Q&A with Randstad’s Graham Trevor: Part II: The Transformative Power of People Analytics

In Part I of our conversation with Graham Trevor, an HR director at global recruitment consultancy Randstad, we explored the value of using data to measure recruiting outcomes and how to build an effective data initiative. In Part II, Graham offers his take on the emerging practice of people analytics.

Interest in people analytics has spiked dramatically over the past year. Why do you think that is?

There’s just tremendous potential in people analytics. Personally, I love data and people analytics has transformed the way I work with leadership and how I focus my team. It helps me ensure that the interventions we’re doing to improve outcomes are meaningful to the business. It’s quite rewarding for HR to be able to say, “this is what we did and why” and “here’s the benefit of those efforts on your business.” I’m able to measure every aspect, from pre-intervention through to the very end of our process. It’s very powerful when you get it right.

Can you share an example that illustrates this point?

We’ve used people analytics to uncover insights about failure rates among new hires. Specifically, we looked closely at new hires who left within their first year of service. We merged our GR8 People data with our HRIS data in order to track the end-to-end process and understand the various aspects at play. We were able to assess which locations have the highest new start to failure rate and at what point in their tenure new hires failed, as well as why they failed. We were also able to track which recruiters have statistically lower new start to failure rates and how attributes like source of hire have an impact.

The key is aggregating all the different sources of people data for a holistic view of what’s happening, which begins the moment the candidate applies for a job and continues across recruiting, onboarding and performance management. It’s only by looking at all of this that you can arrive at clear insights as to why new hires fail and, most importantly, what to do in response. We’ve uncovered powerful metrics we can measure people against and have realized a decrease in new hire failure rate as a result.

How are you using people analytics for predictive purposes?

Our focus from a predictive analytics perspective is on employee engagement and correlation to labor turnover. It’s a big part of our business because we’re a sales organization and, as such, have experienced relatively high turnover. We turned to predictive analytics to forecast future labor attrition based on engagement scores. While we do look at why people leave and how that ties to things such as source of hire, the emphasis is on predicting who is going to leave so that we can implement an intervention. In terms of recruiting, this forecast informs us of future talent needs so that we can build relevant talent pools in advance.

What drawbacks, if any, have you seen as related to people analytics?

Data should never replace human interaction. Data is exciting, and we have dashboards for everything. I’ve even been described as “data obsessed.” But you need to strike a balance. Data is only one piece of the puzzle, and it should never be a substitute for the powerful conversations that you need to have with employees and managers. Data should drive the conversation, but we’re all human and nobody wants to be at the end of technology with no human interaction.

This holds true even among the next generation of workers coming into our organization. Yes, they’re tech-savvy, and they want everything on their smartphone. But they still want a rich experience that includes actually talking to someone.

When you pair relevant, detailed data with insights gleaned through conversations, that’s when you’ll have the best chance of making a big difference to the business.