recently commented on research by Raj Chetty that identifies the impact of networks on people's ability to access better opportunities. Why does the ability to network with people in a higher economic bracket enable people to improve their own economic mobility?
  • What advice would you give an HR leader who is looking to start closing this gap or even improve how they are supporting their business?
  • "HR is evolving from being focused on its programs and activities to helping people managers make better decisions in the flow of work". Can you paint a picture of how People Analytics technologies have evolved over the past 10 years and the leaps forward in ways to better understand how employees behave and perform caused by/alongside the pandemic?


We do our best to ensure editorial objectivity. The views and ideas shared by our guests and sponsors are entirely independent of The HR Gazette, HRchat Podcast and Iceni Media Inc.   

This episode is supported by MoveFwd, an event for existing and aspiring people leaders to inspire change, adaptation, and progress in our new world of work. Join CareerBeacon and the HR Gazette team on May 25, in the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia to see experts speak such as Talent Acquisition Specialist, Tim Sackett and DEI Strategist, Torin Ellis. Get your early bird tickets today at MoveFwd.ca

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the HR chat podcast, bringing the best of the HR talent and leadership communities to you for more episodes and the latest articles covering what's new in the world of work, visit HR gazette.com subscribe and follow us on social media.

Speaker 2:

Welcome

Speaker 3:

To another episode of the HR chat show. I'm your host today, bill Bannum and joining me on the show today is Ian cook, vice president of people analytics over at Visia . Ian is an advocate for the crucial role that people play in helping companies thrive, and his career has focused on enabling people, teams, and companies to perform at their best. For the last 15 years, Ian has been helping leaders evaluate their HR strategies and programs through the effective use of people analytics at Visia . Ian led the development of their market leading solution, and is now focused on the overall strategy for the people analytics business. I hope you enjoy this conversation that I had with Ian cook. Hey Ian, it's my pleasure to have you on the show today.

Speaker 4:

Uh , it's great to be here, bill looking forward to the conversation.

Speaker 3:

Me too. Me too. So beyond the we introduction there, why don't you take a minute or two Ian and , uh, tell our listeners a bit more about yourself?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so, so my, my life started very interestingly in, in the people space and I quickly understood that people are the component that make a difference in business and kind of my , my career has pursued that interest. And, you know, initially that led me down some soft skills work and team development. Um , and then I ran into what I describe as the , the CFO challenge, getting funding for all of this amazing people work. Uh , and that's what triggered the interest in the data and actually bringing that information. We have so much information about people inside our business. Uh , and yet we, we use a tiny fraction of it and, you know, that leads to bad decisions. Some of that impact revenues, sometimes it impact people. And so my career, my work is all about how do we make the business thrive? And the people thrive by, by being a little smarter about how we use all that data. Uh , and it's, it's a fascinating area, you know, pioneered by a few people 20 plus years ago. And it's now this massive community that are really driving it forward. So I think it's an exciting part of HR and I'm always keen to talk about it.

Speaker 3:

Okay. Thank you very much. So I guess the next obvious question then is , is how how's , how is vier helping folks thrive? How , how does vier help leaders, HR pros and employees?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so there's a sort of fundamental gap. Um , I call it people impact gap between the answers that a business is looking for in the technology stack that is sort of traditionally being built by HR. We've gone through a wave of transformation where we had to automate the work of , um, administrating records. So everybody knows just how much work has gone into , um, modernizing the record, keeping set, you know, the HRS. Well, we're now at a point where we, we know inside all that information are things like, well, how long is it gonna take me to replace the person who just left? Am I better replacing them? Or am I better promoting somebody internally? Or should I actually go out and contract for this job mean these are day to day decisions about people, those decisions, impact people, somebody gets promotion or doesn't and they impact the output of the business. We either ship the software or deliver to the customer on time, or we don't. And so this , the whole notion of this year is like, well, how do we help organizations have that kind of insight at the speed? They need it . And at the scale they need it, cuz you know, you never know which manager's gonna need the answer. You never know where that's gonna come up, so you kind of need it ready and on hand . So ER's whole purpose is to take that data, harmonize it, interpret it. So we know what it means and explain it to people so they can take the right kind of action.

