The best HR & People Analytics articles of November 2020

In the September collection of resources, I reflected that 2020 has been without doubt the busiest year of my professional life despite (or perhaps because of) barely leaving my home since March.

Since writing those words I’ve been contacted by numerous people in my network to tell me that the same has been true for them. Several studies that have been published this year confirm that for many of us the pandemic has meant longer working hours, an increased blurring between home and work and the additional challenges involved in doing this all remotely.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. Those of us in this ‘predicament’ who are still working are fortunate given what else is happening in the world. Nevertheless, I have the same concerns that Michael Arena shared with me in our recent podcast discussion about the impact remote working is having on wellness, burnout and mental health.

Despite the positive news on vaccines, most signals would suggest that we are going to have to endure lockdowns and more or less exclusive remote working for some time yet. I wonder how many of us will continue to cope with the unrelenting pace of it all.

One positive thing to emerge from the crisis we’ve observed in our work at Insight222 has been the pivotal role played by HR and People Analytics teams in many organisations during the crisis. Just as People Analytics teams at companies like Microsoft and IBM were elevated through the vital work they did during the Global Financial Crisis, so have numerous People Analytics teams we work with at Insight222 during this crisis.

November’s collection of resources includes research we’ve just published at Insight222 into how people analytics can deliver value at scale by taking an outside-in approach focused on business challenges. This is complemented by articles from practitioners like Robert Kruzel (Uber), Dawn Klinghoffer (Microsoft), Ben Teusch (Facebook), Adam McKinnon (QBE), Isabel Naidoo (FIS), Katarina Berg and Gary Munro (both Spotify).

Elsewhere look out for new research from RedThread Research (on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging), Accenture (on the role of boards in workforce strategy) and the CIPD (on envisaging the people profession in 2030) as well as a host of insightful reads from the likes of Lynda Gratton, Dave Ulrich, Heather McGowan, Heather Whiteman and Andrew Marritt.

As I compiled November’s collection last weekend, I reflected once again that though the global, social and political climate has never been so uncertain in my lifetime, the work being done by HR professionals around the world has perhaps never been so valuable or so impressive.

Enjoy reading, share some data driven love with your network and above all – stay safe and healthy.

Table of Contents


JONATHAN FERRAR, CAROLINE STYR & ANASTASIA KTENA – How a New Operating Model for People Analytics will help Deliver Value at Scale (Executive Article) | Delivering Value at Scale: A New Operating Model for People Analytics (Report)

In the work we do at Insight222, we are often asked by HR leaders: How can I create more value from people analytics? How big should my people analytics team be? What is the right structure and operating model for people analytics to thrive? In our new research, conducted with 60 global organisations during the pandemic, we find that people analytics continues to grow, investment in analytics technology is increasing and leading people analytics teams are evolving to focus on business challenges. The report then outlines a new way to run people analytics, focused on business demand, value and outcomes, based on an operating model (see FIG 1) designed to deliver value at scale. If you are a member of the Insight222 People Analytics Program, you can also access additional findings here.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 1: The Insight222 Operating Model for People Analytics (Source: Delivering Value at Scale: A New Operating Model for People Analytics, Insight222, 2020)


ROBERT KRUZEL – Using People Analytics to Connect Business Strategy and HR

In our work at Insight222, we find that people analytics teams that focus on solving business challenges linked to people strategy are far more successful in their endeavours. This is exactly the approach that Robert Kruzel from Uber’s People Analytics team decided to embark upon earlier this year. In his absorbing article, Robert presents the framework he developed to support him in this quest (see FIG 2), which as he explains had three guiding principles: i) It had to be simple and start with the business, ii) It would unpack the business side to uncover specifics that could be linked to people, iii) It would repack the people space into manageable sections, which Robert found was key to support business leaders. Robert then highlights how he applied this approach to his work with Prasad Tadimeti, the HR Director for Uber Eats and reflects on his learnings. A must-read for any people analytics practitioner seeking to provide more value from their work.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 2: A formalised framework for using people analytics to connect business strategy and HR (Source: Robert Kruzel)

BEN TEUSCH – What People Analytics can learn from sports reporting

If you want to create value with people analytics, then you need to drive action. A key element of achieving this is how you communicate the insights of your work to persuade stakeholders to make decisions. As an Analytics Business Partner at Facebook, an important part of Ben Teusch’s role is to act as a bridge (or ‘translator’) between the people analytics team and the business. Ben believes (as do I) that we can learn a lot about effective communication of data from the world of sports. In his article, Ben provides some powerful examples from the sports world: i) give numbers context so they make sense, ii) write to help people understand the key points, and iii) use qualitative research when appropriate, and then applies this to a typical example in our field on employee relations cases. If you want to hear more from Ben, do check out his myHRfuture course on how to use statistics in your people analytics projects.

