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HRD go myth-busting on implementing HR technology, with Dirk Jonker, CEO and Founder, Crunchr, and Maaike van Beijnen, Manager HR Analytics, AkzoNobel.
We all know that technology is transforming our roles irreversibly. HR technology, supported by a solid backbone of data, is making the HR function a central part of business strategy. Implementing this technology, on the other hand, continues to be a stumbling block for many organizations. Taking the financial restraints of business and rendering that commensurate with the need to put your people and organizational goals first, often puts HR into a state of paralysis. Add to that the potential challenges of implementation itself and you might think you have a positive case for inaction.
The truth, however, is quite the opposite. To prove it, HRD Connect sat down with an HR technology provider – Dirk Jonker, CEO and Founder of people analytics and workforce planning solution Crunchr – and an organization that has recently implemented their solution – Maaike van Beijnen, Manager HR Analytics, Netherlands-based multi-national company AkzoNobel – to discuss the entire journey, from awareness to offboarding, looking at the challenges faced, the hurdles overcome, and the rewards gained along the way.
MvB: For AkzoNobel being the reference in our industry also means it’s essential to have clear insights into how we’re performing. As an HR function, we’re continuously trying to improve our employee experience and to provide better support to our businesses in a scalable model. We want to make an impact with better-informed decisions, not only about our people but also about AkzoNobel as an organization. It is important we do this in an aligned way and we were looking for an automated solution that could help us achieve this. More specifically, an intelligent layer on top of our global HR system that would utilize the data we have – and make this accessible in an easy way.
MvB: Initially, we developed our HR dashboards in a generic BI solution but realized that we were running into a wall. If we were to scale that up, we’d have to investigate proper access controls and develop lots of HR functionality within the organization. Maintaining our dashboards started to take up a lot of time and development capacity which we – as a small team – did not have.
Teaming up with Crunchr meant that we could leverage the collective intellectual capability of their experience with other Crunchr clients. Allowing us to scale up our HR business support at a higher speed and as the HR analytics team focus on the implementation, change management and upskilling of our HR community instead of the technical development of a tool. As Crunchr is a specific tool for HR reporting & analytics, most of the functionality that our users were asking for came right out of the box.
DJ: We first discussed what success looks like and developed a game plan based on this. We defined the insights that were important to AkzoNobel and ensured that the data was available with clear definitions and help to improve the data quality where needed. The next step was to automate the monthly reporting to quickly give back time to the HR community. The implementation was fast; and unique too, because AkzoNobel did the adoption training themselves. We found this a great way of collaboration because it made the training much more tailored. We see the results back in the usage and adoption analytics.
MvB: The business case we created around our HR reporting and analytics solution was the trade-off between cost, time and effort. The cost it would take to further develop an HR dashboard in our BI solution including security for a worldwide roll-out, the time it would take us to develop the dashboard and the support it would offer to our HR community. Across these elements, Crunchr scored well.
Having a strong HR reporting and analytics tool gives a tremendous amount of time back to the HR community. The time that was previously spent on administrative activities such as retrieving reports from the system, cleaning the data and turning data into information can now be invested in providing insights to the business, taking focused actions and creating a better employee experience. This truly empowers our HR community and helps us to support our business better.
The second challenge was around data quality. During the implementation process, we validated the data in Crunchr. Crunchr quickly showed exactly where and how to improve the quality. We used this to manage expectations with the users of what they can see and what you can use it for. In this process, it was crucial to change people’s mindsets, by saying that Crunchr is now our one version of the truth and that this is how we will move forward.
DJ: As Maaike said, it’s managing expectations. Success is dependent on the data that is out there, the data quality and the capabilities of people to translate this information into valuable action. Even though companies quickly want to use our predictive capabilities, we always start with the foundation – and move fast from there.
The first phase is about organizing data in one place, improve data quality and build capabilities. This allows companies to see what you can do with their data, and start improving the data where it is inconsistent, incomplete or missing. We always say that we will build a skyscraper together, and therefore the foundation needs to be good.
The next phase is about efficiencies and giving time back by automating a lot of reports and helping people develop skills around data. This means solving questions like, “What are the metrics to look for?” “How can I start a new conversation with a business leader about metrics?”. Success is when all business partners can answer ad-hoc questions within 30 seconds during meetings. That’s empowering.
The third phase is the one that everybody super hyped about, which is about bringing effectiveness to the organization, to increase engagement and productivity. But, in order to reach that stage, you need to get the basics right first. That is the challenge. Companies always want to go very fast, but before you build the house, you need to build the foundations.
DJ: The biggest opportunity is to have a stable environment, where you democratize insights to answer the basic questions, quickly, across the entire employee experience cycle. That’s a major win because HR professionals grow confidence – and start using facts.
Then, slowly but surely, you start adding business-relevant metrics, because that’s the core of the HR function. To help the business, through the people in your organization, to increase productivity and develop talent. So, if you never mention any productivity numbers, then you never know if you’re having an effect.
MvB: I agree with Dirk. We see that now, in implementing Crunchr, you need to have the basics right. This means, first and foremost, that the data quality needs to be there – so HR managers can feel confident enough to report on the data and suggest actions to their management teams.
I think the biggest opportunity is for employee experience and customer experience to become exceptional. To do that, the tool involved needs to be very easy to use. There’s so much information, and so many different tools, that it can be overwhelming for HR managers. The employee experience and what you see on the screen needs to be easy to read, so you can easily find the right answers. We need to guide employees through a story so that they don’t have to create a story themselves, which we can then link up to business results. Because, at the end of the day, it’s nice if you can tell a story around your employees, but it makes so much more impact when we can link it to business results.
MvB: My piece of advice would have nothing to do with the technology itself, but everything to do with creating a compelling change story. Introducing excellent technology by itself will not get you where you need to be – it’s all about the people that use the technology. Making sure that they use it in the right way and that they keep using it consistently and continuously in the future. For that you need a compelling change story, to convince them that it’s worthwhile for them, and for the business. That means making sure that you have your key messages right, and that you can convince your employees that, in the moments that matter in the employee life cycle, the technology can make a difference for them.
DJ: Every user needs to see the value in the first five minutes. You need to show them that data can be your friend and wow them with the Art of the possible. Also, since this field is still very new, and is still developing, it’s important for HR technology providers to really co-create with all the clients they have because the users have the best ideas, not the developers.
MvB: I think, as an organization, you also need to think about where you are in terms of HR analytics maturity across the areas of capabilities, governance, data quality and the wider IT HR landscape. There are tools out there that say they can do advanced predictive analytics, but if you are not that advanced in the field of HR analytics yourself, then it’s not a good match.
MvB: We see it evolving around a seamless employee life cycle. It’s all about the employee experience and that, for the employee, HR manager or line manager, has not solely to do with implementing advanced technologies, but more to do with making the use of the technology seamless and easy to use in their roles.
DJ: When companies grow large and are in transformation, it’s difficult for business leaders and HR to still understand the bigger picture of people and organization. Do we retain our talent? How effective is our recruiting engine? Are people happy? Do we pay fair? It’s getting so complex that humans alone cannot do this anymore. Technology will support the HR function where they can make the most impact.
With this, I believe that the HR function is transforming back into a people development function. I see that as really their core – where technology supports identifying trends, and nudge to see where they can have the most impact in the organization by using data analytics.