Predictive Analytics in Human Resources

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Unemployment rates across the nation are at 3.9%, the lowest we have seen since 1969. Unemployment rates in the college degreed 25+ age group are even lower hovering around 2.1%.  In this kind of an economic environment, it becomes critically important that we can retain our good employees and attract the kind of talent that can ensure we stay ahead of the competition.  The question is HOW??

Enter the world of Predictive Analytics. It is, at its core, a technology that learns from existing data and uses this to forecast individual behavior. This means that predictions are very specific.  Instead of predicting turnover as an aggregate number for the end of the year, using PA, we can stat to predict which employees have a greater chance of turning over. Predictive analytics involves using a set of various statistical (data mining) techniques used to predict uncertain outcomes.

People analytics today brings together HR and business data from different parts of the business and is now addressing a wide range of challenges: analyzing flight risk, selecting high-performing job applicants, identifying characteristics of high-performing sales and service teams, predicting compliance risks, analyzing engagement and culture, and identifying high-value career paths and leadership candidates.

To put theory into practice, we first need to gather clean data.   This may prove more difficult than you originally thought but stick with it.  You need to identify as many variables as possible. Think of basic pieces of information like homes address, to calculate driving time and distance to work, gender and pay grade and comparatio.  Think also about collecting more obscure data like number of vacation hours or sick time used, personality or behavioral assessments and whether or not they elect health insurance through your company.  You are looking for any data where you would find a stronger correlation between that variable, or set of variables, and employees who terminate versus employees whom you retain. Once you have designed the algorithm, it will be time to put it to the test.  Give yourself at least 6 months to collect data and test the validity of the algorithm.

Although 79% of organizations consider people analytics to be an important trend, according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (2016) report, only 8 % of the organizations had this capability in 2015.  It is one of the best tools we have for bringing HR out of the emotional, gut feel realm and into the world of  data based decision making, yielding quantifiable and sustainable results.

Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments

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Following up on last week’s article where we learned that the best predictors of future job performance are cognitive assessments and behavioral interviews, there are multiple tools that have been developed to accomplish both.  One of the best I have personally used is Predictive Index- a Behavioral Assessment tool that has recently added a validated Cognitive Assessment portion.

The Behavioral Assessment

This portion is broken down into four categories, as many of these types of tools are.  They categorize individuals based on their tendencies in the categories of Dominance, Extroversion, Patience and Formality.  The PI is most beneficial when combined with the job profile. Each manager should complete the job profile prior to beginning recruitment for the position.  As each candidate completes the PI, their profile is compared and contrasted with the job profile and a list of behavioral questions are generated for any area where there is not a match.  This is a perfect set of questions to forward and assign to your interviewers.  This serves three purposes.

1) it ensures that each category where there might be a concern is covered by someone

2) it prevents the candidate from being asked all the same basic questions over and over

3) we all have a tendency to want to hire people just like us which may or may not be the best choice for each position

This approach forces us to interview and make decisions based on the merit of the individual candidate.

 

The Cognitive Assessment

This is not your typical IQ test, which, oddly enough, are not particularly well correlated with job success. This is a online survey measuring the many dimensions of human cognitive abilities based on verbal, numerical and visual reasoning. It is a balanced mix of 50 multiple choice question of various types and difficulty levels which are all designed to address the perception and processing skills of the candidate or employee.   Pace of learning is strongly associated with successful on-the-job performance making it an integral part of any recruitment process. Higher scores do not imply higher levels of intelligence simply certain ranges are more suited for certain jobs. Making sure you have the best idea of your candidate’s learning capabilities and their ability to adapt to changes help you to streamline the selection, on-boarding and training of a new employee or manager.

Combined, these are good predictors of success on the job.  The challenge is deciding which of your jobs need what level of cognitive capability.  Not all positions require someone in the top 10% or, to be honest, even the top 30%. Once you have the benchmarks identified, some of the validation is simply collecting the data.  Did you decide that the Accountant needed to be in the top 30%, but a number of the Accountants you have hired are not wildly successful? Perhaps you need to adjust it to look for those in the top 20%.

Combined, these approaches are significantly more effective than the typical “So, tell me about yourself” interview.  

