EdgeNetworksMedia & Events Unraveling HR Analytics: In Conversation with Arjun Pratap, EdGE Networks

Unraveling HR Analytics: In Conversation with Arjun Pratap, EdGE Networks

HRTalk is our Interview Series with the leadership at HR Technology companies that are redefining the way HR functions. Join us as we talk to them about their solutions, their insights about HR as a function and some bonus pro-tips on making HR Tech work for you!

Analytics is fuelling a new age of data-driven decision making in HR. Arjun Pratap, Founder and CEO at EdGE Networks discusses why HR analytics is a catalyst for business transformation and how organizations can get it right. A published author and a keynote speaker, Arjun headed domestic and international business development initiatives at multiple content delivery networks prior to establishing EdGE Networks. Arjun holds a post-graduate degree in Information Systems and International Business from the University of Sydney Australia. 

Let’s start by briefly introducing EdGE Networks. What is EdGE Networks’ unique value proposition?

Ours is an HR tech startup called EdGE Networks. We are a next-gen HR technology solutions provider, offering solutions to large organizations for their most pressing HR challenges. Our strength is in harnessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Science to solve the toughest talent acquisition and workforce optimization challenges faced by organizations.

Today, our clients are C-suite and HR leaders looking to staff projects with talented people, quickly and without having to rely on inefficient channels of recruitment and allocation. Additionally, our tools help employees and job seekers realize their career goals and aspirations either within their organizations or outside. To enable this, we have built a neural network of skills and jobs that will learn and grow with time using our source-validate- connect algorithms run with Natural Language Processing (NLP).

I founded EdGE Networks in 2012. We have our base in Bangalore, the startup capital of India, with sales reps in the UK and the US.

Our key distinctive offerings include the following:

HIREalchemy is our innovative Talent Acquisition Product that enables the search, rank and recruitment of talent with amazing ease and accuracy.

Our Talent Analytics Suite helps in predicting attrition, forecasting resource demand and more – enabling fact-based decision making across the HR value chain.

Our Workforce Optimization Solution forms the intelligence layer on top of HR systems and helps effective organization building.

With our Talent Transformation tool, we help develop and transform talent to maximize employee potential and drive business growth. Using Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, we read and understand employee profiles, recommend relevant career path and open internal jobs based on skills and past experience. The platform determines any gap between aspired career and current profile and also suggests appropriate learning path to bridge the skills gap.

Our unique value proposition to clients is that we use Natural Language Processing (NLP) Algorithms with a Data Science and AI-based approach to analyze job descriptions and profiles/resumes and provide a scored and stack ranked set of people for the job in question.

This is further bolstered with our ability to do this for an internal workforce and to acquire talent from portals. We do this using advanced technology with minimum human intervention – the disruption we create is the value of time and accuracy, delivered consistently.

While our product and solutions are based on some of the most cutting-edge technologies, we have also worked towards creating a responsible and agile organization that is ready to partner with customers to build game-changing HR tech solutions.

There’s been a lot of talk about HR analytics and there’s also a lot of people talking about people analytics. What is the difference? Which one do you like best?

Analytics has made its space very prominent in almost every aspect of business and the HR function is no exception to it. Often, HR Analytics and People Analytics are used interchangeably, and both refer to ‘the statistical analysis of people data’, and so do terms like Talent Analytics and Workforce Analytics.

Fundamentally, people analytics solves company level problems. HR analytics solves HR specific problems.

HR analytics is a commonly used term and is more common among HR practitioners and consultants who address HR challenges. Thus, HR analytics implies the exclusivity of the HR function of the business.

On the other hand, people analytics has a wider implementation and goes beyond the HR Department. It’s all about the people in the organization and analyzing the data related to the people working in the organization.

In the recent past, you’ll see many players entering this segment driven by industry demand. Its hard to pick one company as the best as there are many segments – traditional HCM companies such as SAP, Workday, Oracle offering analytics, HR tech companies such as EdGE Networks who use AI and Data Science to provide analytics and insights, Business analytics specialists such as Mu Sigma offer HR analytics software and there are pure-play HR analytics firms.

Most HR leaders today say that they want to move towards a culture of data-based decision making. What according to you are the major hurdles that organizations need to overcome in order to get there?