People analytics professionals often talk about reporting and research as separate, but both require effective communication to be useful

GARY MUNRO – Disco: A place where data comes to dance I KATARINA BERG – Spotify’s People Strategy

Gary Munro, Spotify’s People Analytics leader, is back with another ingenious article on the tech company’s approach to people analytics. This time Gary provides an overview of a scaled solution Spotify’s HR team has built called ‘Disco,’ (see FIG 3) which emulates what Spotify does for consumers in terms of curation and recommendations. Essentially, Disco connects everyone across Spotify to people data content they want to view and also content they didn’t know they’d be interested in. If that wasn’t enough, Katarina Berg, Spotify’s Chief People Officer, continues the ‘sharing is caring’ theme by outlining the four tenets of Spotify’s people strategy (see FIG 4).

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 3: Source – Spotify

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 4: Spotify’s People Strategy (Source: Katarina Berg, Spotify HR Blog)


DAVID REIMER & ADAM BRYANT – Superhuman resources: How HR leaders have redefined their C-suite role

The immense challenges of 2020 have thrust the human resources function into the spotlight. In their article, which is based on interviews with over 500 Chief HR Officers around the world, David Reimer and Adam Bryant distil five priorities for a CHRO to maximise their contribution to the business (see FIG 5). Features insights from several stellar CHROs including Kathleen Hogan, Donna Morris, Diane Gherson, Susan Podlogar, Tanuj Kapilashrami Kevin Cox, Amy Capellanti-Wolf, Ellyn Shook, Jorge Figueredo and many more.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 5: Five priorities of exceptional human resources leaders (Source:


HEATHER McGOWAN & CHRIS SHIPLEY- The Coronavirus Ushers In The Human Capital Era

In their thoughtful and inspiring article, Heather McGowan and Chris Shipley make a compelling argument that the pandemic will usher us into the ‘human capital era’, where workers will evolve from a cost to contain to an asset to develop. This means going beyond reskilling: “We need to go beyond reskilling to invest in the learning and experiences that unleash human potential beyond the edge of known knowledge.”

We may not yet know what the next new normal will look like, but it is clear that we can’t go back.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 6: Moving beyond reskilling to the human capital Era where reskilling is a norm but deeper investments (Source: Heather McGowan)

LYNDA GRATTON – Four Principles to Ensure Hybrid Work Is Productive Work

The pandemic has forced companies to become more flexible about where and when employees work. Now they need to be more intentional about their choices and trade-offs. With productivity being the ultimate goal, Lynda Gratton recommends how organisations should rethink the axes of hybrid work (space and time) around four principles – two with regards to place (design the office for cooperation, make working from home a source of energy) and two for time (let asynchronous time boost focus and enable synchronised time to be the basis of coordination). If you like the article, do listen to my recent podcast conversation with Lynda where we discuss the importance of serendipity to innovation and creativity.

Every organization will have to brainstorm how to heighten energy, focus, coordination, and cooperation to make hybrid work productive work. Be wary of making early decisions that will have long-term effects — leave your options open.

SUSAN LUND, ANU MADGAVKAR, JAMES MANYIKA AND SVEN SMIT – What’s next for remote work: An analysis of 2,000 tasks, 800 jobs, and nine countries

Some fascinating analysis and visualisations of recent research by McKinsey finds that more than 20 percent of the workforce could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as they could working from an office. The article then provides a granular definition of the activities and occupations that can be done from home to better understand the future staying power of remote work including how this varies by country (see FIG 7).

With nine months of experience under their belts, more employers are seeing somewhat better productivity from their remote workers

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 7: Source: McKinsey Global Institute


ALICIA ROACH – Connecting People to Purpose – The Ultimate HR Mission

To truly ensure that your workforce is enabling the achievement of your purpose, it must have the right capacity and capability to do so. Continuing her rich thread of articles on Workforce Planning, Alicia Roach examines how you can connect your people to your organisation’s purpose through strategic workforce planning (see FIG 8).