 

The (Dismal) Effectiveness of the Old-Fashioned Interview

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I refer to it as the old-fashioned interview because it is about as useful as were the old fashioned typewriters compared to today’s computers. Never mind the fact that it is a dismal predictor of future success on the job, it is still in use. The good news is that there are alternatives, although they are not yet widely used.

The Worst Predictors

 

Unstructured interviews

In general, unstructured interviews, those in which the interviewer is left to their own accord to ask whatever questions come to mind, can explain only about 14 percent of an employee’s future performance.  Yet, the interviews taking place today could largely be categorized as unstructured interviews.  Rarely is the interviewer prepared in advance for the types of questions they will ask or are the consistent across multiple candidates for the same position.

Reference Checks

Refence checks fair a little worse and can only explain approximately 7% of on the job performance.  Yet, how many of us still conduct reference checks only to be told that they employee was wonderful, never missed a day of work and that they would be re-hired.  Only a few times have I heard a voice on the other end of the line tell me something negative about an applicant. In those cases, I always wonder what that candidates less favorable reviewers would say about them if these are the best they could come up with.

Years of Work Experience

By far, the least predictive of success, coming in at explaining only 3% of performance is our concern with the numbers of years of experience an applicant has.  We somehow make the leap that someone who has been in an occupation for 15 years is better and worth more than someone who has been in the same occupation for only 5 years.  That may be true if the more senior applicant has shown significant career progression, but the inverse may actually be true if both applicants have been in the same job and neither have experienced career progression.

 

The Best Predictors

 

The Work Sample

While not all jobs easily lend themselves to work sample test, these are, not surprisingly, the best predictors of future success coming in at 29%.  While management jobs are notoriously difficult to give a work sample test to, there are many types of positions including finance, accounting, call centers that readily lend themselves to these types of tests.

Cognitive Tests

While there is some reluctance to give what people think of as IQ tests to candidates, these cognitive tests are the second-best predictor of performance coming in at 26%.  They actually don’t measure IQ as much as they measure the thought process that the candidate uses, their ability to solve issues and how quickly they can think and process information.  They are predictive because general cognitive ability includes the capacity to learn and the combination of raw intelligence and learning ability will make most people successful in most jobs.

Structured Interviews

In a tie with the Cognitive tests are structured interviews at 26%.  These structured interviews can be either behavioral where the candidate is asked to describe a past achievement in a certain area or situational where the candidate is given a hypothetical, but related scenario and asked how they would respond.

Given the above data, think about how you might re-structure your interviewing processes to give your company the best chance of hiring candidates that will experience success on the job.

 

The Gig Economy

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The Gig economy references a trend towards on demand hiring, an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent, of American workers would be independent contractors and MBO Partners predicts that by 2027 over 60% of the US workforce will be a part of the gig economy, which is up from 30% today.  There are many implications this has for HR organizations.

 

Communication

Developing a communication strategy early on in the process is the key to success.  If your company is used to having everyone in one place, how will you communicate to multiple remote employees?  How will you brand differently to create the unification that exists in more traditional workforces.  Are your communication systems as on- demand as your workforce is?

 

Software support

Few software packages are adequately focusing on managing a large temporary workforce.  Anil Dharni, CEO of Sense, a staffing platform, told HR Dive that initiatives are just beginning to target gig workers for improved methods of communication, for example. He said although gig workers expand in number each year, they had not been the focus of HR technologies. He said he expects that to change as the contingent workforce continues to grow. 

 

Classifications

One of the biggest risk related to the gig economy is ensuring that workers are properly classified as employees or contractors. Penalties can be stiff for noncompliance or inaccuracies. HR managers should make sure they understand whether the on-demand worker should be an employee or can be a contractor and whether, if the former, he or she is exempt or non-exempt. That all comes down to the nature of the work, the level of direction and control required and what is provided from the company to the worker in order to perform the work.

 

Pay

Outsourcing to temp agencies is expensive and you can save upwards of 25-30% by finding your own on-demand workers and simply payroll servicing them or, alternatively, bringing them onto your payroll system in a classification as a temporary worker.  Depending on the length of the assignment, it may be easier to payroll service someone who is only with you for a short period of time.