We have witnessed a major shift in practices and approach of HR leaders across industries. They have become more open and enthusiastic when it comes to using the latest technologies to improve HR processes and outcomes. They are seen to take proactive steps towards adopting a culture of data-based decision making. Using analytics in HR, parsing through the available data has become much easier and time-saving. This not only allows HR leaders to take decisions pertaining to the immediate issues at hand but foresee the future concerns to be addressed. This serves as an extra edge that manual decision-making processes could never achieve.

While many HR leaders show a keen interest in adopting HR analytics for data-based decision-making, many are not sure how to go about it. There are other hurdles too, like preparing the team and creating a collective mindset among team members to use data-based design-making processes instead of using traditional and outdated processes which are not competent enough to deal with the complexities of HR issues in the fast-paced corporate world.

What kind of data does the analytics need to produce good answers?

Data quality is of utmost importance. Business units within organizations work in siloes with disparate HR systems. There is no centralized knowledge management system. This reduces the depth of analysis that HR could derive as against large data sets allowing multi-dimensional analysis.

Data quality is a fundamental problem that many organizations grapple with. Research has proven, repeatedly, that organizations are not confident of the credibility and reliability of data they possess for decision-making in their own organizations . However, the good news is there has been a tremendous focus on data quality.  With advanced BI tools, data cleansing and management, organizations are reaching a level where good insights could be gleaned from the data available. We are experts at helping organizations get a single-view of their demand and supply, make the most of the data at hand and record and analyze every single data point.

Don’t standard HCM systems today already have the people analytics capabilities, with all the data elements they take in from the employee population? 

Yes and no. While there are many HCM companies who have added a layer of analytics to their platform, the issue is in lack of integration of various HR systems resulting in narrow analytics and insights.

We must think of Talent Analytics in an expansive way. The days of simply analyzing payroll, HRMS, and time and attendance data are over. Spreadsheets are passé – advanced analytics with predictive and prescriptive analytics are the order of the day . Data quality is a grave issue without which valuable insights cannot be gleaned out.

Organizations need to refocus people analytics on business transformation with results like cost savings, revenue generation, and customer satisfaction scores, instead of traditional HR processing efficiencies like time to source and hire employees.

How are people analytics systems able to discern characteristics like personality? Is this from somehow interpreting spoken language, such as in an exit or job interview?

Platforms that are powered by Artificial Intelligence have the ability to read and understand structured and unstructured data using Natural Language Processing. Features such as Organizational Network Analysis study communication and socio-technical networks within a formal organization. This technique creates statistical and graphical models of people, tasks, groups, knowledge, and resources of organizational systems. It identifies workflow patterns, bottlenecks, roles, sentiment, etc.

Have you witnessed cases of organizations making bad decisions based on an over-reliance of people analytics data

What is to be noted here is that the adoption of people analytics is in nascent stages as compared to other business analytics. The challenge is not over-reliance but lack of trust. Many practitioners are dismayed to see HR employees denouncing analytics and the insights therein . Recruiters, for example, sometimes stubbornly pursue candidates deemed as not a good match by predictive scores. Here’s where change management will be crucial.

What questions are your buyers asking you? How is that impacting your company’s roadmap? Are there any new features or upcoming upgrades that you’re excited about and would like to give us a sneak peek into?

HR is seeing widespread adoption of technology and analytics with the pace of adoption being phenomenal. Buyers are looking for an integrated solution with tech (AI being most popular) and analytics bundled together . Some of the factors that influence buying decisions are: alignment with HR’s 3 to 5 roadmap, integration capabilities, data security, outcome measurement. We constantly study the market we operate in to understand the pain points and needs, and this influences our product roadmap. This approach has resulted in two new offerings that we are working on: Workforce Planning and Talent Transformation.

We are in the process of launching our SME offering, which is going to be a SaaS-based plug-n-play module of our HR technology products. We have so far been working only with large organizations who have huge demand for HR and people solutions. Being able to extend the same expertise in terms of HR technology solutions to SMEs will be an exciting move and we are waiting eagerly towards the launch.

We are also planning our geographical expansion in the US and UK and offer our technology to support the HR systems of business in these regions. We are very excited about the opportunities that these new geographies have to offer.

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