HRExaminer Radio Executive Conversations Badge Podcast Logo

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations: On Friday mornings, John Sumser interviews key executives from around the industry. The conversation covers what makes the executive tick and what makes their company great.

HRx Radio – Executive Conversations

Guest: David Green, Executive Director and Member of the Board, Insight222
Episode: 362
Air Date: April 24, 2020




Important: Our transcripts at HRExaminer are AI-powered (and fairly accurate) but there are still instances where the robots get confused and make errors. Please expect some inaccuracies as you read through the text of this conversation. Thank you for your understanding.

Full Transcript with timecode

John Sumser: Good morning and welcome to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations. I’m your host, John Sumser, and today we’re going to be talking with David Green from Insight222. David, if you pay attention to people analytics, and not everybody in the audience does, but if you pay attention to people analytics, David is everywhere.

[00:00:33] He runs, he runs an operation called Insight222 which helps organizations create cultural and economic value and is part of which is an online Knowledge Academy. David, you’ve got such a long list of things. Why don’t you take a moment and introduce yourself so that people get a clear picture.

[00:00:55] David Green: Thanks John. Well, firstly, thank you very much for having me on the show. As you can probably tell, your listeners can tell I’m British, but please don’t hold that against me. I’m a father, husband and fervant fan of Liverpool football club, so they’re the most important things. So, and as John said, we’ve been, we created Insight222 about two and a half years ago now, and it’s a professional service firm dedicated to the field of people analytics, one of the fastest growing areas in HR.

[00:01:22] I also do what John does, some is doing at the moment. I host a podcast on, it’s a digital HR leader’s podcast. And before the world changed. I used to spend quite a lot of time at HR conferences, speaking and then chairing sometimes. So I was the main stage moderator at the unleash conference in Paris last year.

[00:01:38] So that’s kind of me. I managed to fit quite a lot into my time, but probably worth far too long hours like probably a lot of you.

[00:01:45] John Sumser: I don’t imagine that as a young boy, just learning how to ride a bike in your idle hours, you thought what I really want to do is become a conference chair and executive consultant on people analytics. How did you get from being a normal person into this horrid rut?

[00:02:04] David Green: Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny that. When I was a young boy I dreampt to being either a cricket player, which will probably alienate me from a lot of the your audience or a rock star, so I failed quite decently in that respect. So I got into this by accident, like a lot, a lot of us, I kind of fell into the HR space all in the late nineties I worked as a recruiter sales leader, and then a consultant.

[00:02:24] I moved to the South of France with my now wife in 2004 and we spent seven years there and our two wonderful kids. And I worked for a tech firm that specialized in the travel industry. And part of what we did was we provided data driven insights to customers, which are the airlines and travel agencies.

[00:02:40] I help them run their business. And then we started evolving that, some of those insights into analytics space products. And I started thinking, why didn’t we do this when I was in HR? Because we connect a hell of a lot of data. So in the recruiting process, throughout the talent management life cycle, but it seems that a lot of decisions about who we hire, who we promote, uh, everything around the whole time, the managers seem to be very much around based on opinion or by chance.

[00:03:06] Um, so when I moved back to the UK 2011, um, I came back into HR, uh, and specifically the area of recruitment, process outsourcing. And I started doing some research. The research uncovered that there were some companies who were using that people data, so provided insight to support, better decision making around people, but also actually helping the employees themselves.

[00:03:27] And the more I researched about people analytics or more interested in fascinated, I became, I’d actually had a cricket blog since 2009 so I took some of the learnings from creating a blog and being reasonably successful with that. In terms of getting people to read it, I started creating content around people, analytics and mobile by an accident of timing, I think, than anything else.

[00:03:47] People seem to be quite interested in it. And I got asked to come and speak at conferences, which is quite funny because he wasn’t an expert. As I told them, I just went with it. I had no idea really what I was, where it would take me. Then I got approached by IBM, joined IBM, and of 2015 so my hobby effectively, or one of my hobbies almost became my job and then also a couple of years at IBM, which were very enjoyable, ni and a few others that I’ve met in this space.