 

Succession Planning

To make the most of this fast, on-demand workforce, businesses should have a clear strategic direction, a compelling and well integrated corporate culture, and a sense of leadership continuity to truly become, and remain, a successful live business enterprise supported by an on-demand workforce.  Succession planning rules may apply differently to the on-demand workforce. Beyond the mere access to available talent, succession planning for on-demand workers should provide measures to ensure cross-functional collaboration, quick ramp-up times, and cultural integration. This approach increases employee engagement and effectively leverages a constant flow of workforce insights coming from a myriad of old and new resources.

There are a myriad of challenges for integrating an on-demand workforce into your current processes, but a combination of the more traditional 9 to 5 workforce with an on demand contingency can reap the best of both worlds.

Personalization of Employee Health Management

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Employers have long understood that focusing on employee’s health has a multitude of benefits for employees and employers alike.  Health insurance companies touted health and wellness initiatives by offering employee newsletters which didn’t hesitate to point out the distinct correlation between obesity and the greater propensity for all sorts of diseases.  Some offered seminars where employees could ask questions about a particular health issue. Still others went a step farther and held full blown health fairs with vendors across a broad range of areas from clinics to yoga to healthy eating.  Although each initiative may have met with marginal success, they lacked the aspect of real personalization.

In walks wearables.  Wearables, as the name so implies, are devices that are worn by the individuals.  Fitbit is a perfect example.  Having just acquired Twine Health, they are taking aim at helping consumers/employees manage chronic conditions such as diabetes  or hypertension, make lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and weight loss and allowing all the parties involved in someone’s health, including providers, coaches and families, to collaborate on care plans.

More employees are expecting their benefits offerings to be personalized to their experience and a wearable could easily set a framework to allow that personalization.

The touted benefits of an employer focus on health and wellness are many:

 

Reduced absenteeism

It seems logical enough.  Healthy employees tend to be unexpectedly absent less than their unhealthy counterparts. The Wellness Council of America estimates that 100 million workdays are lost to workers’ lower back problems each year. A company fitness program that includes weight loss and muscle strengthening can reduce instances of lower back injuries. Fewer doctor visits and fewer sick days make for a more productive employee population.

 

Lower health insurance costs

According to the American Journal of Health Promotion, a study of nearly 950,000 individuals showed  decreased hospitalization costs, length of stay and admissions for those engaged in a comprehensive wellness program.

 

Lower turnover as employees feel cared for by their employer

Sometimes just showing you care is enough to reap the rewards of engagement among your employee population.  Higher engagement yields lower turnover. For example, the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award winners report a significantly lower turnover rate than the national rate of 38 percent, as well as a 73 percent employee satisfaction rate. HBR reports that 70% of employee participants reported that their company’s offering is an indicator that their employer cares about them. The real differentiator between successful and failed wellness programs may be whether they deliver on the emotional level as well as the physical.

Wearables offer an opportunity to take employee health and wellness to a new level.  One where programs, advice and reminders are personalized to each individual employee. According to ABI Research, 13 million wearable devices will be integrated into corporate-wellness plans over the next five years. Encouraging employees to use wearable fitness devices, such as Jawbone’s UP 24 activity tracker, Nike’s FuelBands or Fitbits, to track their movement, sleep and eating habits and share their accomplishments with their colleagues can motivate your entire office to lead a healthier life, resulting in less sick days, lower health insurance premiums and higher productivity.

The Case for Transparent Compensation Practices

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Years ago you could find policies written in Employee Handbooks threatening termination if you were to speak to another employee about your salary or bonus.  The whole process was hush hush and no one really understood how salary increases or job worth was calculated.  Only the select few could afford the salary surveys that were published annually.  Gone are those days.  Salary surveys for your industry, revenue size, employee size and market are now only a click away.  Compensation is finally coming out of the black box and into the light.  So why should you subscribe to this new trend?

 

It’s the Law

Perhaps the most basic reason is that it’s the law.  Employers can no longer prohibit employees from openly discussing their salaries and bonuses or threaten them with termination for doing so. The NLRB specifically ruled “You cannot forbid employees – either verbally or in written policy – from discussing salaries or other job conditions among themselves. Discussing salaries is considered a “protected concerted activity” by the NLRB and it’s protected regardless of whether employees are talking to each other in person or through social media.”

