INSIDE BP’S DATA-DRIVEN TALENT PIPELINE


In an exclusive interview, BP’s Talent Acquisition Director reveals how the energy giant is succeeding when it comes to future talent

Words by Dan Cave | Design by Matt Bonnar

Bernard Looney, BP Plc’s new(ish) CEO, is a man with a big job. When he was appointed to the role at the start of 2020, the BP lifer went public with the company’s plan to neutralise all emissions from its operations and production by 2050, or sooner. No small task for one of the world’s largest, by revenue, oil and gas firms. And although Looney has had some success in driving sustainability – during his time at the helm of BP’s gas and oil exploration unit (Upstream), he oversaw reduced emissions of CO2 by the millions of tonnes – he is on the record saying that he doesn’t yet know every step of the journey that BP will have to go on to reach this carbon-neutral target.

Looney’s public goalsetting shows an understanding of how businesses will now be judged. Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends report 2019 found that firms increasingly measure their success by societal impact as much as financial outcomes – although both, as intimated by a worldwide move towards de-carbonisation and recent, drastic, oil price fluctuations, will be closely linked for BP.

 
 

Bernard Looney, BP Plc’s new(ish) CEO, is a man with a big job. When he was appointed to the role at the start of 2020, the BP lifer went public with the company’s plan to eliminate all emissions from its operations and production by 2050. No small task for one of the world’s largest, by revenue, oil and gas firms. And although Looney has had some success in driving sustainability – during his time at the helm of BP’s gas and oil exploration unit, he oversaw reduced emissions of CO2 by the millions of tonnes – he is on the record admitting that he doesn’t know every step of the journey that BP will have to go on to reach this carbon-free target.

Looney’s public goalsetting shows an understanding of how businesses will now be judged. Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends report 2019 found that firms increasingly measure their success by societal impact as much as financial outcomes – although both, as intimated by a worldwide move towards de-carbonisation and recent, drastic, oil price fluctuations, will be closely linked for BP.

 

However, to achieve success by either metric, BP’s CEO will need the right tools to drive a new way of working. Talent will likely be at the forefront of his thinking. These days, organisations consider getting hold of the right talent to be so important that, according to a recent survey of CEOs, eight in 10 are either extremely or somewhat concerned about getting access to the skills their business needs. This is up from just over 50 per cent in 2012.

This is where Elif Gurtekin, Talent Acquisition Director at BP (Upstream), comes in. The talent acquisition function, in which she operates, is tasked with getting the right talent into the business to drive BP toward fulfilling its new purpose. “As an organisation that is reinventing itself to better serve our ambition to be net zero by 2050, we chose to recognise that people are the most important asset for BP in achieving our aims,” she exclusively tells HR Grapevine. However, as Elif candidly reveals, understanding that people will drive success in this new purposeful paradigm is only the first part of the journey.

We chose to recognise that people are the most important asset for BP in achieving our aims

Data-led decisions


As she describes it, BP had to get a better handle on the people and recruitment data it owned to make informed decisions about skills and talent, in order to drive towards a new goal. “It is data that will empower us to make key decisions on our people strategy. We have a thirst for data… so that we can build our data models to help answer our most pressing challenges [of which being net zero on emissions will be the main one],” she explains. Yet, BP, as of last year, didn’t have “its arms around the data” in a way it would’ve wanted. Elif admits that there were different reporting lines in different regions for talent acquisition.

In order to get better people data, Elif explains that BP underwent a transformation. It created a single reporting line for the talent acquisition function into a global Centre of Excellence – giving the team, and the business, a better understanding of the skills it will need both today and tomorrow. Data cleaning also had to occur. And, as with any successful project, BP also pre-defined requirements, across the whole HR function, before starting out on the project. As a result, there is now better alignment between teams within talent acquisition – with delivery teams working in unison with sourcing and attraction experts and hiring managers better able to communicate what they need. BP was also able to reach out to the new talent it needed. In Elif’s words, being better with data allowed the organisation to “drive purposeful engagement with those who may not be ready to change jobs yet, or are not aware that BP is hiring in particular areas like digital or low carbon.”

