Putting Data First in Your Journey to Workforce Excellence

Kristen Flores
July 1, 2020

pymetrics recently hosted a webinar, “Data First: Building a Future-Proofed Workforce” featuring our President, Bob Toohey, Sarah Gretczko, Chief Learning and Insights Officer at Mastercard, and Gavin McMahon, Founding Partner of consulting firm, fassforward. In this session, they discussed the data challenges HR leaders face today, specifically around building data-driven, business-aligned talent management strategies and tactics for overcoming such challenges to introduce more data for less-biased decision making. 

Data is a challenge for all leaders, not just those focused on HR. Part of this is due to rapid advancements in technology and a lag in data fluency. It can be difficult for leaders and practitioners to know how to use it, when to use it, and what to look for without a baseline understanding. It’s important to focus on this baseline fluency with your business and HR leaders so you can work together to use the data properly. Especially in this period of massive transition, HR teams that can manage data best will get access to the best talent and direct them to their best-fit roles which will ultimately impact their business for the better. 

Incorporating data into your talent strategy does not simply entail flipping a switch; it’s a journey. The journey begins with your team’s ability to analyze data and a partnership with other data leaders in the company. The next phase includes sorting through data to remove metrics that are biased or not job relevant, as working with bad data will yield bad results. Another aspect to consider is the partners you work with to understand what you can and should do with data to ensure it’s leveraged in the most efficient and fair way possible as to not amplify bias or lead to other undesired outcomes.. 

As you continue your data journey, it’s important to level up and ask questions about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve and why it matters, create hypotheses for data projects, and have an invested business owner to ensure support and credibility. Equally important is making sure to connect your metrics for success and people data to business outcomes and evaluate what people management practices might evolve based on the introduction of data. 

Leaders often default to what’s easy to measure, these data points usually reflect how far we’ve gone when more important to understand is whether we are there yet. While more difficult to measure, focusing on aptitudes and competencies is a better measure of people success and more closely aligns with business capabilities and outcomes. It’s also important to consider external factors such as environmental circumstances and support levels when evaluating people. 

To get buy in from other business and executive leaders, start with a project focused on an established top company priority (such as diversity), take time to educate them on problems with existing processes (existing bias and subjectivity in reviews and assessments) and demonstrate the value and showcase improvements with the introduction of data and technology (hitting diversity hiring goals). HR leaders should make it a priority to stay closely aligned with business stakeholders and offer up new strategies to test or implement. 

Inertia is a dangerous thing. A bright spot in the crisis of COVID-19 is that at the moment, inertia feels more risky than taking action-- this is a time to try new approaches and introduce new strategies. Don’t wait to start your data journey. If you’d like to watch the webinar recording in full to hear directly from Bob, Sarah, and Gavin, please click here