I had a singular mission upon arriving at Panasonic: turn People Analytics from a buzz-word and a pipe-dream into a function that produces insightful results and is a trusted partner by our business and HR leaders.

Over the past few years, as I navigated the company and tried to map my path through the uncharted waters of setting up People Analytics, I realized that there is a lot more to ‘making People Analytics happen’ than just creating a new function and hiring a team.

I learned that “making People Analytics happen” means:

Being scrappy on a shoestring budget and using what I have (in most cases Excel spreadsheets accompanied by color coordinated PowerPoint visuals)

Overcoming misconceptions of what People Analytics truly is, and constantly proving that every dollar invested into the function is worth it

Thinking outside of the box to build a multi[1]functional, multi-talented, ‘swiss army knife’ team to fulfill the responsibilities

Timing technology investments so that they aid the process of implementing People Analytics and not encumber it (i.e. avoiding the misconception that implementing a piece of HR Technology is the same as implementing a People Analytics function)

Alternating between wearing my People Analytics and ChangeManagement hats on a daily basis in order to help HR and other business leaders understand the insights derived and their significance

Like many other People Analytics functions at other organizations tasked with ‘making it happen’, my team focused on the tactical, quick-win items. #GSD or Get Stuff Done was our team slogan for the longest time.

With a scrappy mindset and a can[1]do attitude, in the past two years my team and I were able to build the People Analytics function from the ground up, deliver on countless research projects to better understand our employees’ needs, and implement an analytics platform that delivers real-time people insights to our business leaders, on demand. I am proud of the strides we have made with People Analytics at Panasonic over the past few years, and what my team and I have achieved. With this in mind, I started wondering how we can elevate and shift People Analytics from being a trending topic to becoming a natural part of everyday business in the organization.

In my opinion, the future of People Analytics lies in our ability to embed analytics in the flow of work.In tactical terms, this means that we need to:

Make it effortless for our internal customers to digest our analytical output. This requires that we increase data proficiency across the organization so People Analytics reports and output can travel beyond its typical current user base of senior business and HR leaders, and become embedded in the workflow of all leaders, managers—especially frontline managers—and employees

Shift the historical HR-centric approach of developing and disseminating People Analytics to a more customer/employee[1]centric approach. Instead of focusing on how People Analytics can help HR, we must focus on how our analytical output can help HR deliver the optimal employee experience through programs and initiatives

Do it all on the strong foundation of trust and transparency with our employees. This means we have to take the time and effort to strive for comprehensive guidelines on data collection practices and usage. It also means that we, as the People Analytics team, have to take on the accountability and safeguard our employees’ data unconditionally

While all this might sound simple, the organizational structure and mandate of most People Analytics organization today are not conducive to handling these situations. We are set up as a team of problem solvers and data handlers, which is why I believe that for People Analytics to achieve its full potential, the People Analytics team structure as they exist in most organizations today must be re[1]adjusted.

First, to increase data proficiency the team needs to shift its focus away from delivering reports and outputs, to guiding the interpretation and implementation of outputs and associated initiatives. We must actively partner with HR Business Partners to continuously expand and build on their data proficiency. In addition, we must work with frontline managers and leaders to ensure that data proficiency permeates throughout the organization.

“We are set up as a team of problem solvers and data handlers, which is why I believe that for People Analytics to achieve its full potential, the People Analytics team structure as they exist in most organizations today must be re-adjusted”

Second, to become customer centric the People Analytics function must become the architect of continuous data collection on all matters related to employee experience, and ensure that data is captured at the key moments that matter. Only by listening to the organization and our employees in the flow of work, will we be able to deliver analytical insights and guide teams to create initiatives that address employees’ needs.

Finally, transparency in employee data usage is foundational to achieving everything mentioned above. The People Analytics team must proactively work with Legal and IT security teams to ensure employees understand how their data is being handled and why it is important to provide insights on their experiences at work. This means taking accountability for all things data related—positive and / or negative.

In summary, I believe that People Analytics holds the key to unleash the power of organizations during these uncertain times. I also believe that the future of People Analytics lies in our ability to embed the function into the flow of work. This means proliferating People Analytics insights throughout the organization, so that it becomes an accessible tool for everyday decision making at all levels within the organization. In some cases, like mine, this will require re-modeling the function as it exists today.