Friday 13 March 2015

#atdMENA Jenny Dearborn and Big Data Analytics in Saudi Arabia

One of my favourite sessions at ATD MENA in Riyadh where I've been speaking about people focused talent development and creating human capital was Jenny Dearborn's on the value of data and analytics: it's data science, not rocket science.

Jenny is the CLO of SAP and has just written a book, Data Driven, but most of her session focused on a sales capability development programme at SAP.

Jenny started with a quick review of the changing business scene - technology, social, mobile, MOOCs and content ubiquity: "if we try to control learning, to lock it down, we're only going to increase the rate at which learners are running away from the Learning department."

We then moved on to data: companies which use data driven decision making have 5-6% higher performance, and this affects us too: "big data and analytics are the only things bigger than technology shaping the future Learning function."

The CHRO role now requires data analytics expertise.  So it's therefore disappointing that 70% of companies surveyed by the ATD don't use data to predict or assess staffing needs.  And no surprise that CEOs would rather appoint someone from sales than from HR to be CHRO!  (My own perspective on this is that Jenny's premise is true but that her solution is flawed - the fact doesn't mean we need to be more like Sales i.e. more analytics based, it means we need to educate CEOs why HR and Talent Development are different to Sales (or Finance), i.e. our area is more qualitative and subjective in nature - which doesn't necessarily take away from the need to get to grips with big data - see below.)

Jenny then took us through her six step process for results focused evaluation:

1.   Define business results.  If these aren't clear it means tapping executive insight and working out which measures are missing.  In SAP Jenny identified there was a need was to decrease the time to quota for new sales people by 50% in two years.

2.   Identifying leading indicators including both performance variables e.g. the sales close ratio, and behavioural feedback.

3.   Disccover critical behaviours supporting these indicators.  Jenny spoke with top sales reps - the best and the worst - to discover the actions, behaviours and competencies of the best performers.  For example this included quickly establishing internal networks.

4.  Design the solution.

5.   Continuously measure - allowing comparison before and after and including the use of a control group with all the variables other than the training programme the same.

6.   Optimise.

Through this process SAP identified that what drives quota isn't what they thought.  Eg looking at quota achievement by ensure shows that some sales people hit quota very early and others still didn't do this several years later.

Giving their sales reps more training had been wasted effort - it was actually the recruiters who had been failing and therefore needed more training as they'd been hiring against the wrong profiles.

They also developed a 'ramp to quota' sales on boarding programme.

I thought it was a quite interesting case study, however:

  • I missed how SAP identified how the lack of correlation between quota and tenure indicated that this was a recruitment problem - as opposed to inconsistent coaching or performance management etc.  (I was probably concentrating on my own session which followed on from Jenny's at the time.)  But quota vs tenure doesn't really qualify as big data and if we don't have this I think we have to be really careful about relying on data to construct strategy.
  • There are areas of HR and Talent Development which lend themselves very easily to analytics, sales training being one.  It still doesn't mean that other areas of Talent Development will ever benefit from the same approaches as Sales of Finance.  Sorry, CEO, but I think you're going to be disappointed if you think you can use the same type of analytical process for leadership development or culture change too.

I talked about the second of these points with Jack Philips in his session on ROI and will post on this on Monday.

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