Last year I had the tremendous honour to announce the appointment of professor Bart Baesens from the renowned University of Leuven as our company’s academic adviser. It was like a dream come true. After all, Baesens is an absolute authority on data mining and predictive analysis. Having spent the past few years touring the world, his expertise is hot. HR is an entirely new domain for him, as he usually advises huge multinationals and financial institutions on issues such as credit scoring, fraud scoring and customer churn modelling. So getting to know each other was an interesting experience. Are we doing well? Have we built up enough analytical expertise? The tough verdict came after a few weeks of intensive reconnaissance. As an industry, HR is ”Analytically speaking… about ten years behind.” Oops!
A very loud wake-up call
Baesens explains, “Our faculty has been applying the analytical models ten years ago that most HR departments only now seem to have started working with.” A staggering fact. So collaborating with us will constantly be like changing to a lower gear for him. But, at the same time, it’s also really captivating and it could well make him hark back to the pioneering days of predictive analytics. Nevertheless, his assessment should actually be a wake-up call for HR, and a really loud one at that. I keep on wondering how we let the situation come this far in HR.
Battling basic functionalities
At this point I should actually go one step back: while Baesens is busy with predictive analysis, many HR departments – particularly those in large multinationals – are still battling the basic functionalities of reporting. Because they are often grown into new markets from takeovers and quick introductions, complex organisations are often unable to develop good descriptive analyses, not to mention predictive ones.
Not ready for advanced analytical models
It might be hard to believe, but I get them every week: companies that can’t tell me what their employee structure looks like, who find calculating staff turnaround a challenge, and where salary benchmarking between various countries and staff groups is a total impossibility. Again and again it’s a tell-tale sign for me that they’re not ready for advanced analytical models.
You won’t get anywhere without executive sponsoring
Based on this, it’s really not surprising that an HR leader who barely got his basics in order is not able to present a strong business case for predictive analytics to his management either. And without this executive sponsoring, you may as well forget it. Predictive HR analytics is business analytics, and, as such, require management sponsoring. And if your basics aren’t in order, you won’t get this support. Ten years behind…Oops!