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Analytics is on every HR practitioner’s mind at the moment. Some companies have already succeeded in implementing a system that would allow them to extract value out of information for HR purposes, while many are still struggling. We spoke to Volker Jacobs, Managing Director of CEB for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, member of CEB’s global leadership group, and the global head of CEB’s HRIS Excellence initiative. In his role, Volker and his team partner with C-suite executives to help them drive disproportionate business gains by more effectively optimising talent investments, identifying and reducing risk, and enabling and accelerating growth. Prior to CEB, Volker was Managing Partner of Baumgartner consulting and before this he was a strategic consultant at Anderson Consulting. HR Tech World Congress is excited to once again welcome CEB as a Sponsor of the event!

XrAHGHbN_400x400Please summarise your company’s offering in a few words

Insights, tools and actionable solutions to transform enterprise performance

Your presentation at HR Tech Europe 2015 focused on utilising analytics to drive transformation of HR functions. For those who were not at the event, what is the single most important message you wanted the audience to take away from the presentation?

Over the past year, only 15 percent of senior business leaders have changed a business decision in response to HR analytics. Despite investment and an explosion of data, the answer is not having access to more data. The solution lies in accessing the right HR data, and implementing the right training and technologies that enable HR to surface and communicate meaningful patterns and trends to influence business decisions and maximise return on investment.

Once again, going back to your presentation, you explained that analytics maturity comes in various levels. Which of the five stages you find to be the most challenging for organisations and why?CEB


Where many  companies struggle is the transition from focusing on an internal view(building “HR sophistication” – steps 1-3) to a business centric view (strengthening “business alignment” – steps 4 and 5). We have identified three areas for companies to address: Criticality – ensure that the focus of analytics resources is strictly and sustainably linked to business priorities. Capability – hire for and train HR professionals in business acumen and analytics techniques. And, Credibility – ensure analytics outcomes are easy to use, for example dashboards need to be accessible, and self-service tools for managers need to be intuitive.

One of the main challenges HR departments often face when trying to get insight from data through analytics is the speed with which large chunks of data come through and need to be processed. What is your advice to companies struggling to tame fast data?

Companies need to identify their specific questions for what we call “HR data enhancements”, which means making use of people related information that goes beyond conventional structured people data and taps into the area of “Big Data for HR”. There are lots of compelling questions to answer: “What are the skills needed in 3 to 5 years from now?”, “What new locations will provide the best future talent supply?” and many others are providing very significant business value from new types of people data. Once these specific “value questions” are identified, there is great new technology out there to make use of fast moving data and thus predict the future.

logo-cebWhat are the do’s and the don’ts for an organisation going through a transformation of its HR functions?

There are three areas that leaders need to be aware of if they are to avoid the “HR transformation death spiral.”

  1. The entry point of the death spiral are cost targets for the HR function set without aligning them to the business outcomes they need to drive.
  2. A common mistake is to focus on one or two of the elements of the future HR delivery model without fully considering all of the interdependencies; very often the focus goes to HR shared service organisations and their interaction with the HR business partner. But that is insufficient to fully understand and design the future model.
  3. Finally, is to look at the HR transformation as a turnkey project, often supported by a large team of external consultants. These turnkey approaches lack the buy-in and the continuous change of the HR function – a new house is built, but nobody knows how to operate the lighting system.

Our recommendation is to start a transformation with business value, through HR data and analytics. If the entire HR transformation is designed to improve talent related business decisions, companies will not enter into the transformation death spiral. The magic KPI to measure the success is the proportion of strategic business decisions informed by HR data.

What HR functions, in particular, absolutely must implement analytics in their day-to-day operations?

Two roles within the HR function are critical: The centres of excellence and the business partners. There has to be a good balance between analytics performed by the HR business partner organisation, and corporate centres of analytic excellence. The best companies have found ways to leave the business specific analytics activities with their business organisations and to leverage a corporate centers for scalable analytics tasks only.

What do you think the HR profession will look like in 2025?

We are observing a set of key trends that will form the workplace of the future:

  • Data (over)abundance and inaccessibility
  • Automation of knowledge work via machine intelligence
  • Empowerment of individuals via mobile and social technology
  • More complex company structures and markets
  • Generational shift in employee motivation and the social contract
  • Skill and expertise of individual employees that are networked and searchable

The HR profession will not only adapt to this new way of working, but they will lead the way there. Innovation and business acumen are key!

Why did you decide to have CEB take part in the HR Tech World Congress?

This year’s HR Tech event promises to be more thought-provoking than ever before – we will be revealing unique talent insights and address some of the most pressing HR challenges.

It provides a hugely valuable platform for CEB to connect with and learn from industry peers, and share our latest talent data, innovations and technologies to help reinvent and prepare HR for the workplace of the future.


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