Speaker 3:

Okay . Thank you very much. So you mentioned their part of what you guys do is help people decide if they need to hire or , um, uh, bring people up within the organization or indeed if they need to look outside maybe for contingent workers in terms of the , the latter Ian , um, how, how has the gig economy, how has the contingent workforce how's that grown and developed over the last three years or so? Since the beginning of the pandemic?

Speaker 4:

So, so in , in terms of, you know, how analytics helps with this whole employee mix, I , I think there's been a huge change. In fact, I was just reading something this, this afternoon from McKinsey around , um, flexibility and what employees are looking for, changes in patents of employment. Um, you know, gig has actually seen a huge growth during the pandemic , uh, there's stats in terms of, in the us about some like a 10 to 20% increase in the number of individuals who register themselves as sole proprietorships, that associates to gig. So there's been a yin and yang where certain organizations have less certainty. So they wanna move to more contingent labor. On the other hand, certain people, certain in stages of their career or certain types of work have seen the opportunity that flexibility brings and have opted into that. You know , the , the , the means by which you access gig work have become really easy. <laugh> I worked for myself for a few years. I did it at the point where there were fax machines and telephones, you know, knocking on people's door to say, Hey, I'm here. I can help nowadays. I could run a digital portfolio into a technology platform. I could have worked the next day. So the , so the access to gig is much better for the individual. If they have the expertise, I think organizations are still getting their head around how they manage their employee mix. Now I think the , the big phase we've seen generally in the market is organizations going, oh, like the labor. Market's not like it used to be, how do I respond again? Those who've got data have known this for a while . They're kind of working through the response, those who haven't got data, I think are just waking up to the fact that they're gonna need to act on this and act on it fast, cuz they're probably already a little bit behind

Speaker 3:

And given that there is such a big , uh, demand for talent at the moment. And therefore there are gaps in different places and , uh, companies are having to lean on, on gig workers on , on independence , on , on contractors a bit more at the moment. Um, I , I've spoken to folk on this show before about how perhaps companies that wanna , uh, get ahead of the competition. Maybe they need to treat these contingent workers, these contractors, these gig workers, more like employees. Uh , and in terms of, for example, offering, offering some benefits, what , what are you seeing in the market? In , in that respect?

Speaker 4:

What we see from the analytics perspective as it relates to, to gig work is many more organizations actually loading up that information into our system so they can have this notion of total workforce. So, you know, align to your question builder, this notion of bringing gig workers into parity , um, as in their , uh, they're considered somebody who does work for the business with , with equal measure, we see a lot of organizations looking to convert some of their gig workers into permanent employees , um, and you know, understanding how do we make the experience of work, match the needs of the different populations. So, you know, I would, I would say some of our more pioneer organizations are, are looking at segmentation and not segmentation classically on, you know, gig versus permanent, but actually segmentation in terms of career stage , uh, life situation, career aspiration, and , and understanding how do we then make the work experience fit for these different populations that we have , you know , all helping us move the business forward, recognizing the need to create work experiences, work conditions that are different for different groups, as opposed to the one size fits so that we have had in the past

Speaker 3:

