How do you break down data silos?

Hey Al,

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Talking to some individuals implementing people analytics, a common issue I’ve heard is that it’s tough to get people to buy-in and provide necessary data. Some departments are slow to respond to data requests, or sometimes actively fight against those requests. Employees asked to complete surveys are reluctant to do so.

For those who are trying to help an organization and its people, what have you found works to break down those silos?

Hi, Clark. Thanks for your question. There’s no easy way and if we were together I’d ask a host of questions about you and your organization before offering ideas. One key question is this: Does your firm have a governance body overseeing employee experience, talent strategy, culture, or similar? If not, why not? People analytics and the insight that the discipline generates should have a clearly defined purpose and this purpose needs to be communicated to key stakeholders as well as the workforce; and this purpose needs to be communicated repeatedly over time supported by examples. Some examples might be successes featuring positive individual, team, group, or organizational outcomes. Other examples might highlight decisions that stopped a particular project because it was thought to compromise an ethical principal. In the end, if there’s no trust building mechanism around people data and analytics then it’s simply unreasonable to expect needed partners (finance, operations, IT, etc.) and workers (employees, contractors, etc.), to provide any data. What’s in it for them? If this question can’t be answered, then being reluctant is an appropriate response. If it can be answered, and answered in a confidence-inspiring way, then the propensity to respond and participate over time will most assuredly be higher.

Now, regarding silos: Same thing, a host of questions. I’ll just pick one or two. Do you all have an enterprise Center of Expertise (CoE) around analytics? If so, great. Is it formal or informal. Are there common practices, ethics guidelines, resource sharing, cross-discipline projects? If not, why not? This needs to happen and, strangely enough, HR/PA professionals are uniquely positioned to facilitate such a group. Where we’re going, and in many respects we’re already there, is moving from functional analytics and strategies to holistic analytics and strategies. In a recent article I wrote, I advocate for the design of Work Strategies, strategies that account for employees, contractors, outsource providers, AI, digitization, globalization, gig economy, partnerships (with start-ups and scale-ups). Taken all together, these and other constituents capture how and organization does work. Trouble is, we haven’t designed our management structure and processes to align with this new reality. This echos what’s now being put forth by McKinsey, Mercer, WTW, Deloitte, IBM, and Josh Bersin. We need to management models to deal with the speed and nature of the new realities. Of course, this is a big solve to your seemingly simple question. Even so, it’s imminent, and forming what are currently cross-functional teams to solve multi-dimensional business problems is no longer a nice to have. It’s essential. Hope this helps; and thanks again for your question!