Data is only valuable if it is useful both to the organisation as a whole and the people who use it. So how do you make data valuable to 2.2 million employees?
Elpida Orminadou is Vice President of Global People Analytics at Walmart, her dream is that all of Walmart’s employees should use data and analytics in their work. This is currently one of Walmart’s top strategic priorities, with the aim being that data analytics is going to be the thing that takes this retail giant into the future. However, being a company with 2.2 million employees, 65,000 managers and 11,000 stores, implementing this is no small challenge.
So what are her key ingredients?
- Executive sponsorship is critical: this may sounds obvious but it’s still worth mentioning. With such a large workforce the enthusiasm for analytics must cascade right from the top.
- It’s not about the data, it’s about the insights: data alone is not valuable, however the way the data is used can be immensely valuable. There are two key questions you should ask: ‘What for?’ and ‘So what?’ – start with a clear reason for wanting analytics and end with insights which can guide decisions.
- Cross-functional relationships: organisational data is most powerful when there is consistency across the organisation.
- Hire, engage and retain top talent: know the priorities in your employee criteria. At Walmart diversity in thinking can be more valuable than technical skills when hiring. Many people spend more time at work than they do anywhere else so work must be meaningful and engaging. Combining this with a desirable working environment is key for retention.
Driving Value Through an Analytics Maturity Model
A key emphasis for Walmart is the value of insights, clearly just having the data is not enough – you want to drive as much value as possible from insights. To enable this for their employees they use an analytics maturity model.
Step 1: Collect and clean the data – this may be a lengthy step in the process but unfortunately it doesn’t result in immediate value. The quality of data sources, appropriate reporting and analytics on demand all help to build a solid foundation. (For more on cleaning data see our blog, 4 strategies to ensure data quality).
Step 2: The data you have will give you information about now and the past. This is the first step to building value and will give you an initial insight into the current state of the organisation.
Step 3: When data becomes really powerful it gives us the knowledge to model predictions about what may happen in the future. This knowledge can then be used for intelligent optimisation and innovation in order to drive business improvement. This is why data is so valuable and why so many HR departments are looking to exploit their data.
What does success look like?
Elpida’s team is delivering all of this across the business. The senior team are responsible for aligning the initiative to the company strategy, thought leaders establish expertise by area and specialists are consulted on technical points such as statistics and psychology.
By the end of the program the hope is that all of Walmart’s workforce will be analytically minded. Data analytics will be the key driver pushing Walmart into the future. Initiatives like these highlight the benefit of intuitive, user-friendly tools to engage an entire organisation in the power of data.
The mood at HR Tech Congress
There is a real sense that HR has now finally begun its long needed transformation to becoming a technology friendly and business savvy function. But while practitioners now realise the value of data, the key is to focus. There is a lot of data and a lot of business initiatives. HR must focus on the high value questions to the business and demonstrate explicitly the connections between HR and business impact. Only by doing this will the function move along the HR analytics maturity model as only then will the business buy in.