[00:04:10] We set up insight two to two and that kind of brings us to where we are today. So tell me about the side two too. Two. Yeah. I mean, people aren’t in six. I mean, you’ve been talking about people unless it’s an HR and they take, while the way he’s explaining cool for quite a while, and it seems like the sort of slowly growing area of HR, which to me seems to have grown much faster in the last couple of years.

[00:04:30] And actually something wanting to do at IBM really. And I worked in the part of IBM that was more around providing products. It was the X connect. Yes, connects the business. And what I saw is that people needed less products around people. And because they needed help, they need help to get started.

[00:04:45] Whether they were organizations or people analytics needed help to create more value, create more traction, and create more focus. So Jonathan Fry, who I used to work with that Insight222 and now Adamson, someone I know, you know. Well John and ask you some other people we just saw, we’d all kind of worked in this space and we felt that the people, analytics teams and leaders themselves need something a little bit different.

[00:05:07] So we set up Insight222 and it kind of provides three main areas. I’d say. One is, it’s an advisory firm for the head of people analytics, typically in global firms. And we’re working with around 70 or those companies worldwide now. And we facilitate meetings, we provide content, um, and we provide advisory to those companies.

[00:05:27] Some of those companies and others want to go a bit deeper and do consulting. And on the consulting side, we’re very much not doing the analytics. We’re helping them with things like stakeholder planning, with things like creating and operating model, all stuff around so they can drive more value and create more impact in people analytics and help them focus on the areas that need to be improving.

[00:05:46] And we do that far a diagnostic tools that a few of us, Jonathan and I, created a couple of years ago. And then the other part is the part. So this is in recognition really. The actually, you know, it’s not just about creating a team. A people analytics team, you also need to create that more data driven culture within the wider HR function.

[00:06:04] And also it’s not just around the data, it’s around the digital part as well. So we did some research when we were setting up my HR future and we went out to, uh, we first went out to our clients. We also went out to HR practitioners themselves and we say, what skills do you want to learn? And it came back and they said, we want to learn about people analytics.

[00:06:21] We want to learn more about strategic work. Was finding an org design. We want to learn more about digital technologies and design thinking, and we want to learn some of the soft skills around all of those areas, such as consulting and infancy and stakeholder management. So we basically then set up the HR future Academy to provide online training around that and the scope, and again, on not the tech expert here, but you create your own learning pathway on there based on your interests.

[00:06:44] So you can take some of the courses on there, which are either delivered by. People in outpatient needs. So we go out to other experts or real experts like the people rich and it’s ERP by people analytics professional. You can learn about how to use Python to network analytics. If you’re an HR business partner, you can learn that sort of basics of people under their six and an ounce of how database conversations and frame business questions.

[00:07:04] So it’s kind of a learning and learning, consulting and networking business. And quick summary.

[00:07:10] John Sumser: So I’m sure that this has changed fairly dramatically recently, but what does a typical day look like to get your fingers in a lot of pies?

[00:07:18] David Green: Well, it used to in both a lot of travel, but at the moment involves traveling from the bedroom to the office quite early in the morning.

[00:07:23] So we’ve got a young dog who decides that he should bark at six o’clock every morning. But typically it will involve, you know, work with clients, which could be some advisory. Um, it could be some more detailed consulting, usually, obviously that would be delivered face to face. The company’s thing delivered, virtually eats around creating at the moment, a lot of the
[00:07:44] Facilitated meetings that we host with our clients, uh, are being done virtually. So for instance, yesterday we did two one hour sessions with clients all talking about how their people analytics teams are responding to COVID-19. Some of the things that they’re getting involved with and some of the challenges that they’re facing.

