Journey to the future: Big data and analytics enabling business success
Johanna Soderstrom, Corporate VP, HR & Aviation, The Dow Chemical Company

The reality if that, like it or not, the global workforce is evolving – skills gaps, ‘millennials’, ageing workforce. etc. – and things are changing. Johanna has focused on getting four building blocks in place at Dow:

1 – Closely align HR strategy with the organisation’s strategy. This can be a real cliche but it has big implications. For Dow, it means speed: getting the right talent, getting them in quickly (get them up to speed before they join), keeping them for longer.

2 – Establish metrics: track results and drive accountability. Use metrics to drive performance, but make sure that they are measures which will have a positive impact on your customers.

3 – Evolve HR operating model to enable company success. The business partner model had become obsolete in Dow; although they wanted business partners to become more strategic, they kept getting dragged into operational work. Dow moved the business partners into the regions, and then moved a small number of HR ‘thought leaders’ into HR advisor roles to focus on the future.

4 – Invest in HR systems and technology for the future:

The case for change for HR analytics included time spent on reporting versus insights, satisfaction with reporting, strategic impact, and productivity. Dow used PeopleSoft, but then had different solutions for all related people activity. This meant that people data was fragmented, and HR people spent a lot of time consolidating and reporting on this disparate data. Dow developed their own data warehouse solution to integrate the varying sources of data. Their solution allows lots of different views on what appears to be one consistent version of the truth. Johanna showed some snapshots of the dashboard, showing us departmental views (showing headcount, employee cost, diversity, promotions, attritions, performance management, open positions etc.) and then allowing people to drill down into any view of that same source of data. Johanna noted that what ended up looking simple, was actually a significant change programme.

Dow have seen a significant benefits from their HR system; it has helped them to shift the focus from talking about data to talking about what it means for them and what they can do about it. For example, access to talent risk scores along with the ability to map this to engagement scores gives Dow insights into what is going on and allows them to take action based on the insight.

Johanna also talked about possible future developments, suggesting that integrating this with social media might help them to identify hidden talent in the future.

(This was live-blogged during a session at the European HR Directors Business Summit 2015 in Barcelona – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in.)