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Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it...
HR analytics seems to be exactly the same
We started Harnham in 2006, and reflecting on our 8 years, the market and industry is almost unrecognizable from the early days of our business. The use of data is of course growing exponentially, and companies are placing more importance on using data to make intelligent decisions. The era of just following gut instinct seems to be over.
With an increase in the volume of data available, companies begin to look at new ways to use the data at their disposal, both for external and internal gain. With that in mind, I attended a conference on HR analytics recently and got a fascinating insight in to this growing sector.
Of course the term HR analytics is not new. This has been around for a long time – but I learnt that there is a real desire and a real need to use the data available in new ways, and to change the analysis that companies are performing to add additional value.
The buzzword from attendees at the conference seemed to be "journey". Companies have spent years gathering and collating data on employees, but now seem to be at a crossroads - do you continue just compiling this data and generating excel reports on whatever metric has been asked for by a manager that week, or is there a better way to use this data? Are we at a point where we can start going further? Can we start using this data for predictive analysis?
Here is where I feel we hit three challenges.
There was a fascinating presentation at the conference in which a case study was shared by a major retailer. They found that in a 3 year study, they could prove a link between an engaged workforce and the profit of a store. I'm sure you'll agree that this is a great find and a useful exercise, but I wondered how many organizations would be willing to spend 3 years analyzing the relationships in their business to find out if it would have a small increase in profits at a local level. Herein lies the problem, - as the actual analysis of this data seems to be a new thing but how many management teams are willing to invest in it?
It seemed to me that the analysts and data managers that I met were confident that they were able to give amazing insights to their businesses, but did not have the time and resources to get in to the data and have a look around. Instead they were simply required to submit excel reports to show what has happened rather than predict what this means for the future or make recommendations on what the organization to do as a result.
2. Data Quality
The systems where this data is stored largely seem to require input from a manager within the business, and at the point they're inputting this data it is likely that they are either just dealing with someone leaving the team or joining the team. In either of these situations, I would imagine they're busy and stressed, so will potentially not be too worried about what they're putting in to a workforce management system.
The upshot is that the data you're then analyzing may not actually give you a true reflection of the fact. Again, it seems like the person inputting the data needs to understand the value to them of making sure that it is correct and I was not convinced any of the presenters had quite got this right in their business.
3. Skill Set
I listened to a fascinating debate at the conference about what skills would be needed to grow a team of HR analysts, and I would say the room was split almost 50/50 between the "data is data" opinion and the "HR knowledge is essential" group.
I reflected on this afterwards based on a comment made during the discussion.
It was noted that HR analytics is probably 5-10 years behind other analytics disciplines such as logistics and marketing analysis for example. I would agree with this, but rather than worrying about this fact, the teams should look at the reasons why and also how to utilize those skills.
Analysts in marketing or credit risk don't study marketing or credit risk at University. They study mathematics, physics, statistics or similar and then apply these techniques to an industry. They don't know everything about marketing strategies on their first day in the role, but they can model data to tell you with a very high degree of certainty what the propensity for something to happen is. Data is data - you just ask it the questions.
So if companies don't utilize these data skills, my concern is that they will stay behind other analytical disciplines and only be able to do a small proportion of what could be possible with the data available to them.
The Ethical Standpoint
People are more aware of their personal data now than they were 5-10 years ago, and also more willing to share it - as long as they get something in return. Therefore the data available for HR and workforce analysis now is vastly different to 5-10 years ago - you only have to look at the growth of Facebook and LinkedIn in that period to know that you have more opportunity to know more about your teams than ever before.
Here is another question then - the interests on someone's LinkedIn profile or Facebook page will give you a huge amount of insight into skills that you may not see on a day to day basis in their role, and may mean that you consider them for roles that they wouldn't normally be considered for, but is it ethically right to look at this page for the potential benefit of the candidate? Where do you draw the line? It is potentially for their benefit, but does that make it right?
I heard of tools where members of staff could link their Facebook to a talent management tool within the business - the take up was very low. Let's be honest, you may not want your company seeing your personal photos and online conversations, even if it could mean more chance of an internal promotion!
Putting the onus on the employee seems to be the best course of action then. If they fill in their internal profile similar to how they would a Facebook or LinkedIn account, then you have all you need to be able to draw better analysis. They have a vested interest in the outcome, and as long as this is understood you should get pretty accurate data to use. However, building an internal platform to match the functionality of the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn can be costly and once again requires more data experts to analyze the new data it will generate so we are back to the ROI challenge.
