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HR departments invaded by data scientists

Stephanie Overby | Aug. 28, 2013
As leading HR departments turn to 'talent analytics' for a wide range of staffing issues, CIOs are at the center of this data-driven transformation

For most companies, just arriving at a single version of the HR truth can be beneficial. Paul Lones, senior vice president of IT at Fairchild Semiconductor, says that two years ago, managers at the chip maker lacked a single system that could provide an accurate tally of employees worldwide, let alone show the amount of employee turnover. Reports had to be compiled from multiple systems. Succession planning took place in Microsoft Word documents. Compensation decisions might be made in isolation.

Now that the company has implemented cloud-based Workday, managers can access data on all 9,000 employees in one place, including succession plans, turnover trends and salary information. "A manager in the Philippines considering a raise and promotion for an employee can see in seconds how that will compare with others in the group and with local compensation trends and make that decision," says Lones.

It may not be rocket science, but it's a start—one that's been a long time coming for many HR groups. Chiquita Brands, for example, had multiple homegrown and manual HR systems.

"It was a cobbled-together thing," says Kevin Ledford, Chiquita's CIO. "People spent 90 percent of their time figuring out where the data was and 10 percent on analyzing it." In 2008, the company moved to a global HR system, which came in handy when Chiquita moved its headquarters from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Charlotte, N.C., and lost 75 percent of its corporate employees.

"It was very tumultuous. We threw all of our monkeys in the air, and they all came down in different buckets," says Ledford. "It would have been a nightmare [without the global HR system]." Now that the company is exploring predictive HR analytics, that success with master data management "is everything," says Ledford.

At Arcadis, Endry has connected his cloud-based workforce-management system to 11 other pieces of software, including ERP, learning management, payroll and an active directory. The combined data helps the company, which provides engineering services regarding infrastructure, water, environment and buildings, to staff client projects more efficiently and effectively.

"In the past we couldn't tell who was mobile," says Endry. "Now when we have a giant project in Ohio, we can see on a dashboard that we've got these three people in Boston willing to move there."

Marc Franciosa, CIO of Praxair, has tied the company's HR and employee performance systems to non-HR systems like SharePoint as a foundation for the company's talent analytics initiative—no small task for the $11 billion industrial and medical gases company with 26,000 employees in 50 countries.

"The underlying data and processes have to be consistent to be able to do any real analytics with confidence," says Franciosa. "For companies that are fairly mature that haven't had a global environment before, it's going through that initial normalization and standardization process to make sure that this certification, for example, means the same thing around the world," says Franciosa. (He implemented SumTotal's HR management system and ElixHR platform to link disparate data.) "The cleanup has been a challenge."

 

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