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 8: Connect your people to purpose through Strategic Workforce Planning (Source: Alicia Roach)

ADAM McKINNON & MIKAËL WORNOO – The value of measuring employee skill data

As I wrote just over a year ago, skills are the new currency in organisations, and provide a wonderful opportunity for people analytics to help connect skills, learning, career development and workforce planning together. The challenge for many organisations is that they are unaware of the skills residing within their workforce and lack the know-how or means to unlock the considerable value that this data could bring. In this article, Adam McKinnon (who is becoming a frequent contributor to my monthly compilations) and Mikaël Wornoo, Founder & the Chief Product Officer at TechWolf explore the two fundamental considerations when it comes to skills management. First, how do you acquire your employees’ relevant skill data? Second, what practical value can you then generate from this wealth of information (see FIG 9)?

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 9: The areas where skills data can be put to good use for the advantage of the organisation and the advantage of the employee (Adam McKinnon and Mikaël Wornoo)


JON GARCIA, GARRETT MAPLES AND MICHAEL PARKClosing the capability gap in the time of COVID-19 | MARIA M. CAPOZZI, STACEY DIETSCH, DANIEL PACTHOD & MICHAEL PARK – Rethink capabilities to emerge stronger from COVID-19

Two related pieces of research from McKinsey, which both describe how the pandemic has highlighted how a more capable workforce creates more resilient companies. The first article, based on a series of case examples, explores some of the promising approaches to innovative workforce upskilling emerging in 2020. The research highlights three areas of critical action: i) digital delivery of skills is required to close the widening gap (see FIG 10), ii) new tools and approaches are required to engage and motivate behavioural change in learners, and iii) simple and robust reinforcement techniques are necessary to sustain behaviour change. The second article highlights the need to get learning programs right and how leaders can do more to support capability-building efforts especially given the finding (see FIG 11) that 53{1e368efdbc5778293a1dba36f2d6241a4c7f47e278b3535a9e6c60a245c5f01f} of leaders believe that building skills in existing employees is the best way to close their companies’ capability gaps.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 10: Source: McKinsey

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 11: To most leaders, building employee skills is the best way to close their companies’ capability gaps (Source: McKinsey)


As this excellent article from BCG lays out, if companies want to exploit the full potential of new technology to decode trends and emerging customer needs—and thereby achieve competitive advantage—they must ensure that their employees are constantly learning, adapting, and acquiring the skills they need to compete in the workplace. This necessitates building a world-class corporate learning capability, and this article provides a powerful framework of five domains and 18 dimensions (see FIG 12) to achieve this and a comprehensive overview of the steps required.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 12: Source: BCG


DAVE ULRICH, NORM SMALLWOOD, ALAN TODD & SUSAN TODD – How do leaders respond to employees feeling personally overwhelmed and organizations having too many initiatives?

As Dave Ulrich and his co-writers highlight in this article, the pandemic has led to a rise in work related depression, stress and anxiety. This makes it even more important that organisations operate better and invest the 1{1e368efdbc5778293a1dba36f2d6241a4c7f47e278b3535a9e6c60a245c5f01f} (the average figure cited by Dave in the article as typical of most organisations) of their gross annual revenue on people and organisation issues more wisely by managing, measuring and targeting where to spend it. The article than builds on the Organizational Guidance System initiative Dave and his team has been focused on for the last 18 months, by providing an example (see the green boxes in FIG 13) of where guidance can help an organisation where it gets the best return for its investment.  

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 13: Example of A Company Organization Guidance System Report (Source: Dave Ulrich, RBL)

HEATHER WHITEMAN – 7 Ways HR Can Build a Fairer, Data-Informed Culture

People Analytics, as Heather Whiteman writes in her brilliant article in HBR, “provides opportunities to define fairness for the organization, build a business case for it, and collaborate with groups within and outside the organization to create and maintain it.” Heather provides seven ways to build a fairer, data informed culture with the first (“Develop organization-wide definitions of fairness” and the last (“Keep the H in HR”) especially resonant.

HR data represents real people with real lives, not just numbers to be analyzed without further thought


ISABEL NAIDOO – Wellbeing & the Speed of Life

In a really powerful read Isabel Naidoo, who leads inclusion and talent at FIS, explains how the company is applying the overarching aspiration of its HR transformation (‘the speed of life’) to wellbeing as well as employee experience. Isabel describes how micro-strategies (including using gratitude to change the energy) to tackle wellbeing are very effective in helping employees cope with pressure.

