See into the future: The crystal ball of people analytics


Posted by Kathi Enderes, Zachary Toof on April 20, 2020.

What if you could look into the future? Imagine if you could:

  • Identify which job applicants may have the greatest likelihood of success.
  • Predict which workers may be most at-risk of leaving.
  • Know how many resources you will need when business conditions change.
  • See how the labor market is shifting and the impact this has on in-demand skills and capabilities.

These insights and more can be gained today through people analytics. However, the vast majority of organizations are not taking full advantage of the power of people analytics (either through provider or internal capabilities): Only two percent of organizations are at the highest level of people analytics maturity.1

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We predict that the potential for data-driven insights will continue to expand, because the demand for people analytics solution providers is growing rapidly: A 72 percent increase in the number of customers and an 81 percent increase in revenue from 2018 to 2019.2 This demand will likely drive solution providers to further build their capabilities (e.g., 88 percent provide or are planning to provide natural language processing and 79 percent provide or are planning to provide network analyses).3 These advances can enable greater data access and ease of interpretation, but how these are used needs to be adjusted to better look into the future.

The future is ahead, not behind.

Looking into the past is important; historical data shows you where you’ve been, lets you know if a data point is a blip on the radar or a trend that has been stable over time, and can be used to make predictions about future outcomes. However, missed opportunities can occur when organizations spend too much time and effort looking behind them and not enough time looking in front of them. Leading indicators4 allow organizations to look ahead.

For example, a company may be trying to improve its workforce diversity. Measuring the “percentage of female workers” is a look into the past. This metric can tell a story of progress from a prior measure, but it is not very actionable, nor does it necessarily indicate what the diversity percentage will be for the next measure—this is a lagging indicator. A leading indicator could be the “percentage of female candidates to be interviewed.”  This metric is more actionable (e.g., to broaden the female candidate slate prior to a hiring decision), and it provides a view of what the future diversity may be (a higher percentage here will likely result in diversity gains). This becomes even more insightful and actionable when paired with multiple leading indicators (e.g., diversity representation in internal moves, succession plans, development programs, etc.).

2020-03-06-DandI-Blog-Figure-1-v2

Here are several example questions:

  • What disruptions are most likely to impact our organizational, people, and business capabilities?
  • What is our digital strategy, and what technical advancements are desired?
  • What outcomes do we hope to achieve with this strategy?
  • What work can / should be automated or augmented?
  • What skills and capabilities may need to change?
  • Who in the workforce ecosystem can do this work?
  • Where and when can the work be done, and what are the options for virtual work or for redesigning the workplace to accomplish the outcomes?

Once future-focused questions are formed, organizations can better define data collection and analysis approaches to gain insight into future impacts and options for navigating the future. For example, organizations may consider measuring the percentage of automation potential for tasks and roles, forecasting skill changes for what may become more or less important to their needs, or even determining what percentage of roles could be virtual in order to access larger talent pools and target collaboration tools. The data approaches for these areas do not necessarily have to be high-tech (explorations of big data sets on labor force changes and impacts of automation). Organizations can gain insights by leveraging the collective knowledge of their staff, leaders, and functional experts through qualitative data (interviews, surveys, focus groups) to aggregate views on the future and predict how talent practices can evolve accordingly.

This is only the beginning.

By shifting the analytical lens from the past (lagging indicators) to the future (leading indicators), and by framing questions and metrics to explore the future of work, organizations can better understand and act on what is to come. But there is more that organizations can do to lead—not just respond—to the future.

In an upcoming blog post, we will share further views on using people analytics to see into the future by going into topics such as:

  • The use of always-on sensing channels (looking into the future not once, but continuously)
  • How to approach the knowledge-to-action gap (knowing the future does not necessarily change the future)

What does the future hold for people analytics?

Organizations can better investigate and navigate the future via leading indicators, targeted future-focused questions, and a supporting ecosystem—but, what about the future for people analytics itself? What are organizations focused on solving, how are data skills changing, how is people data being governed and ethically used, and what leading technologies and cutting-edge methodologies are helping organizations to realize impacts?

The future of work is here, and it’s more analytical than ever.

Take our High-Impact People Analytics survey* (intended for leaders or individual contributors involved with people-related analytics) to receive an instant snapshot of how your organization compares with others and to be invited to a free webinar on key findings. *SURVEY NOW CLOSED

Kathi Enderes, PhD, is a vice president and the talent and workforce research leader at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Zachary Toof is a research manager, People Analytics, at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

1The People Analytics Maturity Model, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Madhura Chakrabarti, PhD, 2017.
2People Analytics Solutions: Findings from an Overlapping Market, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Kathi Enderes, PhD, and Matthew Shannon, 2019.
3People Analytics Solutions: Market Capabilities and Differentiators, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Kathi Enderes, PhD, and Matthew Shannon, 2019.
4Leading indicators” are measures on inputs and activities that will influence outcomes.
5What is the future of work? Redefining work, workforces, and workplaces, Deloitte Insights, Deloitte Development LLC / Jeff Schwartz, Robin Jones, Steve Hatfield, and Siri Anderson, 2019.

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