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People Analytics Pioneers: Alliance HealthCare Services

We've got a terrific 5 Minute Friday for you this week. We’re sharing one customer’s very inspiring journey so far with people analytics. We talk with Chris Gruttadauria, VP of HR at Alliance HealthCare Services. Chris is a pioneer and has been on the path with people analytics for over 5 years. He has a great story to share about some of the starts and stops, the challenges and successes, as he is building an HR analytics capability to deliver value to the business.

Chris, can you tell us a little about where you started with data analytics at Alliance.  

Our data analytics journey began about 5 years ago. Our business was going through a lot of changes at the time and we needed to make sure we were evolving HR to keep pace.  Like many HR groups, we had folks doing a lot of manual calculations and, as we all know, manual calculations tend to be inaccurate and not all that meaningful. We were spending a lot of time doing excel formulas versus actually garnering insight and doing something with it.

We knew that our vision of HR needed to include data analytics. At the same time, we were faced with the reality that, as a mid-sized company, we didn’t have the capacity to stand up an analytics function on our own. We also knew that we weren’t going to be able to secure a big investment for analytics, so we started looking for a platform that could help accelerate that work for us.

It’s impressive that you recognized both the need to build analytics capability and the internal constraints of being mid-market 5 years ago, and went in search of a partner to help. How did those early years go?

At the time we partnered with an analytics provider and over several years achieved, what I’d call, mixed success. Early on we struggled with a long implementation process and people not really utilizing the tool. I don’t think these struggles are atypical in HR generally with new technology or new capabilities, but it did take significant time before we started to pull value out and provide insights to the business.

The first area we turned our focus towards was turnover. We had significant turnover in the organization and we had no real way of describing the what, the why, or the how.  Having access to the data in this powerful tool helped us provide insights to the business that we couldn’t have done on our own and did inform several of our decisions. 

Once we reached the point where we had good insight into turnover and we were able to take action, we developed an appetite for even more analytics capability. At this point, we went to our provider and said we wanted to add new data sets to help us better understand our workforce and some of the unique problems we were facing in the business. This is where we ran into challenges.

Again, we don’t have an internal analytics team so it was extremely difficult to efficiently load new data sets into the platform and it was difficult to obtain the support we needed from our provider.  Without the support to help us to continue to expand our capabilities, we were beginning to see the value that we could derive from the platform diminish along with the use.

Knowing that you had some unique needs in terms of support for adding data sets and ongoing customizations, what did you do?

I started looking at other partnerships and was introduced to PeopleInsight. It was clear to me from the start that PeopleInsight was aligned to the unique needs of the mid-market. They’ve built an offering that fits with companies like ours who don’t have an internal analytics capability, but still want a robust solution that can be customized.

Two things appealed to me about PeopleInsight: 

First, the level of customization was great. They made it easy to add in different data sets and we could easily bring these in from different sources. It wasn’t as if we had 400 fields that had to be lined up perfectly. PeopleInsight supported so many ways of loading the data and this was hugely appealing to us.

The second aspect that really jumped out for us was their focus on the mid-market. They seemed to really understand our situation. PeopleInsight said “it’s our job to get the data in and make it pretty, it’s your job to solve your business issues.” I thought this was great and it was exactly what we were looking for. We needed help getting our data into a format we could use - they understood this and they continue to make it easy. 

How have things been going since partnering with PeopleInsight?

What’s been remarkable about our partnership with PeopleInsight is the team we work with on an ongoing basis. They really are an extension of our team.  If there is something that we want to do, no matter how unique or different, we know we can count on them to figure it out. They’ll accept the information in whatever format we send it and find a way to make it usable for us.

What we’ve been able to do, which is also remarkable as far as I’m concerned, is we’ve been able to load in numerous data sets that our previous provider just couldn’t seem to complete for us. We would be a year into it and still be having problems with a new data load. PeopleInsight had us up and running with new data sets in a matter of weeks.

Can you share an example of one area you’ve been working on with your analytics since partnering with PeopleInsight?

Recently, we’ve been focusing on linking disparate data sets in order to generate multi-dimensional insights. As an example, we’re working with PeopleInsight to create a Manager Success Scorecard.

This is an area I’m passionate about. For leaders, there’s no one data point that defines success. We collect a lot of data including 360 data, engagement data, employee relations, absentee data, turnover data, and lots of others, but no one of these factors in isolation tells me whether or not someone is a good manager. Working with our PeopleInsight team, we’ve started to create a scorecard, a view, that allows me to look at our managers and rank and stack them and start to uncover what really does define success. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but couldn’t get there with our former provider or on our own.

Here's an example of the type of Manager Scorecard we’ve been able to create with PeopleInsight.  In it, we’ve included only demo data but the framework is similar to what we’re using.

Mock Up Manager Scorecard Example*demo data only

Now that we have the framework for a Manager Scorecard built, we can start to discuss how to take this to the next level. We can say to PeopleInsight, we’ve been looking at the Scorecards and we’d love to be able to have additional analytics overlays to allow us to easily identify the overall top 5 managers. This is the power of PeopleInsight - the ability to link disparate data into customized dashboards.

Do you use PeopleInsight in any way to communicate or report out to the business?

We use PeopleInsight for multiple levels of reporting. For example, we present a fairly established and consistent set of dashboards and high-level insights to our Board of Directors every quarter.  In the past, we pulled data from multiple systems to build these materials, but we’ve been able to fully automate our presentations with PeopleInsight. 

At another level, working with PeopleInsight has enabled us to return to what we call Quarterly Business Reviews with our internal client groups. With reporting automated in PeopleInsight we can easily share the most important five or six key metrics with these audiences on an ongoing basis.

At the same time, I’m also setting up a process with our HR Business Partners to further garner internal adoption throughout our team. The plan is to establish some governance around how HR is using the data. The HR Business Partners will become accountable to the HR Leadership Team and can use PeopleInsight to demonstrate the key metrics they are tracking against and the actions they are taking with their client groups depending on the trends. This will be very powerful and we’re probably only a few weeks out from getting this off the ground. The connected data and the automation in PeopleInsight is what has made this possible.

When I think of our reporting, the biggest difference is that we’re now spending more time looking at the findings versus actually just trying to put the slides together. We used to spend a lot of time trying to uncover meaningful insights. We’d have to go in to different systems and pull the information manually, which is time consuming. Now the time we spend on building slides is focused on interpreting the results and driving meaningful actions.

Here's an example, again using demo data, of the type of dashboard we’re able to produce in PeopleInsight:

Executive Dashboard*demo data only

Overall, we’re at the early stages with PeopleInsight, but it’s exciting to see what we’ve already accomplished in such a short amount of time. We’ve moved through the implementation phase far faster than with any other provider and we’re in a good place. We’re excited by the prospect of continuing to develop our internal capabilities with a partner like PeopleInsight, knowing that they’ll be hand-in-glove with us every step of the way. 

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If you'd like to learn more about the Alliance HealthCare story or PeopleInsight, we'd love to connect. 

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Topics: 5 Minute Fridays