Wellbeing doesn’t have to be the chimera of our time – as HR professionals we have a responsibility to consider how we embed wellbeing into our learning curriculum, into great manager practice and give people the tools they need to find their balance.



Employee voice should not be restricted to complaints but should provide the platform for employees to speak up about opportunities for improvement. Not only does research show that this can drive greater engagement, better customer service, reduced employee turnover and improved operational efficiencies, but a multitude of positive employee behaviours too. In this article, Ethan Burris, Elizabeth McCune and Dawn Klinghoffer reveal the findings of a study at Microsoft, and explain why and how you should encourage employees to speak out about issues beyond their own jobs. The section on four factors that encourage more expansive voice behaviours: status, managerial behaviours, team climate and connectedness are particularly revealing.

The more well connected an employee is to the rest of the organization, the more likely that person is to speak up across all topics

ANDREW MARRITT – Analysing Glassdoor Reviews of the major tech firms

When anyone asks me who I recommend for resources and advice on doing text analysis on employee feedback, I always refer them to Andrew Marritt – this reveals why. In his article, Andrew applies Workometry Standard (his new automated coding model covering typical questions in engagement surveys) to analyse a dataset from Glassdoor about the big six tech firms that is available on Kaggle. In a long but rewarding article, Andrew presents a number of compelling visualisations (see example in FIG 14) and pulls out some interesting insights e.g. how forced ranking is linked to issues in collaboration, how differences in business models is visible in the feedback and why having too many smart people working in a firm can be seen as a bad thing. If you want more articles like this do check out Andrew’s blog and subscribe to his Empirical HR newsletter.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 14: Co-occurrence network of themes in the Cons (left) and Pros (right) questions (Source: Andrew Marritt)



STACIA GARR & PRIYANKA MEHROTRA – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging: Creating a Holistic Approach for 2021

The events of 2020 have had a significant impact on pretty much every category of diversity, so the latest research by the team at RedThread Research is as welcome as it is timely. The full report (which may require membership to access) is packed full of insights including four fundamental shifts within Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) identified in the research (higher expectations of action on DEIB, executives being more open to DEIB, more honest conversations on DEIB and expansion of DEIB efforts). The research also identified six key questions for companies to answer to align DEIB efforts (see FIG 15) and three key trends (enabling civil conversations, bringing back caregivers and a need to ‘walk the talk’).

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 15: Six Questions to Align DEIB Efforts (Source: RedThread Research, 2020)


JOHN SUMSER, ZACHARY HARPER, TEJAL RAVAL, ANUM MALIK & MICHAEL KANNISTO – Assessing Values in Online Technology – Ten Things We Learned: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4

If the prospect of delving into an in-depth analysis of the HR Tech market whets your appetite, then look no further then this comprehensive and insightful collection from John Sumser and team on the 74 companies that sell a tool that purports to measure values. Part 1 provides an abstract and overview of the methodology with part 2 summarising the ten things the team learned. Part s includes tips for buyers and sellers, whilst part 4 provides a repository of the data accumulated over 90 days and 450+ hours of interactions with firms. A veritable delight of discovery – including the finding below on the links between values, personality and behaviours.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 16: Measuring the links between values, personality and behaviours in online technologies (Source: John Sumser)


ANEEL BHUSRI & PAUL ROCHE – Software and the next normal: A talk with Workday’s cofounder and co-CEO | CHI TRAN – Why Most People Analytics Initiatives Fail | BEN WIGERT AND JENNIFER ROBISON – Remote Workers Facing High Burnout: How to Turn It Around | MATT OROZCO – Psychological safety: The key to high-performing and healthier teams | LIZ FOSSLIEN & MOLLIE WEST DUFFY – Write Down Your Team’s Unwritten Rules

In this month’s round-up of the articles from HR Tech companies there are five articles that caught my eye. Firstly, Workday’s co-CEO Aneel Bhusri talks with McKinsey about a range of topics including the limitations of remote work and the importance of data for diversity. Next, Chi Tran (Panalyt) looks at some of the typical reasons why some people analytics projects fail. Then, Ben Wigert and Jennifer Robison (Gallup) present research showing an increase in burnout amongst remote workers (see FIG 17) and provide some ideas to alleviate this. Next, Matt Orozco (Peakon) outlines why psychological safety is critical to high-performance and health in teams. Finally, Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy (Humu) explain the benefits of writing down your team’s unwritten rules.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 17: Source: Gallup



