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People Analytics – The Sword to Combat VUCA

DOES VUCA DESCRIBE TODAY’S BUSINESS WORLD BETTER? 

VUCA, an acronym first used in 1987 by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus in their leadership theories about general conditions and dynamics, found itself more relevant since 2000, when strategic leadership of organizations saw the emergence of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Since 2000, 52% of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist. In business, VUCA world would mean a combination of VUCA elements which make the organizations feel unprepared, unfamiliar and unclear, more so if they don’t adapt to the situation. From Brexit to currency fluctuations, to COVID-19 pandemic, the world is ever changing and we do not really know what will happen next.

Based on PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, in 2018, 57% of CEOs believed global GDP growth would improve in the coming year. However, the record level of optimism changed to record level of pessimism in view of the uncertainty in geopolitics. Data suggests that only organizations which can innovate, harness the power of data, ensure their preparedness for an ever-changing world can survive uncertainty and thrive in the uncertain world.

V STANDS FOR VOLATILITY

A deeper meaning of “Volatile” is the rapid change in situation unexpectedly. As one thinks of Volatility, what comes to mind is the ever changing HR Landscape with the changing workforce and technology disruptions.  HR needs to continuously evolve and keep pace with the ever-changing world, partner with business in a way that each decision is data-driven and linked to business goals. In a volatile environment, HR cannot function alone.

To be able to navigate in the times of change, data needs to be converted into simple information, consolidated to answer business questions and should help the organization become more agile. Data and predictive analytics can be utilized well for an optimum workforce planning in view of changing circumstances. For example, in a country where job market is volatile, the pace of recruitment needs to be quicker to be able to back-fill roles well in time to ensure workforce is not burdened.

U STANDS FOR UNCERTAINTY

Uncertainty means lack of predictability and prospects of surprise. PwC’s report reveals Policy uncertainty, speed of technological change, geopolitical uncertainty and uncertain economic growth as some of the 2020’s top threats. Technology can be a real curse if not adapted to well. A combination of Data Analytics and HR Strategy can help the organization choose between buy or build – to either train employees who are technically capable to lead the technical transformation or choose to hire from outside, if it is quicker and cost effective.

Additionally, today’s HR needs to partner with the business and help in operationalization of various HR activities for the business. This can help seek opportunities for streamlining processes which in turn help releasing HR’s bandwidth to apply data knowledge to help the business retain talent, e.g. optimum use of Employee self-service tools which can in turn enable HR Analytics to focus on insights around what motivates employees to work by conducting an employee pulse survey.

C STANDS FOR COMPLEXITY

Complexity could be of any kind –  multiplex of forces, a confusion that surrounds the organization whereby no cause-and-effect can be identified.  An ongoing solution to this ongoing problem is to communicate clearly. HR needs to use People data analytics and good visuals so that business always gets the right answer to all the day-to-day questions. A simple approach to ongoing tracking can be made much easier if the data solutions are targeted at specific questions. This is an area wherein People Analytics plays a key role – only data can help the business evaluate its decisions. For example, instead of multiple platforms a centralized platform wherein all the data pertaining to employee information, talent, reward, performance and cost is kept will help the organization take quicker and better decisions. Ultimately, People Analytics can use the consolidated data to reveal areas of higher cost and lower efficiency, linkage between performance and reward, etc.

A STANDS FOR AMBIGUITY

Ambiguity or the haziness of reality, which confuses the organization and impacts decision-making. Again, data is the solution. Wherever data tells the story, it is more reliable for the organization. Today’s HR cannot function without an HR analytics arm. This is because in a VUCA world, a gut-feel based approach cannot work. Also, People data analytics can supply all the information to create a complete picture. For example, workforce planning cannot assume a constant world. In this regard, analytics can help build various scenarios related to the world economy and their impact on hiring and attrition – e.g. attrition may reduce in the COVID-19 period in the severely impacted regions and hiring activity may slow down.

PEOPLE ANALYTICS – THE RIGHT HAND OF STRATEGIC HR

Strategic HR – a function that is data-driven, continuously streamlining, innovating and connected to business goals is better able to survive and thrive in a VUCA environment. Agile ways of working, HR business partners’ data literacy and technical knowledge becomes quintessential in today’s world. As AI and machine learning evolve and reduce the manual jobs in the area of recruitment, onboarding, learning and various other HR Functions, the role of HR will also need to evolve – more in terms of using the data analytics and helping reduce the complexity for the organization. The ever changing business scenarios will mean the need to change organization structures, job designs, agile thinking for managing systems and technology and much more. An arm called people data analytics is what every HR function needs to deploy.

Header picture credit: Peoplematters

REFERENCES

  1. Capgemini Consulting – When Digital Disruption Strikes: How Can Incumbents Respond?
  2. ^ S. Army Heritage and Education Center (February 16, 2018). “Who first originated the term VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity)?”. USAHEC Ask Us a Question. The United States Army War College. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  3. ^ Bennis, Warren; Nanus, Burt (1985). Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge.
  4. PwC Data and Analytics Survey 2016
  5. 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey

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