 
 
 
 

One of the most important things is aligning the data and analytics with the vision and the critical business goals

Target driven


Engaging with a different mould of candidate is one clear success for BP and it dovetails with the need to deliver against a new purpose. “This journey [is helping us] understand how we can better anticipate our future demand by looking at historical metrics on attrition, growth and internal deployment of talent, as well as looking at recruitment data,” Elif explains. It also showcases how gathering data in silo, or without purpose, isn’t an end in itself. It must be utilised to drive function and business success – and be easily accessible by the users that need it most.

Therefore, Elif has overseen continuous improvement goals, as well as market benchmarking, for the newly data-enabled function – to drive the team towards the business’ overall goal – as well as better functionality too. This has resulted in the talent acquisition team working with people analytics to develop performance and experience dashboards, allowing better data usability. In practical terms, data enablement has allowed BP to integrate its CRM and ATS systems to provide customised interactions with candidates. “We communicate with candidates in a much more customised way based on their preferences, and in turn we will use that data to build the talent pools that our organisation needs for the future,” Elif explains. A win for talent and those tasked with sourcing it.

It’s so critical to get everyone comfortable with data and engaging with each other based on facts

 
 
 
 

What has data changed for talent acquisition at BP?


Some of the things that the talent acquisition function is looking to deliver on since becoming data enabled:

  • Building a meaningful story with data points – i.e. showing where talent acquisition needed to focus on.
  • Able to measure recruitment success not just by time to hire but by effectiveness of hire.
  • Drive better diversity throughout the organisation i.e. not just a number of minority candidates but how they access promotion opportunities once in the business.
  • Better feedback for candidates during the hiring process.
  • Personalised hiring experiences for candidates.
  • Making better choices on whether to ‘build, bot, borrow or buy’.
  • Allowing hiring managers to make better talent decisions.
  • Creating a talent performance dashboard.
  • Quicker onboarding.
  • More efficient candidate screening.
  • Better business acumen in recruiters.
 

Aligning with the business


Elif is keen to impress upon me that BP is still learning though – and mistakes will be part of that process. “We learned that it’s key to bring people along on the journey with you and make them feel part of the process. We needed to allow people to play around with the data and make mistakes in order to recognise the real patterns. If you’re afraid of making mistakes or misinterpreting the data, that will be the main blocker to your progress,” she adds. “That’s why we’re investing a lot of time in upskilling our HR function on becoming data-driven and encouraging them to come into these sessions by preparing their own interpretations of data. It’s about continuing to learn together.”

A central part of this ‘data journey’, perhaps as with any transformation, is that BP’s talent acquisition function does not ‘run before it can walk’. Elif explains that it’s crucial that the wider HR function, as well as talent acquisition, are both comfortable with data before they try and add the ‘bells and whistles’ – whilst also allowing decisions to be taken with bias or pre-conception. “It’s so critical to get everyone comfortable with data and engaging with each other based on facts rather than sentiments. This is so powerful, because if we can agree on the facts and have a data-led conversation we can then build the best solutions,” she adds.

And whilst BP does have plans to work towards those ‘bells and whistles’, in the form of predicative analytics and data modelling, it is currently focussed on ensuring it is recruiting effectively, delivering better HR partnerships and communicating the ‘why’ behind the need to make certain talent decisions – all driven by a data-enabled function. By structuring its ‘data transformation’ with a clear purpose – and not just becoming data-enabled for the sake of it – Elif believes that HR will also get a better sense of how the business operates too, which is crucial for a lot of the existential issues that HR grapples with – such as its own business value and ‘getting heard’.

 

As Elif concludes: “One of the most important things is aligning the data and analytics with the vision and the critical business goals and whatever is keeping our business leaders up at night. It’s about how we, as a function, start solving some of those challenges.”


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