What's the limit of People Analytics?

Hi Al! Question for you that I’ve been wondering about - in what scenario does People Analytics fail to solve a crucial HR problem? Are there critical HR processes where People Analytics does not help?

Hi, Richard! Congratulations on the birth of your son, Jack. SUPER SUPER excited for you all! To your question, and I sense you may have consciously or subconsciously lit the fire that’s been burning inside of me for the past 25+ years. This fire relates to what is known as “performance management.” I place “performance management” in quotes because I don’t believe it’s the right language, thus it’s not the right data, not the right process, not the right technologies, etc. Most performance management processes are looking to allocate compensation, distribute rewards, and identify “high performers.” The concept (and language) is very old in management thinking and is supposed to be a critical process of any “high performing” organization. The thing is, and this gets to your question about People Analytics (PA) failing to solve a crucial HR problem: people/employees/workers want to Contribute, not “perform.” They also want to be viewed for what they contribute over time and not over the short-sighted window that’s a quarter, 6 month period, or even a year (depending). Also, considering idiosyncratic rater effect, ratings often speak more to the rater that the people being rated. Rating people also assuming an omniscient, unbiased perspective by the rater.
Even with these truths in mind, PA is still takes this data, data that is widely known to be poor or blatantly inaccurate, and tries to build a confidence-inspiring story around it. As a result, many people become disengaged. They know they, and others who might provide critical value/contributions yet lack high performance ratings, are likely being overlooked by PA and, in turn, the leaders that consumer such information; and, even when they are being considered in such data and analysis, they’re likely placed into a sub-cluster deemed less important. This approach lacks creativity and humanity; and PA is often the customer of such data and does not take the initiative to change it. So, as we proceed over time PA leaders and professionals, in my view, must be much more assertive, creative, and courageous to bring about positive change in the process formerly known as performance management (shout out to Prince). What should it be instead? What do call it? The answer lies in the culture leaders want to create. I do, though, advocate the discussions focus on (1) past contributions, (2) development, (3) future contributions (intentions), (4) resourcing, and (5) ideas. Such a structure will enhance engagement with both the supervisor and direct report, and it’ll also generate data that can help identify key contributors (those who contribute more than others over time), fast movers (those who learn faster and more over time), and other insights that, to date, have proved elusive. In summary, if I’d like to see PA assert itself more and help HR, leaders, and workers, it’s in this process. Hope this helps, and to humanizing the work experience for the benefit of all!

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