I agree that HR analytics could and should have a direct impact on business profit, but just in the way that all new concepts need to; HR teams need to harness the skills of other analytical disciplines to achieve all that is possible to prevent falling further and further behind. It is also going to take companies being brave and setting the trends for the use of this data to show what is possible before others will follow.
As someone put it when discussing how companies improve the potential and usage of analysis in HR and workforce planning - we should talk about it a lot in conferences and meetings to share as much as we can to make sure that we all learn as much as possible from each other, but we don't want to share too much so that nobody can do it better than us…!
At the end of the day, being better at anything within the sphere of analytics and data gives you competitive advantage and you don’t want to lose that.
By David Farmer - Partner, Harnham
With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.
Visit our News & Blogs portal or check out our recent posts below.
GitHub. How-To Geek. Toptal. Zapier. These are just a few of the businesses which have been 100% remote since their inception. On the front lines of the remote working lifestyle, they understand the benefits and the challenges businesses new to remote teams are facing. In recent years, some businesses tried offering remote working, then pulled workers back in house. Some offer part-time work-from-home opportunities, but still required a few days in the office. In today’s climate, businesses have been forced to develop remote working strategies and everyone is learning how to manage this new way of doing business. There are a variety of apps and software to help businesses work as close to the old ways as possible. So, as remote workers learn how to balance their personal and professional lives while at home, leaders also must learn how to manage remotely. Below are a few immediate benefits of remote teams for business. Three Immediate Benefits of Remote Working Less overheadsLess office politicsIncreased productivity However, there’s more to leading remote workers than the above. As teams tighten, it’s important to ensure everyone is on the same page. Most of what’s been done within the office walls can also be done virtually. Planning a staff meeting? Zoom. WebEx. GoToMeeting. Google Hangouts. Microsoft Teams. These are all video conferencing call software applications you can use to not only conduct your weekly staff meetings, but client meetings as well. Record the meetings so you can refer to comments or questions, you may have missed or to refresh your memory of planned next steps. Managing projects? Think Trello. Asana. Monday. Basecamp. Slack. Assign teams. Have a space just for brainstorming or just for fun. Emulate the office environment of those quick hallway meetings and watercooler chats. Need to access documents from anywhere? Google Drive. Dropbox. Box. These are just a few of the applications which allow anyone with a link to jump in and add their two cents, comment or correct. Does your team have all the necessary equipment? Computers, phones, access codes, passwords? How can you help them best do their jobs? These are just a few things to think about when planning for and leading remote teams. Leading Remote Teams One of the issues remote workers once faced was “out of sight, out of mind” leadership. In an office, it can be easy for a manager to walk past someone and communicate on the fly or for remote workers to feel left out in company events, strategy sessions, or general camaraderie with others in the office. Companies who have always been or are moving to fully virtual teams have now levelled the playing field. However, this change marks just how important communication is for your team. Often, the best managers will check-in regularly. These managers are good listeners who offer feedback, check on progress, and determine if there’s too much workload or if an employee is ready to take on another project. Managers who communicate without micromanaging engage in trust and accountability of their employees. Having this kind of ownership of habits and behaviors can improve productivity and the trust goes both ways. Reach out to everyone on your team regularly. To ensure you’re including everyone when you assign tasks or projects, it’s a good idea to have a list of employees with their photos. Set Clear Boundaries and Guidelines It’s even more important when working from home to set clear hours for working and avoid burnout. Add to this the best methods of communication to use such as a project management app like Slack, a quick text or Skype call, or an email. Don’t forget to make allowances for how things like childcare may be handled as many are not only working from home, but may also be homeschooling, too. Ensuring everyone is clear on when they can turn to colleagues versus when they should reach out to their leaders helps put everyone on the same page. Keep Everyone Connected Remote working is a lifestyle. But not everyone may be ready for it or have the personality for it. One benefit of the brick-and-mortar office is camaraderie and connection, even if it’s just a smile and wave in the hallway. Even the most resolute remote workers feel lonely and disconnected at times. Staying on task can feel paramount to success, but to meet the new challenges of a virtual team go a little deeper. Not only is it important to make time for personal interaction, but businesses can organize virtual check-ins and fun events. Think Trivia time, funny videos or GIFs, even virtual pizza parties. It’s important in this time of social distancing and remote working lifestyle to stay connected and engaged with your workforce. It could even make your business stronger and more in sync than ever before. Not only can it be of benefit to your business, but can also offer and open up opportunities for more future employees. Without a location base, you open yourself up for the right person for the job, no matter where they are.In the wake of work-from-home policies, remote working, and the shifting landscape of working outside the office, technology careers are prime opportunities to both gain increased knowledge in your chosen field or begin your career path. If you’re interested in Big Data & Analytics or other Data professional opportunities, check out our current vacancies or get in touch one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to email@example.com.