In terms of create development and career positions. Then just on that point , uh, what are you seeing in terms of the impact of , uh, boomers leading the workforce? Although some of them apparently are coming back again. Um , but you know , we're at the height of , uh, boomers retiring at the moment, right. And that's a huge generation, the biggest generation effect . Um , how how's , how's that impacting as a skills gap perhaps at the top? Um, what does that mean in terms of having to , uh, develop more junior folk faster to fill other positions in the middle perhaps within organizations? Are , are you seeing any trends around that?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, we're , we're definitely seeing trends that are reversing and , uh, sort of being significant in terms of overall labor force participation. Um, one of the charts I featured a lot is the , um, reversal in labor force participation of the, the over 60 fives. So the kind of 2010s were marked by the number of people who were staying in work longer. Something I would would support the , the pandemic changed the , the mind of a lot of these people. And so that, that kind of trend reverse that took a lot of again, experience and capability out of the organization. Um , but the , the , the opposite is also true that we've now got , um, gen Z coming in. Who've going to have a different approach to work a different , uh, thought process around work, not like the millennials they've grown up digital, unlike the millennials, they've also grown up in tough times. So there's a , there's a , a level of aspiration and striving and willingness to kind of , um, drive there. So I , I see lots of organizations having to just rethink their whole , um, employee value proposition. The , the ways that, you know, the ways that promotions are done, the way that careers happen, this, this notion of well do this job for five years. And then you get tapped on the stroller for the next job. And then you do that for a few years and then you get, you know, that that's all gone like that, that was the tradition for the boomers. There were so many of them that , you know, competition for work was really tight because there was more people than jobs were in the flip of that now real , where there are more jobs than people. And so, you know, employers need to respond differently. They'll need to let go of some of the additional approaches that the boomers adopted because we are in different times, therefore we need to actually respond to people differently. So , uh, again, depending the sector, depending on the kind of, of , of work that's being done, we're seeing radical changes in, you know, just how HR is HR is being done and certainly how people are responding. Um , and again, some of that's even being driven because the , the gen X , the , the millennial population, they're now in senior management roles . So, you know, they are driving that change in terms of what it means to be a modern organization.

Speaker 3:

Okay. Thank you very much. I would love to take this interview now in a different direction and, and talk to you about , uh, the impact of the gen Zs into the workforce, but I'm not going to, because I've , I've got an agenda, I've got an agenda for you today, so I'm gonna , I'm gonna reign it back. And instead of , I'd like to ask you about the , the fact that in your work, you talk about a people impact gap. Um, can you, can you share what this gap is and why you think it's important?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I , I think the easiest way to illuminate the people impact gap is with an example, bill . So people have , have been very aware of , um, black lives matter and the social justice movement, you know, that led to many CEOs putting out aspiration on , uh, how representation and , and will , will shape up in their business. Many of those CEOs made guesses. And , and what we're seeing now is that those CEO , those guesses were, were, you know, nice aspirations, but they weren't backed by data. So lo and behold, the organization put out a number it's not reaching the number the CEO is having to walk back from that number say , oh , well, we haven't caught quite, as far as we thought we were gonna get like, blah LA LA , that's a gap because the organization is sitting on the data , it's sitting on the , the data and the math that would say here's where our representation is. Here's how it grows. Here's what it takes to make a change. Man, I've done this math with a number of our clients. It's quite extraordinary. How big a shift in, in the hiring of women, you have to make to increase your representation by 1% over a certain time . So, you know, the , the impact gap is we make a promise to the market. We make it about representation. We haven't used the data to inform ourselves of what's possible. That means we have to wind back our aspiration. The flip side of that is when you use the data to make forward looking views that are built from a good understanding of what it actually takes so that you can then move forward. And , and if you think about that, purely in the same sense of , as of you would a financial statement to the , the market, it's like, you know, the CF CEO is making a statement on future diversity in the same ways . They're making a statement on future revenue. You know , the , the impact, the people impact gap is the , the not using the data to really understand where you will be and how you will get there. And then moving forward on that. And it , it has significant reputational risks. It has , um, more and more risks around the way the business works and how people, you know, would choose to work for it, or how investors would actually choose to invest in it. So it's a pretty significant gap. It's pretty costly. Uh , and it comes again from this focus on, well, how do I make a transaction smooth versus how do I use the data from the transaction to make my business smart? And that gap is all about not using the smarts that we have at our hands .

Speaker 3:

Okay. Wow . Thank you. Um , I wonder when you guys start working with, with partners and you start those conversations with the HR leaders , um, are there , there two or three quick wins that are , that data department can, you know , jump into their current data analytics and, and put , and put out some information for some quick wins while you're working through with them a , a longer program to better understand and improve their people?