[00:08:01] So it’s that kind of idea that you shared learning, collaborate, and learn from each other. He’s doing quite a few webinars, to be perfectly honest with you. And then it’s just research and writing really. So I guess the big difference between hitting now the situation we’re in and prior to that is I would spend quite a lot of time on the road, uh, particularly in, uh, in the U S and in Europe.

[00:08:22] Either going to conferences or doing work on site with clients.

[00:08:26] John Sumser: Isn’t it nice to not have jet lag all the time?

[00:08:29] David Green: It is, it is in a way. I wish it didn’t have to be the situation that we’re in because we mustn’t forget that actually quite a lot of people are dying out there and a lot of people are sick. But you know, from a personal perspective, it’s actually been quite nice not to travel.

[00:08:41] It’s been nice to spend more time with my kids and the, yeah, I’m not sure. I’m not sure how long I can do it before I get cabin fever, to be perfectly honest. But you, the kids have definitely got cabin fever. But we’re lucky, as I said earlier, we live in the country, so we’re, you know, we’re allowed out once a day to do some exercise.

[00:08:57] So we, you know, we can take the dog out for a wall and there’s plenty of areas to walk. So we’re lucky in that respect, and we have a garden and then, you know, and stuff like that. So, you know, we’re really lucky compared to a lot of people in this situation.

[00:09:12] John Sumser: So we’ve been talking about people analytics, but we didn’t really define it.
[00:09:15] What does people analytics mean to you?

[00:09:18] David Green: Well, I think the first thing to say, it’s not about HR, it’s about the business. It’s not about starting with the data, it’s about starting with a business problem. You know, really unveiling what are the questions that you have essentially are ask answer by using data and then using that data to provide insights that inform decision making.

[00:09:36] And hopefully because you’re using data, you’re making better and fair decisions. That’s really what it is for me. And as I said, the leading team, but we see that we are working with, you know, they’re focusing on business challenges such as things like customer retention, productivity, sales, performance.

[00:09:52] They’re not trying to justify the ROI, but learning budget, if you see what I mean. Now, obviously the people, the HR programs all then come into that because what are the, the HR programs could be leavers that help drive. Sales, performance, productivity, et cetera, but he’s answering business challenges and understanding the people dynamics, all of that.

[00:10:09] And then how people data can help probably by blending it with some business data to give you some insights. So actually improve productivity and understand sales performance on a granular level.

[00:10:19] John Sumser: So if one of the things that really has my attention right now is for a lot of the things that we have built over the last decade depend on a stable business environment where good is the same as up and to the right.

[00:10:33] Continuous growth over time in a sustained up curve, and now all of that historical data is suspect. Yeah. Every process is under examination doing the same old things with social. If you just added social distance too. To doing the same old things, it would distort all of the numbers. And so what does people analytics do when there’s a sort of a data free fall?

[00:10:59] How do you reconcile the fact that this is a data oriented initiative and the data just exploded.

[00:11:07] David Green: Well, it certainly changed the game describes it, but that is for sure. And I think the, you know, certainly a lot of the teams that we’re working with meet either most or all of their work now is devoted to doing stuff related to this crisis that we’re in.

[00:11:20] Whether that is getting dashboards ready for executives to help them make decisions, understand simple things like who’s sick, who’s at risk, understanding the caregiver side of it. So with suddenly, you know, I’m fortunate. My wife doesn’t work, so she’s actually acting as a teacher now, so our two kids, I’m not having to do that, but I know several people who are now effectively only working half their time because they have to teach their kids for the rest of the time and they share it with their partner, understanding wellbeing.

[00:11:47] Suddenly we’ve got all our, pretty much all our workers working from home, those that aren’t critical workers and having to be in the office. And that for a lot of people, that’s completely new. So that’s using people analytics teams too, to understand basic things. Do people have the tools they need to do their job?

[00:12:03] But it’s also then understanding things around potentially around collaboration, around burnout, around as one organization I spoke to yesterday, they’re saying they’re actually using the employee surveys they are doing to understand a number of their people who are now home are worried they haven’t got enough.

