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Schneider Electric's People Analytics focus delivers gains in sustainability, diversity

Cath Everett Profile picture for user catheverett November 17, 2021
Schneider Electric ‘frees up energy’ by introducing People Analytics tools that help its HR team undertake more effective strategic decision-making.


Schneider Electric is in the process of rolling out People Analytics tools to its HR teams across the world as part of a wider enterprise-wide goal of becoming a data-driven organization.

A key aim is to ensure the energy management company’s 2,000 HR professionals no longer simply have to rely on gut feel and past experience when making decisions but can use data to validate and speed such activities up. Peter Ryan, Global Director of People Analytics, explains:

One of the keys to transformation is driving digital into everything we do, from products to back office support functions, including HR. We want to embrace digital, technology and data to free up the energy of our employees and enable them to innovate and think differently.

A particular focus here is on “doing more with less”, his colleague Alanna Roesler, the company’s People Analytics Change Leader, adds:

There are only so many hours in a day, so a core value of the organisation is to ‘free up your energy’. The idea is to automate to drive value and outcomes so that people don’t have to waste time on manual tasks.

Another focus is on enabling HR professionals to keep up with an increasingly fast-moving internal and external environment, which includes ensuring the company is effective at retaining talent in today’s highly competitive skills market. Schneider Electric, which was ranked as the world’s most sustainable business this year by the Corporate Knights Global 100 Index, employs 130,000 people across 100 countries.

Analyzing data in real time

To this end, the organization introduced a small, six-month pilot project with 360 North American users in July last year, based on what Roesler describes as an AI-based “data discovery and self-service analytics” platform, ThoughtSpot. The idea was to test the concept of the tool, understand the way HR practitioners were likely to use it and explore which questions they wanted answering most.

This information was then used to build “meaningful use cases”, the first of which centred on workforce administration data, such as current headcount, new hires and recent leavers. The next step is to look at the data through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to understand, for example, how many women are in leadership positions, front line roles or new joiners. As Ryan points out:

Diversity is hugely important to us as it’s part of our Sustainability Index,  which focuses on six areas: climate, resources, trust, equal opportunities, generations and local communities. HR has a huge part to play in a couple of those, especially equal opportunities, and they’re all underpinned by how we track and forecast using data to see if we’re on course to meet our ambitions.

While this kind of information was available to HR professionals in the past, it frequently took a long time to collate using quite manual processes and was often only available to view via dashboards used to track key performance indicators (KPIs) around the world. But Roesler says:

Now users are empowered to leverage information in real-time and in the way they need without having to wait for an analyst to provide the data…To be fully effective, you have to support people’s needs at the global and local level, which means setting up data to be available globally but also letting HR deep dive into it and ask the questions that are most applicable to their local environment.

Freeing up time and energy

Another benefit of the system, Roesler believes, is simply the amount of time it saves HR practitioners in undertaking mundane tasks. While it used to require an average of 14 hours to create a monthly report, this figure has now dropped to about four, freeing up their time to work on more value-add tasks, such as interpreting the information.

Roesler herself is also saving about 25 hours per week in dealing with ad hoc requests that used to take up to six hours each to fulfil but can now be dealt with in more like 20 minutes. As Ryan says:

Freeing up time by not having to do manual work means there’s more time to use insights for storytelling. The days of sitting around trying to find where data is and spending hours creating KPIs is a thing of the past. We’re also looking to a future in which we’ll become more strategic, enabling more business transformation as we underpin HR with people analytics.

Once the system was rolled out across North America, where uptake is at about 78%, Europe followed suit in May 2021. The rest of the world was added to the mix in September. Next year, the aim is to expand the types of data sets under analysis to cover talent acquisition information, which includes understanding candidate diversity and issues around pay equity.

Part of the roll-out process, meanwhile, involved rationalising the number of People Analytics tools the organisation uses down to three core product sets: the Oracle Reports enterprise reporting tool, which handles mostly campaign and operational data; ThoughtSpot for self-service analytics, and Tableau for data visualization. Ryan explains:

Simplification is a key point for us – we don’t want too many tools or products as it just overloads users…We operate a glocal model and we’re trying to replicate that in HR, so we build the tool globally but also ensure it takes care of requirements at the local level too. It’s a challenge, but ultimately simplification is better for everyone.

Supporting cultural change

Another challenge has been supporting the necessary cultural change involved in the initiative. Roesler explains:

The change management required with big transformations takes energy, time, resources and patience. The debate is on as to whether technology or change management is the critical piece, but I feel it’s an equal split. Having quality solutions with a user interface that is reliable, simple and meaningful is absolutely key, and you won’t be successful without it. But at the same time, you can’t work under the assumption that ‘if you build it, they will come’. So we spent a lot of time focusing on the human aspect of leveraging technology, understanding key areas of benefit and sources of resistance and also that the journey is different for everyone.

To this end, the company divided the HR team into a number of different personas – HR leaders, HR business partners and HR analysts - and tailored communications and training to each.

A second tactic was to offer twice-weekly, 30-minute ‘office hour’ sessions for six weeks. These started with a five to 10 minute expose of new ways to use ThoughtSpot and understand its different features, followed by time for questions and answers, which included signposting attendees to supporting material, such as short videos, frequently asked questions and testimonials on the company intranet. Such support was vital, Roesler says, because:

Success isn’t just about the go-live. It’s about a long-term commitment to culture change…So it’s important to have touch points with end-users during the critical learning period so they see the value of the tool and are confident in using it.

As to what the future holds, Ryan believes that over time as adoption matures, People Analytics tools will become more and more strategic to both HR leaders and the executive team. He concludes:

As the use of People Analytics becomes more linked to the people strategy, and as there is more use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to answer questions and predict scenarios, the tools will increasingly be used to solve business-related problems using data sets that HR work with daily. So we’ll see a lot more collaboration between both areas.

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