02. April 2020
So, you’ve been told to work from home. Finally, more time with the family… Wait, more time with the family? How will you get your work done while also homeschooling your children? Maybe you’re married and your spouse is home, too. The routine of work has been disrupted, and though many businesses were already turning to remote work, this is something else. So, how do you morph from leaving the house to go to the office to simply walking into your kitchen or home office to begin your day? In other words, how do you draw the line between work and family when you’re working from home? We know it can be difficult and unsettling in this troubled time, so we have a few tips to get you started. Getting Started in Your Remote Working Lifestyle DEFINE YOUR WORK SPACE What room can you designate in your house to be your “office.” It’s best to have someplace with a door, but this isn’t always possible. Is it the kitchen table? Ok, but this will mean you need to set strict ground rules about the hours you’re “on.” Make sure everyone understands when you’re “at work.” Whether it’s your kitchen table, a quiet room, or the end of your sofa with your laptop, these are your remote working tools. In some cases, it may even be a good idea to invest in noise-canceling headphones to help you stay focused. HAVE SET HOURS Define what hours you’re working and stick to them. Begin and end your day at the same time. Don’t forget to schedule breaks – coffee break, lunch, a stretch of the legs – around the same time each day as well. Work with your team to set hours for when you’ll be online working and respond to off-hour messages within your working hours. Without designated hours, it can feel like you’re constantly available and always “on” blurring the lines between work and family. Get some fresh air when you can. Step outside for a walk or a coffee, whatever brings you outside can help recharge and energize you for the work ahead. ENSURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS Remote working apps, videoconferencing tools, and cloud-based filing systems help ensure the job gets done. Make sure you keep your passwords in a safe place and be extra cautious when logging in from a new location. Is your computer up-to-date? Does it have all the security measures and capacity in place for the additional online tools and apps you may need to add? Making sure you address these things can help to solidify your workspace and ensure you’re able to meet with your team online and get the job done. FOLLOW THE 20-20-20 RULE The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from your screen and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. TAKE A BREAK FROM TALKING ABOUT WORK If you’re not used to working-from-home, loneliness can quickly set in. Remember those quick hallway chats or discussions over lunch or coffee? Take that impulse and use it when talking with your team. Have a virtual coffee break. Take a break from work and talk about hobbies, something funny that happened to you, or even just how you’re feeling away from everyone. You won’t be alone in these feelings with everyone in the same work-from-home boat. These tips can help you put your best foot forward for your remote working lifestyle. But don’t forget, you can use these same rules for family time, too. In the wake of work-from-home policies, remote working, and the shifting landscape of working outside the office, technology careers are prime opportunities to both gain increased knowledge in your chosen field or begin your career path. If you’re interested in remote Big Data & Analytics opportunities, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our current vacancies or contact one of our expert consultants to find out more. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to email@example.com.
26. March 2020
Facial Recognition software. Autonomous vehicles. Drone delivery. Robotics in manufacturing. 3D Printing. No longer the stuff of science fiction, these advancements are at the heart of the next evolution in the digital age. Developments are not just being made in the tech hubs of Silicon Valley, Austin, or New York, but in the mid-West. Ann Arbor, Michigan home to the University of Michigan and not too far from where Henry Ford first introduced mass production with the help of automation has been advancing robotic technologies across a variety of fields. Giving machines their own set of eyes does require someone to ensure they have the right information to do their jobs. Enter the Computer Vision Engineer. It’s estimated this field will see a rise of 19% demand through 2026. It’s also a relatively small field with only 5,400 new job openings. So, like many professions, demand is high yet a shortage remains of those Data professionals with the right skillsets. The Business of a Computer Vision Engineer While there are a variety of roles within the field of Computer Vision, the role of Computer Vision engineer focuses on two areas. Those areas are: Writing code in Python/C++ Integrate Data Visualization, image analysis, and imaging simulation controls In addition to these areas, these scientists focus on research, implementation, reaching across teams both human and machine to help solve real world problems. And as important as knowledge and application theory are, it’s the hands-on experience which raises the bar for most employers and client companies. Using image recognition, machine learning, and segmentation can help machines learn to differentiate various images. Being able to “see” what the computer may see and correcting it to ensure it’s more like human vision takes a special skillset. This can include: Computer Vision librariesDatabase managementComponent or object-oriented softwareAnalytical, logical, and critical thinkingClear reasoning It’s these skillsets along with a background in mathematics and computer languages like C++ which pave the Computer Vision engineer career path. The Future of Computer Vision The days of the generalist are long behind us. Now, more than ever, technologies like machine vision require a dedicated focus. With every field from healthcare to law enforcement to manufacturing utilizing these