[00:12:18] And they can’t get out to get the food. So they are actually organizing food parcels for them and stuff like that. So, you know, when we studied digging depo with a lot of the people I’ve been speaking to, they’re not necessarily measuring engagement now, you know, there is there. So none of them, you know, the rallies to the flag type thing in a crisis and engagement schools are probably going up in many organizations, particularly promoted employees.

[00:12:39] Obviously you’ve still got a job. Because they’re just delighted to have a job, to be perfectly honest with you, you can kind of rally around at times like that. So the focus is shifting more to allow to around wellbeing, but you’re right, very difficult to use some of the historical data. So I think a lot of the teams are now collecting new data and in understanding the themes that they might want

[00:12:57] To all employees around in a survey, in surveys, which they are doing. Most organizations are doing more regularly at the moment, they might be actually doing text analytics and NLP or maybe some of the comments and questions in, in public forums, maybe in town halls, maybe on questions that are going to service send to HR service centers and it service centers.

[00:13:16] So they kind of saying what the key topics and themes are that employees are talking about or thinking about. And then they can ask specific targeted questions around that and then they can actually take action on them. I think a lot of the work that people analytics teams were doing is probably on the shelf for the time being, whilst they deal with the here and now this crisis.

[00:13:34] John Sumser: So I wonder the question of what does the firefighters do after the firefighter is over the one that has my attention about people analytics. It’s really, really exciting to see. I sit in the Visier conferences and they do amazing stuff. Working to deploy data against the crisis, but when the crisis is over, where are they?

[00:14:00] And so I wonder if you’re helping people think about how to land after the crisis is done.

[00:14:06] David Green: It’s a good question and I think there’s a lot of stuff out there at the moment. You’re probably reading some of it as well, and people are kind of protecting what’s going to happen in the postcode world. And talking about the next normal than you know, more, whatever they want to call it.

[00:14:21] I think we’re in such an abnormal situation at the moment. It’s difficult to envisage what’s next and when, you know, this crisis seems to be, you know, developing day by day. And I don’t, I’m no expert, I’m not a health expert, but the way I look at it, I think we’re going to be in this situation for quite some time.

[00:14:35] Yet some organizations are starting to look to, okay, what next? So I think we can to have some form of social distancing. And locked down for some time. So a lot of the organizations, particularly retail companies that we’re working with, are thinking, okay, once we’re allowed to open again, we’ve got to respect the social distancing.

[00:14:56] So we need to put visors, for example, within our cash tills, we need to think about what is the optimal number of employees we can actually have in the retail outlet at any one time. Given that we need to respect social distancing. We need to think about how we manage the number of potential customers coming into the store because of social distancing.

[00:15:15] So and people analytics teams are getting involved in some of these conversations. Then if we think about our offices, I know that there are conversations going on. I saw some research from Gartner around this that CFOs are already planning for all the people that are currently newly remote won’t necessarily be coming back into the office.

[00:15:33] Partly, I suspect that that’s been driven by CFOs, that thinking about Colton and stuff like that, but also there is the practicality that not everyone’s going to be able to come back into the office anyway, depending on what country or city or area, because there will still be some form of social distancing.

[00:15:46] So then people, analytics teams will be an get involved in actually helping their organizations work at which employees come back and when and which ones will be at home. Do you prioritize by job role. Or do the start to think about things like, actually our caregivers are having a very hard time of it at the moment, being at home.

[00:16:05] Maybe we should prioritize them versus those that haven’t got children or elderly relatives to the Carter, and actually probably quite happy working from home. So there’s all those sorts of questions that are coming up. But you know, I’ve seen, I’ve seen some stuff that you’ve written, John, as well, and I tend to agree with you that I’m not sure we can start talking about a new normal just yet.

[00:16:26] Um, but at least they’re all plans going on. Uh, organizations and people, analytics teams will be helping to develop those scenario plans. So their Execs.