LUCIA RAHILLY, BRYAN HANCOCK & BILL SCHANINGER – Today’s skills, tomorrow’s jobs: How will your team fare in the future of work? | TAMI ROSEN & MATT ALDER – The Distributed Future Of Work | CHRISTIAN BUSCH, PAUL ASHCROFT & GARRICK JONES – Curiosity & Serendipity

Three podcasts this month for your aural pleasure. First up, McKinsey look at how best to prepare for the future of work, examining where reskilling does – and doesn’t work. Then, Matt Alder speaks to Tami Rosen, Atlassian’s forward-thinking Chief People Officer, about remote and distributed working. Next, Christian Busch guests on the Curious Advantage Podcast to explore how serendipity works in the digital world.


AMY EDMONDSON – How to lead in a crisis

Humility, transparency and urgency are the keys to successfully steering an organisation — big or small — through the challenges that come your way. In this absorbing talk, Amy Edmondson provides some powerful examples and compelling advice for leaders to put into practice. If you enjoy watching this Ted Talk, you might also want to catch Amy on the Digital HR Leaders Podcast explaining to me about how to create psychological safety at work.


EVA SAGE-GAVIN, YAARIT SILVERSTONE, BARBARA SPITZER & RACHEL MONAHAN – Modern Boards: Why workforce strategy needs a seat at the boardroom table

For the second consecutive month, Accenture delivers a must-read report on the future of work, which this time focuses on how modern boards exhibit better performance in revenue, innovation – and workforce strategy. The research finds that ‘Modern Boards’ excel across five dimensions: mindset, mission, metrics (‘expansive workforce metrics inform decisions that benefit the business’), muscle and makeup (‘modern boards are more diverse than their peers’ – see FIG 18).

The human capital dimension has been at the forefront of every Covid-19 discussion. It’s been protecting people first, and then looking at the financial implications second

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 18: Modern Boards are more diverse than their peers (Source: Accenture)

MEL GREEN, REBECCA YOUNG, JAKE YOUNG & SIMON HEATH – People Profession 2030: a collective view of future trends

A fantastic report from the CIPD based on collaborative research insights derived from an eight-day hackathon with people professionals across the world in August 2020, who came together to answer the question: what will the people profession look like in 2030? The subsequent report, which has some brilliant illustrations from Simon Heath (see example in FIG 19) covers the external drivers of change impacting the world of work, the key trends expected to influence the world of work in the future and what this means for the skills and capabilities of people professionals in the next ten years.

No alt text provided for this image

FIG 19: Changing demographics and D&I strategies (Source: CIPD, illustration b y Simon Heath)



Three very different but complementary episodes of the Digital HR Leaders Podcast were released in November:

DANIEL WEST – How to Democratise People Analytics to Drive Agile Decision Making

Daniel and I discuss what HR can learn from marketing, how democratising data enables agile decision making and better outcomes, and Daniel also provides some powerful examples of the actionable insights provided through ONA – including one example where a Japanese firm employed passive ONA to support the onboarding of 200+ new employees during the pandemic.

MELISSA HARPER – How Bayer is redefining the workplace around Purpose, Innovation & Culture

In our discussion, Melissa explains why “Matching the people agenda with the business agenda has never been more critical for HR,” as we explore Bayer’s people-first philosophy and how this is driving a human-centric reinvention of work at the company around purpose, innovation, inclusion, learning and culture.

CHIN YIN ONG – How people data can drive better business and employee outcomes

Chin Yin Ong, Chief People Officer at Grab, and I reflect on how her team took the lead in supporting Grabbers during the crisis, how people data is connected to the business, the rise of micro-learning at the company and why Grab’s HR technology strategy is centred on simplification, personalisation and user centricity.



If you haven’t listened to all of the episodes of the Digital HR Leaders Podcast, you can catch up now by clicking on the links below.



David is a globally respected writer, speaker, conference chair, and executive consultant on people analytics, data-driven HR and the future of work. As an Executive Director at Insight222, he helps global organisations create more cultural and economic value through the wise and ethical use of people data and analytics. Prior to joining Insight222 and taking up a board advisor role at TrustSphere, David was the Global Director of People Analytics Solutions at IBM Watson Talent. As such, David has extensive experience in helping organisations embark upon and accelerate their people analytics journeys. David also hosts the Digital HR Leaders Podcast on myHRfuture.


I’ll be chairing and/or speaking about how to drive business value and employee experience through people analytics as well as the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model at the following upcoming events: