Before SAAS was even a thing, Melissa Kantor was working with Silicon Valley startups to implement advanced HR tech platforms.

And after a jump across the pond to the UK, she enjoyed stints at some of the world’s largest firms – PWC, BNY Mellon and IBM – delivering huge HR infrastructure projects.

In 2015, she moved to financial services firm Prudential Plc to set up their first advanced people analytics function, covering talent management and succession planning as well.

This was groundbreaking for the brand, and made Melissa one of a group of HR pioneers leading the way in the analytics space around this time.

Now Vice President of People Analytics and Insights at the LEGO Group, she’s spearheading new approaches at one of the world’s most beloved brands.

Here’s how she approaches the discipline, how she works with senior stakeholders, and what she sees as the challenges in the industry.

The sky’s the limit for people analytics

What gets Melissa excited about coming into work every day is the newness of people analytics and HR tech.

“We’re at the forefront in HR,” says Melissa, “and oftentimes it’s our function within HR that’s the first at the LEGO Group to be leveraging new technology.”

“There are no predefined limits to what we can do,” is how Melissa puts it. “We’re taking new and existing data models and applying them to people in completely new ways.”

We’re all new here, so let’s learn from each other

“The fun thing about our industry is that none of us started our career here,” says Melissa. “Our backgrounds are so different – some came over from statistics, some started out in pure HR.”

None of us were doing this 5 years ago – so I want to hear my peers’ back story

That diversity fascinates Melissa. “We all have different experiences, so I love asking my peers for the 1 or 2 things that worked well for them, and what crashed and burned.”

And what works well is often the most obvious. “When talking to my peers, I find it’s the simple things that often worked best.”

That curiosity extends into Melissa’s reading list and podcast queue. “I’ll read or listen to anything about this topic – not just focused people analytics, but anything on the future of work.”

“I’m a big fan of the Analytics in HR Blog and Chris Rainey and his HRDLeaders podcast.”

People analytics makes organizations run smoother

Ask Melissa about what the challenges facing people analytics and she’ll talk about 2 things: misunderstandings and inaction.

“It surprises me how much time and effort is wasted when teams don’t align on the definition of key terminology,” says Melissa.

“Take “Time To Fill” as an example. Stakeholders can fall out over this number! But differences are often down to how we define it.”

So much time and effort is wasted when we don’t realize we’re defining things differently

“Are we tracking from the moment someone opens a requirement? The first meeting with recruitment? The first interview? If we don’t align, our data isn’t reliable.”

The first step should be taking a first step

Melissa also says people analytics can become obsessed with doing incredibly advanced work, and in the process get stuck doing nothing.

“Some teams think if they can’t do something amazing, they shouldn’t do anything,” explains Melissa. “But you can run analysis in Excel and come up with incredible insights”

Not doing anything is the biggest error analytics teams can make

Melissa points to headcount management as one area her team is nailing, while still looking to develop in other areas.

“At the LEGO Group we strive for zero margin of error with headcount management and reporting – we need to know if we’ve got 501 heads, not 500,” says Melissa.

“And now we’ve got a real handle on it and are able to forecast much more reliably, we can tackle other areas.”

Melissa describes people analytics at the LEGO Group as being on a journey from focusing on improving operational metrics, to driving real change and improvements.

“We’re exploring how we go beyond employee engagement to understanding the moments that matter most to employees, and delivering more personalized experiences.”

And in the process, the LEGO Group is going to tie in improvements in employee experience to operational metrics like revenue, attrition and productivity.

Your board wants the insight, action & impact – not just the insight

Getting to that point means changing the way analytics teams have traditionally approached reporting.

“It’s a culture change, definitely,” says Melissa, “and one of the things we’re doing is partnering a data scientist with an HR business partner or process owner.”

“One knows the data inside out, the other understands the business objective. Together they can find answers and solutions that can help us improve as an organization.”

If you’re delivering 200 numbers to your board members and hoping it resonates, you’re going to be disappointed

It’s all crucial in delivering insights up to the board that actually resonate and helping senior leaders make the right decision.

“Storyboarding and data journalism are crucial skills in this space,” explains Melissa. “Insights on paper don’t work, you have to articulate the ‘So What?’”

It’s up to people analytics teams to ensure senior stakeholders don’t miss what’s right in front of them. “If your key insight is buried among 200 other stats in a report, it will go unnoticed.”

Better to throw all of that detail in an appendix, or take it out entirely, according to Melissa.

Building bridges to the rest of the organization

A new dialogue between people analytics teams and senior stakeholders is needed.

“CHROs ought to come to people analytics teams and say: ‘This is what we’re talking about at the top of the house – what do you have on it?’”

And that issue may not be one facing HR. “People analytics teams should realize HR and the CHRO isn’t their entire market – it’s the whole board of directors.”

CHROs aren’t your only audience – people analytics is answering all of the business’ questions

“We’re actually solving all the business’ questions with people information.”

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