People analytics is the practice of gathering and using data about your workforce to enable evidence-based decision making for the benefit of your organisation and its people. By taking a systematic and critical approach to examining people data, people professionals can contribute to an organisation’s success by creating insights on what can and should be done to drive strategic change.

The CIPD has conducted case study research with a number of organisations to understand how they are using people analytics to deal with a variety of business challenges. Their experiences and insight can help you in your own context to embrace people analytics and adopt good, data-supported actions to improve organisational practice and performance.

Evolving a new approach to performance management

Organisation: Novartis
Industry: Healthcare and pharmaceuticals
Size: Approximately 110,000 staff
Speaker: Niamh McNamara, Programme Lead of Evolve (Novartis’ performance management experience)

Why did you turn to people data for a solution?
Our staff had voted to ‘kill performance ratings’ in a crowd-sourced event attended by over 30,000 associates in 2018. We clearly needed a better approach to managing performance, and one that’s backed by evidence.

How did you collect and analyse the data?
We started an experiment in 2019 to test our hypotheses on performance management and performance-based reward. Over 16,000 of our associates, across eight countries and seven business units, representing all the different personas in the organisation, participated in the experiment. We partnered with CEBMa (Center for Evidence-Based Management) to look at external secondary research to validate our decision.

What did this exercise uncover?
Our associates preferred the new performance management experience and less than 5% wanted to revert to the old one. Agreement scores to a list of statements were significantly higher post-survey than pre-survey:

  1. we know our contribution matters when we have meaningful objectives (+33%)
  2. we receive quality feedback that helps us to develop (+29%)
  3. when we are recognised in a timely and transparent manner, we feel rewarded for our contribution (+>22%).

The experiment’s results and CEBMa’s evidence revealed that having both individual and team incentives were more favourable than just having team-based incentives.

What action did you take?
We took an agile approach to building our new performance management experience, with data continuing to be integral to the decision-making process. We’ve introduced an exceptional high impact award to celebrate individual performance annually, and are recognising teams more frequently with a new capability, built into to our recognition platform.

What were the outcomes and lessons learnt?
We now have a performance management experience that is better aligned with our staff’s preferences. Having the opportunity to work with our data scientists gave real confidence that what we proposed to the Board of Directors for approval was based on solid evidence. On an individual level, I’d encourage everyone to build their people analytics capability as it can really support your career growth.

In this series

Case studies

Solving business problems with people analytics: Barnwood

Case study on ensuring fair pay and encouraging staff to take time off

Case studies

Solving business problems with people analytics: Vivid

VIVID: Leading with data to improve workforce wellbeing

Case studies

Solving business problems with people analytics: University of Warwick

Using people data to tackle pay gaps and drive inclusive change

Case studies

Solving business problems with people analytics: Financial Times

Understanding engagement to improve productivity

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