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Tech Savvy: Taking a Rigorous Approach to People Analytics

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Imposing order on the morass of people analytics: HR execs are being bombarded with sales pitches for people analytics that promise to improve every aspect of workforce management from recruiting to what HubSpot’s execs so charmingly called “graduation.” But how do you weave this rather bewildering assortment of digital tools together in a way that is aligned with and supports your talent and corporate strategies?

Jean Paul Isson and Jesse S. Harriot, respectively VP of business intelligence and predictive analytics and former chief knowledge officer at Monster Worldwide, take a good shot at answering that big-picture question in their new book, People Analytics in the Era of Big Data. The authors encapsulate their approach in a framework that organizes people analytics into 7 “pillars” that are broadly based on the responsibilities of the HR function: workforce planning; sourcing; acquisition/hiring; onboarding, culture fit, and engagement; performance assessment and development; churn and retention; and wellness, health, and safety. “The ultimate goal of this framework,” they write, “is to focus your organization’s attention on those areas that are keys to talent analytics success and will lead to greatest return on investment.”

As you might expect, a comprehensive overview of people analytics leads to a pretty thick and sometimes dense book. But the authors ground the pillars in practice using case studies and interviews. One of them describes how Société de Transport de Montréal, the city’s public transport agency, which serves 2.5 million riders per day, is implementing and using people analytics. It is featured in the excerpt below.

A cost-benefit analysis of virtual shareholders’ meetings: As much fun as Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders’ weekend seems, you have to wonder why the 5,300 or so annual shareholders’ meetings held in the United States haven’t gone virtual. Actually, 90 companies did in 2015, according to NYT’s Deal Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon, including Intel, GoPro, SeaWorld Entertainment, PayPal, Fitbit and Yelp.

“Not one shareholder showed up to Intel’s shareholders’ meeting last week. In person, at least,” writes Solomon in an NYT “DealBook” column. “Instead, Intel’s annual meeting was entirely virtual. There was no in-person gathering site, the questions were submitted in advance, and management and the board made all of their presentations online.”

Solomon, who also teaches law at UC Berkeley, goes on to list the many advantages of virtual shareholders’ meetings. Lower costs, higher attendance, more accurate tracking — to say nothing of the opportunity to better “manage troublesome shareholders and their often uncomfortable questions,” and eliminate protests and PR debacles.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast, says Solomon. He thinks the in-person interaction of the traditional shareholders’ meeting is the only chance shareholders have to engage management — and put execs on the spot. “And in difficult situations, the repeated resistance of shareholders can make a difference,” he writes. He also suggests that such meetings are a chance to win over investors and build brands — a finding that Warren Buffett would surely second.

So Solomon gives virtual shareholders’ meetings a thumbs down, even though there seems to be no reason why virtual shareholders’ meetings couldn’t be designed in ways that enhance both attendance and participation. The problem, of course, is that management must want both.

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