Uber's senior data scientist: How to harness HR data

"Data! Data Data! I can't make bricks without clay!"

Uber's senior data scientist: How to harness HR data

As Sherlock Holmes once said: “Data! Data Data! I can’t make bricks without clay!” Data and analytics have always been the building blocks of business. Even before the advent of modern technology, numbers and statistics were fundamental to company growth and stability. Now, as we excel in the age of AI and robotics, data is the lynchpin of organizational strategy – and HR’s new best friend.

Traditionally, employers have associated data with measuring caveats such as productivity and attendance – now leaders are finally waking up to data’s role in innovation. HRD spoke to Nicholas Bremner, Senior People Data Scientist at Uber, who revealed how HR leaders can harness the power of people data to create meaningful innovation in their organizations.

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“Since the onset of the pandemic, employers have been listening to the needs and wants of the teams more so than before,” he told HRD. “HR has really risen to the occasion – and in doing so have realised the importance of data in HR. When it comes to improving the overall employee experience, analytics are key. More and more I’m hearing leaders speak about improving those ‘moments that matter’. By that I mean all of those individual instances that impact how an employee feels about the organization – these moments can occur during onboarding, training, development, or performance reviews. These experiences have the potential to either retain talent or push it towards the door – but quantifying them and prioritizing which moments to focus on can be tricky. Additionally, many of the moments that matter to employees have to do with day-to-day work experiences that HR is not traditionally involved in. Influencing the employee experience in this way requires directly interfacing with the business. This is easier to do with accurate and reliable data. For this – HR needs analytics. Only by collecting and comparing these data touchpoints can leaders really understand and improve their practices at scale.”

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Bremner suggested using a test and learn approach, using the data to pinpoint potential issues and adjust accordingly. It all comes down to getting that data into the hands of leaders. From there, the C-suite can use it to develop programs and improve the quality of their managers.

“I think this is a really great way of improving employee experience because it goes beyond traditional HR processes all the way to the front line,” added Bremner.

When it comes to the future of data in HR, Bremner told HRD that he believes leaders will continue to embrace new and exciting tools.

“I think HR is going to continue using technology and products to improve the employee experience, even after the pandemic,” he revealed. “I believe that the pandemic has helped a lot of organizations move towards being more virtual in their practices. In a broader sense, I think data is becoming more available. The HR tech market is absolutely teeming with new vendors who have really exciting and interesting products. I think it's hard to probably hard for folks to resist exploring that, because there's a lot of incredible things that that are possible now. One caution I would make is to remember that tech isn’t the simple answer to all your behavioural or process-related problems. There are a lot of interpersonal processes that exist outside of technology and HR tech is not going to replace the fundamentals. It'll be important for teams to get those rights and not lose sight of that.”

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