Speaker 4:

A absolutely bill. And I mean, it it's, you know, it's one of those things. If I had a pound every time, this was true, I'd be a rich person. Uh , the , the simple, basic , and it seems daft, but it's where we started our conversation. It's headcount. Most organizations do not have a common view or an agreed view between finance and HR on how many people are headcount actively working in the business. The reason is because the , the data goes across two systems. There's what finance, in terms of who's being paid. There's what HR has in terms of who's got an active contract, whether it's contingent or, or perm . And so, you know, countless meetings happen where it's like, well, why is your number different from our number and whose number is right? What's your source. And, and just the amount of we, we met, we've met people where they had 24 people inside the business, literally working on the reconciliation between finance and HR. So what , it sounds like a real simple number. You kinda go like , surely everybody has a handle on headcount . Well, they, they, don't always, and often the kind of first step in, in closing the gap is , is HR claiming ownership of the head count number. And that's different from the number of people getting paid, because you sometimes pay people even after they've left. And that's where some of the discrepancy comes from this is who is sitting in a seat on contract and doing workforce. And so, you know, getting claiming that number, if you just C H O why isn't you head count your number, claiming that number, building collaboration with the finance around the why that number is good, why it's accurate, why it's present , um, what that means in terms of change, what that means in terms of all the things that hang off it in terms of cost, et cetera , all the downstream impacts in terms of, are we ready to do the work we need to do that is it's a first base. It's something we can get to very, very fast and very easily. Um, and , and then it builds the credibility. It builds the trust. It builds the connection that you then build on from there. So again, whilst it sounds complicated, often first base is very, very simple and it , and it , you know , then accelerates from there.

Speaker 3:

That is fascinating. It's something that you , you would imagine a company would have a handle on , um, <laugh> but , um, it's a huge win. It's absolutely a huge win. Uh , okay . Thank you. I wanna , I wanna switch, focus a little bit now. Um , what I'd like to do in these interviews, Ian, is I like to do a little bit homework and , uh, find a few interesting , uh, posts, blog, post perhaps, or , uh, shares on LinkedIn and other places. And I found, I found a pretty interesting post by you , uh, on LinkedIn. And , uh, you commented on research by Raj Chetty that identifies the impact of networks on people's ability to access better opportunity. So just taking this conversation a bit of a different direction for a moment, I , I wondered if you could share why, why does the ability to network with people in a higher economic bracket enable people to improve their own economic mobility?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, so vier is very, very pro diversity inclusion. You know , we've spent a lot of time with our clients really thinking through the mechanisms by which that change happens inside a business. Uh , and what I liked about RA's research was, was twofold. First of all, it's really, really macro. So, you know, it looks at thousands of people over a long time, so it's really good substantive. And , and then it has direct application to business. What , what Raj identified is that if you are in a lower economic bracket, which you are in a city or in a situation that allows you to network with , uh, rub shoulders with get to know people from a higher economic bracket, that network connection is a , is a condition which allows an individual from a lower economic bracket to move upward. He was trying to understand, like why do people progress in some places and not in others? And , and we would see the same thing in businesses. Why does some businesses build diversity and not others? And , and often the answer comes down to well, do more training, or it comes down to some other program. And what this research is saying, like, what you need to do inside your business is make sure that everybody inside your organization has access to show their talents, to get connected to the people who can move them forward. The people who can connect them to the people who can move them forward. Like we all know how social systems work, you know, there is process, but more often than not it's connection, that really makes a difference.

Speaker 3:

Okay. And just finally, how can our listeners get in touch with you, Ian connect with you through LinkedIn email address, maybe , uh, Instagram, TikTok , wherever you are hanging out. And also of course, how can they learn more about vier

Speaker 4:

Been great talking toil and thanks for the time today. If, if people wanna get to know more about, vier more about me, then vier.com as the website, there's a lot of resources around how to be build a people analytics practice. There's some really great case studies on the value our clients have achieved. And then my, my social channel is LinkedIn , uh, very active. I run a debate every Thursday around key people issues. So, you know, follow me on LinkedIn. And , um, I'll look forward to, to engaging more in these important stories.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to this episode of VH are chat podcast. There are hundreds of conversations with business experts available for free on the HR Gazette website, apple, Spotify, and all the main platforms. And remember to like subscribe and follow us on social media.