[00:16:35] John Sumser: Yeah. You might take a look. This’ll be where I plug myself for just a second. You might take a look at this new series that we’ve started called small scenarios.

[00:16:43] The idea of small scenarios is you can’t predict what the shuttling place looks like. But you can tell now what the issues are that you need to attend to, to be in a position to land. Well, when it becomes obvious where that is, there are things like it was a lot. There’s a lot of stuff in HR that is delivered based on a prediction.

[00:17:08] That’s essentially a random distribution that’s level over time or recently where nobody’s got a bereavement leave. Budget. Everybody just assumes that the members of the employee’s families will die at a relatively steady pace that’s randomly distributed across the population. Then you can afford to give three days worth of leave. But that bet may be off. Right? What do you do when everybody wants bereavement leave all at once and you don’t have the capacity to grant that request because it’ll shut the business though. And how do you handle that and how do you think about that? Those seem to me to be sort of operational questions that are not who’s sick and who’s healthy and herb and get the office started, but we want the business continuity in this environment, and so we’re hunting for the issues. Anyhow, this series that we’re doing, is going to be 10 or 12 single issue, two page reports that tackle something like bereavement leave as an object for study with recommendations about how to do that. So take a look at that.

Now. Next on the list is what do you think the relationship between AI and people analytics is?

[00:18:19] David Green: Well, I suppose the first thing is there really true AI in the HR space.

[00:18:22] And I do like reading your articles about this.

[00:18:29] I’m a bit of a skeptic. Uh, I must admit that there does seem to be an increasing amount of use of machine learning across, you know. All the talent lifecycle in different sorts of levels. And I think whether there is a relationship, definitely is a lot of companies in be using machine learning to help personalize HR programs.

[00:18:47] So, you know, usually in the old days or suddenly when I started out, if you wanted to go learning, you went and looked at the training directory and you try, you trolled through about a hundred pages and eventually you founded the course, found the call set might be suitable for you. Oh, what a lot of organizations obviously doing at the moment is they’re actually pushing relevant learning to people based on the insulin, their skills, based on the career paths that they say they want to take with any organization based on need, I guess for the organization as well.

[00:19:13] Okay. Someone’s got skills one, two, and three. There’s a good chance they’d be able to acquire skill four and five points. Actually, we need more supply moving forward. So I think we are seeing that personalization a little bit in HR if they try programs. So she’s good and you can’t really do any of that without data.

[00:19:27] You don’t understand people’s current skills and career desires and potential skills, adjacency. You can’t recommend learning courses for them. I think the organizations that will create these types of AI or machine learning based products are the ones that are, have to develop that capability and people analytics.

[00:19:44] And I think the other connection really is where I see a lot of the people analytics teams now of getting this in their wheelhouse is, you know, they’re either working with a vendor or a series of vendors, and a lot of them are actually building their own analytics based products as well. And then you’re seeing some of the people analytics things are going the more advanced ones, you’re seeing those, they’re hiring developers.

[00:20:03] They’re hiring UX tech, they’re hiring people that have worked in technology companies who can actually go out and make sure that there’s adoption and all that sort of stuff, and collect requirements and kind of maintain and enhance those products as they move forward. So I think that’s the relationship.

[00:20:17] And I think if you look at your average HR professional and your average people analytics professional, then the skills or the on the six professionals are much closer to those required to do effectively building products. So I think that’s where I see the relationship.

[00:20:30] John Sumser: Thanks. That’s great answer. So people analytics involves quantifying people, and that raises a host of ethical questions. What do you think the top issues are? What do you think the top issues are.

[00:20:43] David Green: Well for me, I think it’s the most important part of people analytics, and I think the danger is it’s not necessarily coming from the people analytics teams themselves, it’s from people interpreting some of those insights and maybe without the requisite knowledge, just applying some of those insights across the board.

