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Andrew’s guide to rethinking staff turnover with people analytics

 

HR Director at Bishopsgate, and former HR business partner at MediaCom, Andrew Campbell-Critchley discusses how organizations can not overlook the importance of people analytics anymore. While we’re at it, we quiz him on what makes people stay and what makes them leave an organization. Read on to find out.

Us: Tell us a bit about yourself? Your journey in the field of people management and how you came to be here?

Andy: I first started off in L&D, then worked on large-scale projects. Soon after, I moved to operational HR and then HR Business Partnering. It was a few years later that the Director, HR role happened for me. Through my term as a Director, I worked across a range of sectors, but mostly in the realms of professional services. 

According to me, HR is essentially about two things - transaction and change. Even though my core expertise has been to bring about the change, I did get a solid grounding in the transactional part as well. I’ve believed in people analytics to be the driving force in HR for as long as I can remember. This has enabled me to always find fun and innovative ways of understanding the workings of an organization, and this is the key reason why I am at this stage of my career. Of course, some pretty serious Excel skills helped too!

Us: When you’re not working, what do you like to spend your time doing?

Andy: I am married with two kids so presumably, the family life is incredibly busy, rewarding and demanding. In my free time, I love to cook, run as much as possible and I really enjoy music. 

Us: In all the organizations you've been a part of (especially MediaCom and Bishopsgate), which has been the most important aspect of employee experience to you since the pandemic hit?

Employee experience since COVID arrived are impacted by these two major factors:

  • How organizations supported their employees in the first year and a half of the pandemic
  • How organizations pivoted themselves to embrace the seismic changes in employee attitudes and expectations

"You’d much rather get on the front foot and lead the charge in innovating the employee-employer relationship than being left behind"

Us: Do you think it’s important to quantify and measure aspects like culture and employee experience for business success? What are your thoughts on people analytics?

Andy: I have been using people analytics to be the driving force in my HR approach since I first discovered Excel in 1999. I am a true believer that people analytics should be right at the heart of HR and Talent functions in every business, at every level. 

I remember sometime in the year 2001, using Excel, I created a way of measuring employee performance against a set of benchmarks. I made it so that all of the individual spreadsheets were linked together and the performance could be segregated by teams and departments. I gave a master access to Senior Managers so they could see what was going on, it was quite incredible and groundbreaking at the time. It took me ages to get it working but it was so rewarding and helpful, haha!

Over the years, I came up with the concept of the magic trio of people data, which basically answers these three questions: What is happening, Where it is happening, and Why it is happening. For a long time we only really had access to the what and the where parts of it. Thanks to solid technology, we could easily access these two either via Excel or a plethora of other online analytics tools.

However, I feel that there has been little innovation in the measurement of important aspects like staff turnover, as we still tend to use the same old metrics. These old metrics are largely meaningless and do not really enable us to focus on and drive change.

In respect to the final part of the magic trio of people data - why it’s happening - it is now when the measurement of employee experience and culture (or working environment as I prefer to call it) is of utmost importance. It’s impossible to fix a problem if you don’t know why it is happening, and the only way to find that out is to ask the people who are at the center of it: the employees.

Business success is built on employees delivering long-term value for the company as well as for themselves. The fundamental prerequisite for this is that employees stay with an organization for a long time - long enough to surpass the point at which the company has seen a return on their investment and vice versa, essentially by building a nurturing work environment. You can’t even begin to hope to create this unless you understand what is happening, where it is happening, and why it is happening, and all of this can be achieved through people analytics.

Us: What, according to you, makes people want to leave an organization? And what makes them stay?

Andy: Well, one of my favorite areas of HR to inspect is staff turnover. It’s an immensely complicated domain and one which I have been working on for the most part of my journey of 21 years. To understand complex scenarios like why an employee leaves an organization, one must ask the right questions at the right time. 

Usually, we ask questions like ‘’Why are you leaving?’’ right at an exit interview. The employee usually responds with a generic “I am getting a pay raise”. Not only is this piece of data incredibly misleading, I believe we’re asking the wrong question too. The real question we need to ask and tackle is why employees start looking for a new role in the first place. I am of the view that resignation is not an overnight decision, employees are nudged towards it. 

"Theoretically, there are ten nudges that gradually move an employee towards leaving an organization."

This is what a few of them look like: My manager doesn’t listen to me; I didn’t get a pay rise in the last appraisal cycle; I don’t know what my next role in the organization will be; My laptop doesn’t work; I haven’t had any training this year; My clients are horrible to me; and so on and so forth...

Once an employee gets to seven of the ten nudges, they have already written their CV; and once they get to ten, they have psychologically checked out. The physical act of resignation, then, is a mere formality.

Understanding what makes people stay in your organization is as immensely complicated as it is to understand why people leave. This is the holy grail of HR. For me, it’s all about a healthy work environment; and identifying which kind of work environment is conducive to a blossoming employee-employer relationship. Of course, this covers a wide ground, and factors like the quality of an employee’s work relationships, their feelings about the organization and their role and position in the organization, all feed into the bigger question of what makes people stay. If we can understand these factors, and work on them, we’re doing right by everyone. It is truly our best shot at encouraging our employees to stay with us.

Us: What is the future of HR tech in the UK?

Andy: I am actually quite worried about this. 

Firstly, I am concerned that there is very little innovation in that field. We are simply moving old ways of offline measuring to online systems. I can’t stress this enough but we need new and innovative ways of quantifying what, where and why of employee experience. Only then can we adopt meaningful action that delivers positive change.

Secondly, I believe we need the drive to model and predict employee behavior in a way that an advertising industry does for its consumers, or an elite sports team does for athletes. While this is an interesting aspiration, I don’t think it is possible owing to the rights we have to privacy. Even though I stand by our rights to privacy, I believe we can still experiment with the scope of behavior prediction while remaining well within the bounds of privacy, so it can be used to transform employee-employer relationships.

Thirdly, we need to put in more work to understand the working environment. I know everyone talks about culture, but no one can really consistently explain what this means as the definition is ever so fluid. Let’s instead talk about the working environment and the factors that deliver success for employees and employers alike. We need evolved tech for this as it's a highly complex area.

I’d like to sign off by saying that people analytics is exactly what will drive and shape employee behaviors, and help us redefine the future of HR.




Shivangi Gautam
Shivangi Gautam

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