technologies, the future of Computer Vision performs a broader range of functions. In Ann Arbor, at the University of Michigan and in partnership with Ford Motor Company, advancements race through every field not the least of which is manufacturing. As they transition toward full automation using the Internet of Things and more autonomous processes, it’s even more important to ensure Computer Vision models understand what they’re “seeing.” Computer Vision engineers will help to advance technologies which make machines easier to train and more easily figure out images better than they do now. Used in conjunction with other technologies like neural networks and other subsets of AI, machines will be able to see and interpret in the same way humans see and interpret. And as far as we’ve come, there remains more applications and benefits not yet explored. The possibilities are endless. Current and future advancements will pave the way for AI to be as human as we are bringing our once science fiction ideas to life. One Final Thought… Though Computer Vision engineering can be drilled down to even more focused professions, the term itself is broad. But the specializations are basic with a demand for not only highly skilled professionals with the right educational background, but also hands-on experience. This detail is more important now than ever before, especially for Computer Vision teams seeking leadership roles who can take their applications to the next level and on a global scale. Some of the basic specializaitons include, but are not limited to: Camera imaging geometryFeature detection and matchingImage classification and scene analysis In the wake of work-from-home policies, remote working, and the shifting landscape of working outside the office, technology careers are prime opportunities to both gain increased knowledge in your chosen field or begin your career path. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, we may be able to help. Take a look at our current vacancies or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to learn more. For our West Coast Team, contact us at (415) 614 - 4999 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. For our Mid-West and East Coast teams contact us at (212) 796-6070 or send an email to email@example.com.
19. March 2020
Last month we sat down with Kevin Tran, a Senior Data Scientist at Stanford University, to chat about Data Science trends, improvements in the industry, and his top tips for success in the market. As one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices of 2019 within Data & Analytics. his thoughts on the industry regularly garner hundreds of responses, with debates and discussions bubbling up in the comments from colleagues eager to offer their input. This online reputation has allowed him to make a name for himself, building out his own little corner of the internet with his expertise. But for Tran, it’s never been about popularity. “It’s not about the numbers,” he says without hesitation. “I don’t care about posting things just to see the number of likes go up.” His goal is always connection, to speak with others and learn from them while teaching from his own background. He’s got plenty of stories from his own experiences. For him, sharing is a powerful way to lead others down a path he himself is still discovering. When asked about the most important lesson he’s learned in the industry, he says it all boils down to staying open to new ideas. “You have to continue to learn, and you have to learn how to learn. If you stop learning, you’ll become obsolete pretty soon, particularly in Data Science. These technologies are evolving every day. Syntax changes, model frameworks change, and you have to constantly keep yourself updated.” He believes that one of the best ways to do that is through open discussion. His process is to share in order to help others. When he has a realisation, he wants to set it in front of others to pass along what he’s learned; he wants to see how others react to the same problem, if they agree or see a different angle. It’s vital to consider what you needed to know at that stage. Additionally, this exchange of ideas allows Tran to learn from how others tackle the same problems, as well as get a glimpse into other challenges he may have not yet encountered. “When I mentor people, I’m still learning, myself,” Tran confesses. “There’s so much out there to learn, you can’t know it all. Data Science is so broad." At the end of the day, it all comes down to helping each other and bringing humanity back to the forefront. In fact, this was his biggest advice for both how to improve the industry and how to succeed in it. It’s a point he comes back to with some regularity in his writing. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, stay humble and respect everyone,” one post reads. “Everyone can teach you something you don’t know.” Treating people well, understanding their needs, and consciously working to see them as people instead of numbers or titles—this, Tran argues, is how you succeed in the business. To learn and grow, you must work with people, especially people with different skills and mindsets. Navigating your career is not all technical, even in the world of Data. “The thing that cannot be automated is having a heart,” he tells me sagely. Beyond this, Tran stresses the need for a solid foundation. The one thing you can’t afford to do is take shortcuts. You have to learn the practicalities and how to apply them, but to be strong in theory as well. Understanding what is happening underneath the code will keep you moving forward. He compares knowing the tools to learning math with a calculator. “If you take the calculator away, you still need to be able to do the work. You need the underlying skills too, so that when you’re in a situation without the calculator, you can still provide solutions.” By constantly striving to collaborate and improve, Tran believes the Data industry has the best chance of innovating successfully. If you’re looking for a new challenge in an innovative and collaborative environment, we may have a role for you. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more.
19. March 2020