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Analytics tell a compelling HR story at De Beers

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Kathy Gibson at Saphila 2017 in Sun City – De Beers subscribes to the concept that information and insight must be delivered in a user-friendly and compelling way in order to drive evidence-based decision-making.

Dominic Podmore, programme manager at De Beers, points out that implementing a workforce analytics solution was less about technology and more about achieving this goal.

De Beers is the world’s leading diamond company. It has a global footprint, operating in 13 distinct businesses with about 17 000 employees based in 20 countries. Its value chain goes from exploration and mining to beneficiation and retail operations.

Ironically, HR is the one business discipline that is typically poorly represented in the boardroom – and yet no business could function without its people, Podmore points out.

De Beers, like most other organisations, has a wealth of information about finance, sales and production – but there is no central resource for employee information.

“It is becoming more compelling for HR to start understanding their information, analysing it and presenting a story that is compelling to the business,” he says.

Right now, most companies take decisions about people on gut feel and previous experience, Podmore says.

This makes the business less agile in making decisions. It also means the business functions aren’t always using people data to support decisions and, if they do, it is often poor quality information.

“But if we have information and insight we can use it to validate what is happening.

“You need to bring in data to enable insightful decisions.HR has become an effective business partnering the company,” Podmore says. This data must add value around conversation that change behaviour.

Analytics can support and empower line managers in support of other HR processes. “You can start having more intelligent conversations with line leads around the people.”

This requires the HR function to develop an analytical rather than a transactional mindset as a core competence, Podmore says. This will drive better decisions about the people.

Importantly, this is a journey, Podmore stresses. “Even to get to where we are now, it has been a journey. Data is so critical – if you don’t have that data everything else will be meaningless.”

The concept of transformation is critical, he adds. “Transformation and change in the business will let us deliver more value.”

De Beers’  strategy takes into account the fact that the consumer’s desire for diamonds is the only source of value in its business.

This business plan is enabled by a licence to operate, technology , marketing and people – and the people are the most important.

“We need to invest in our people. To do this we need to have a people strategy.”

To unlock people value, there are four critical elements, Podmore says. These are ensuring it has the right leaders, that it employs the best people, that it has a facilitating and energising environment; and a culture of operational excellence in HR.

Using SuccessFactors gives an overarching platform that brings all its human data together in a single interface that lets HR present data in a compelling and meaningful way.

“That’s a lot of stuff – and you can’t do it without data; and the ability to present that data in a way that drives insights.”

Analytics has to be linked to the company strategy and the journey to do this is: feasibility and commitment; developing understanding; leadership alignment analytics; a functional model workshop; planning and specification; build and go live.

For De Beers, this took about 18 months to achieve. “It was a heck of a journey,” Podmore says.

The key metrics De Beers believed would be needed were core workforce and mobility; performance management; succession management; compensations; absence; and recruitment.

To align HR analytics to the company’s people strategy involved working out the four key points relating to each part of the strategy.

For instance, ensuring they have the right leaders, the key points are cost of employee turnover; regretted losses rate; employee turnover (including the reason); and internal placement rate.

So when the team built the functional interface, headlines were key for presenting key metrics – so executives don’t have to worry about were the data comes from it is simply there

Dashboards are linked to the strategy and each shows the metrics determined as key to implementing the strategy.

“You build the functional design around the stories you want to tell,” Podmore explains.

Some of the metrics allow users to drill down; and some will allow predictive analytics to be performed.

Importantly, the De Beers system shows different headlines for executives and for HR practitioners.

“We have to understand what we are doing and what our cost per employee is,” says Podmore.

The dashboards tell the story, and this is critical, he adds. “If you are not analysing the data and telling the story, it won’t succeed.”

Getting these basics right is vital if HR wants to up its game in terms of analytics. “Build the foundation, understanding what you want to talk to business about. If you give people information they are comfortable, and is quick, they will use it.”

Podmore says De Beers has learned a number of lessons from its Workforce Analytics project.

First is that the right people have to be selected to work on the project, both internally and within the implementation partner or systems integrator.

It’s important to understand the end user experience in order to enable an intuitive and easy-to-use interface that will enable adoption.

The end state and story should drive the technical solution.

Effective business involvement early on the project is key. The users must validate the data and make sure you provide the stories they want to know about.

Change management is vital. It’s a journey – develop the story and focus on a few compelling metrics to support this. Do not try to do everything right at the beginning, Podmore stresses.

Challenging the HR function to start changing their behaviour will help to ensure project success.