 

Takes it out of the realm of mystery

There are a myriad of other reasons that you shouldn’t prevent employees from understanding their own salaries and others.  One of those, is that it shouldn’t be a mystery. Employees should understand that creating salary structures is a science based on market data.

 

Encourages well thought out salary ranges and structures

Once you know that you aren’t the only one looking at and depending on the salary structures to make hiring decisions, give increases and calculate promotions, it behooves you to take an extra hard look at your structures.  Could you defend them to the outside world?  Are they updated?  Have you properly defined your market?  Does the work force slot in where they should with no one falling below the minimum and only a few over the top?

 

Defocuses people on pay disparities

Employees can spend an alarming amount of time thinking about pay and whether they are compensated fairly to both the market and the person sitting next to them.  Being transparent about you pay practices puts people at ease.  They trust that they are paid fairly because they understand the process and have full access to the data.

 

Better management of promotional opportunities

Employees will frequently bid on jobs without have any concept of whether the job they are bidding on is actually above or below their current job in terms of salary grades.  By allowing employees to have access to the structures, you decrease the number of bids you get for jobs that, once the employee finds out it is a decrease in pay, is no longer interested.  

 

There are many reasons to run a more transparent compensation practice, but perhaps the biggest is trust.  When you are trying to build a culture of trust, it is significantly easier when you are open and willing to answer the questions your employees have.

 

Pulse Surveys

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Pulse Surveys can be called many different name, employee satisfaction surveys, employee engagement surveys, employee experience surveys, etc.  One of the reasons I like PULSE, is because they are truly designed to measure the pulse of the employees and of the organization, as a whole, at a given point in time.  Not all employees who take them are satisfied or necessarily dissatisfied, nor are they engaged or disengaged.  However, all employees have an opinion, and when give a chance to air it, usually do not disappoint.

Pulse surveys take on three primary forms- Annual Surveys, which may measure a broad level of employee satisfaction, Weekly check ins that might tackle a topic or two and Reaction Surveys, which measure the employees reactions to a certain initiative.

 

Annual Employee Surveys

Annual Employee Surveys are common amongst employers pursuing an Employer of Choice philosophy.  They provide management with the knowledge and tools to build positive employee relations and a corresponding positive work environment. Employee attitudes, burnout tendencies, engagement, loyalty and workplace environment are key indicators for employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity.

Effective businesses focus on creating and reinforcing employee satisfaction to get the most out of their human capital. Properly constructed employee satisfaction surveys provide the insights that are foundational to creating and reinforcing productive work environments. These surveys can address topics such as compensation, workload, perceptions of management, flexibility of schedules, teamwork, appropriate resources, etc.

 

Weekly Check-ins

Weekly Check-ins provide management insight into a particular topic or issue that is important in the near term.  Frequently organization will adopt Guiding Principles or Corporate Values and choose to focus their efforts around one of these initiatives per quarter.  Guiding Principles are principles that guide an organization throughout its life in all circumstances, irrespective of changes in its goals, strategies, type of work, or the top management.  These can be quick questions, maybe just one or two, that give an organization directional guidance on that particular topic.  These can also be useful for a department when you don’t necessarily want to check in with the organization in its entirety.

 

Reaction Surveys

Reactions surveys are just that.  They test the reaction of employees to a specific initiative.  You may have rolled out copious communications on a a particular initiative and yes, when it goes live, you hear a rumbling through the grape vine that not everyone is happy, there are misunderstandings.  Reaction surveys give everyone an anonymous voice.  Both Survey Monkey and CustomInsight offer employers a free vehicle to use to create these surveys and analyze the data collected.

In all cases, once you have collected and analyzed the data, give the feedback and have a plan of action to present an implement.  Collecting data and not acting on it is worse than not collecting the data in the first place. Use this as an opportunity to show your employees that you really do care and you will be rewarded with their honest thoughts and opinions going forward, helping you, as an employer, to create a truly great place to work.