HR Analytics at Thomson Reuters - James Rule, CIO

Insight into what happened when we caught up with James Rule after his presentation at the HR Analytics Innovation Summit.


After his presentation at the HR Analytics Innovation Summit, London on March 19 & 20, we caught up with James Rule, CIO, People & Organization at Thomson Reuters, for a Q&A.

James is a senior HRIS leader with over 15 years experience in helping organizations make best use of their investment in HR technology. He believes that to be an effective technologists need to understand as much about people management practices as they do technology – what has happened, is happening and is likely to happen. As a believer in strong talent management his ethos is to get the right people, doing the right thing, at the right time whilst staying engaged, motivated, committed and hopefully enjoy- ing the experience and having fun. James has worked for organizations in the private and public sector and is currently in the Director, CIO People & Organization role at Thomson Reuters after successfully delivering all talent-centric work streams for their Workday implementation.

Having worked at Thomson Reuters in the HR department throughout the data revolution, how has this increase in data impacted on the department and company as a whole?

The shift to HR self service really started this and more recent- ly this has evolved to being able to initiate and interact with HR processes. So the short answer is that there are less transactional people in HR now.

This in turn is driving the organization to ask more questions around people data in general and from there more requirements are being made of our HCM platforms in terms of analytics and analysis. From an organizational perspective we are seeing more roles that are either truly partnering with the business; acting as a centre of excellence

or providing more sup- port to our HR technology.

How do you think analytics have changed the HR function?

I think they are changing from what is traditionally a “how many have we got of this” or “we have to report on that” to a much more predictive and future look- ing state. There are still reports that have to be produced (SOX, SafeHarbor, EU country specific laws etc) but reporting and analytics has moved up the value chain now in terms of answering questions like “how can the or- ganization be more effective?” and “how can we react to organizational change more effectively” and even “I have this role, who could do it and how do I ensure transparency within the process”. The latter is a really important point as presenting data can help lower any perception of closed and unfair selection processes which is one way of addressing poor engagement and morale.

Having been an integral part of building many of Thomson Reuters HR analytics systems, how do you see these systems developing in the next 5 years?

I see a much bigger shift from transactional to transformational and a much bigger component for Big Data both within the organization and across the industry/segment.

Who doesn’t want to know how their benefits packages compares to others? I also see a bigger consumerization of data in terms of configurable dashboards being available to managers and leaders. One of the things I regularly talk about is “Data driven talent management” and I believe it’s becoming more probable. I won’t go into the whole mobile arena but again that is huge!

Do you think that HR analytics are exclusively useful to large companies or can small and medium sized companies benefit?

The investment to be able to analyze and crunch the data is some- thing that traditionally is outside the budgets of smaller companies. However with the rise of SaaS HCM platforms this investment is carried by the vendor and the companies are paying for what they consume. So if the intention is to use SaaS/ Cloud based HCM platforms then

any user can benefit. There is a relationship between the complexity of the organization and the amount of data it generates but all organizations should be thinking about where they are going and how best to design from a people perspective, through to the talent succession ex- ample I mention above. At the end of the day skilled and productive re- sources are rare and no one wants to lose their best talent.

What advice would you give to a company who is looking to implement an HR analytics programme in 2014?

As always when it comes to de- signing a program – “what business problem are you looking to solve?” and focus on the outcomes rather than any technology. There may be an immediate need to start providing reports because they have grown into a certain locale or it may be something more ethereal like trying to address poor attrition in a certain demographic or field. I’d always recommend talking to people both inside and outside of their organization. I do believe that most companies are trying to solve the same problems when it comes to HR in general and there’s no harm in sharing. It might sound odd but all companies want to treat their people well if they hope to succeed and it should be more about the company, its ethics and its products and services and less about how it treats its employees (as it knows from all of its data sources that it treats them well...)

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