[00:21:00] So this is why I think it’s important that in people analytics, or at least part of it needs to sit in HR because then you can underpin some of the constitutive work. Uh, sorry. Yeah, we’d be IO psychology part as well. So actually interpreting some of these insights from a people perspective. I think that’s important.

[00:21:15] And I think certainly what we recommend. And we help companies do is actually create an ethics charter for the use of people. Data. Don’t just go out there blind the, I mean, if we believed everything that we hear on the vendor market, you know, eBay is dangerous and I think there’s stuff that needs out there to be tested and validated a little bit better than the ACE, and some vendors are doing a better job of that than others.

[00:21:36] Let’s be honest. And, but yeah, from an ethics part of it, I would say to people, would you want these, the work you’re doing, getting into the New York times, number one, number two, could you have a conversation with an employee in the canteen about the work you’re doing? And if you can’t articulate what the benefit would be to the employee, then maybe you shouldn’t do that.

[00:21:53] So, and this is about involving the right people at the asset before you do anything. So that’s not just people from compliance and legal, that’s actually involving employee representative groups, you know, works councils in Europe, other breakfasts groups around the world. And actually getting people’s buying, being transparent about what you’re doing, of why.

[00:22:11] What the benefit is to the organization, but what the benefit is to the people providing the data. And I think we as consumers, we’re quite happy to give up our data, you know, mainly because we see personal benefit in it. And I think the same applies in the workplace. I think Extensure did some research about a year and a half ago now.

[00:22:28] They surveyed around 12,000 employees and 92% of those employees that they were happy for their organization to collect data about them as long as they got personal benefit from it. I think that’s gotta be the real underlying aim of all this stuff that we’re doing and people analytics and HR. Is there a fair exchange of value to the value for us and having that data.

[00:22:46] So it may be support with workforce planning and better decisions around people, or what’s the value to the employee as well. And I think that’s the important part for me. You know, and I think the risks of people analytics as a discipline, if some companies get it wrong, it’s quite high. So I think we all need to come together as a community and make sure as much as we can, that we’re all doing the right things.

[00:23:05] John Sumser: Well, we’ve blown, this has been very, very interesting, and we’ve blown through our half an hour. Is there anything you want to be sure that the listeners take away?

[00:23:13] David Green: Well, I think there’s a couple of things. Firstly, I think we have to say at the moment, is stay safe. stay well and stay inside. You know, it’s as simple as that really. You know, this is a big challenge and my heart goes out to anyone out there that’s suffering personally from this, you know? From a people analytics perspective. Just if you’re an HR professional and not necessarily people analytics professional. Well you’re involved in this as well. You know, you don’t have to become a data scientist or anything like that, but you do need to be able to understand your business, you know, and you start with a business problem, you know, and talk to stakeholders, understand their challenges, and think about the people element of that and work together with your people. analytics team.

[00:23:47] And to those organizations that are thinking of getting started in people analytics, just get started, you know we’ve all got challenges that you’re trying to solve. You know, if it’s as simple as just providing the right information to executives so they can make decisions, it could be as simple as that.

[00:24:00] You know, just get started.

[00:24:02] John Sumser: Fantastic. So thanks for doing this. And if you would, take a minute and reintroduce yourself and tell people how to get in touch.

[00:24:10] David Green: Again, John, thanks for having me on the show. You can find me on LinkedIn. David Green. There’s quite a few. David Green’s, but I’m probably the only David Green who writes about people analytics.

[00:24:18] I’m on Twitter at David underscore, green, underscore UK, and if you want to check out my HR future, it’s

[00:24:29] John Sumser: Thanks again David it’s been a treat. You’ve been listening to HR Examiner’s Executive Conversations. We’ve been talking with David Green from Insight222. Thanks for tuning in today, and we will see you back here next week. Same time, same place. Bye bye now.

Read previous post:
Employer Brand and The Rules of Your Tribe

“When you live your cultural values and you can clearly define the rules of the tribe, the employer brand isn’t...