S&P Global | Compassion, trust, & a value-first lens: Behind the scenes of a people analytics 'A-team'

Compassion, trust, & a value-first lens: Behind the scenes of a people analytics 'A-team'

The Organizational Analytics and People Insights team at S&P Global is well-trusted, drives ongoing investment, and delivers substantial value to the business on issues from expense management to building future capabilities. Indeed, it was named by Insight222 as a people analytics ‘A-team’ in its 2023 People Analytics Trends Report.

Alan Susi, VP, Global Head of Organizational Analytics & People Insights, S&P Global, speaks to HR Grapevine to offer an inside look at his team's approach to people analytics practices, and how other organizations where these practices are less developed can follow suit.

What is the scope of the Organizational Analytics and People Insights team at S&P Global?

It's a blend of people analytics, workforce planning, digital transformation, and Gen AI adoption in our people function.

We try to work both with our people function and centers of excellence, but also with business teams and executives out in the business to solve their workforce planning and business outcome measures that relate to people or headcount.

Insight222 rated you as a people analytics ‘A-team’– how did you reach this level?

Ironically, it starts with not doing it at scale. What we've tried to do is embed the idea of driving value, which Insight 222’s report states is from a finance perspective.

Following the Ulrich model, so much of why my organization or the people function exists is to support the business. So, we start from a value-first lens, acting as a start-up in the way we approach it. What’s the biggest outcome, whether it be financial or operational efficiency? And what metrics matter like earnings per share? Then lean in on that piece of work.

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When we find the right piece of work to do, we try to build the foundations next to it. As a start-up, we know there’s a problem or gap in the market, so how do we try to solve it? If we’re doing that and we get out there to connect with the business, we are directly responsible for that value creation.

For us, it could be related to a merger, operational expense management, building future capabilities, and so on. Then we try to scale it to bring in the right investment and infrastructure to support more folks. If we hit the value case first, that’s a proof point for subsequent investment.

How has that approach helped you build trust from other leaders in people analytics?

The leaders have to trust that what we deliver will impact them. We’ve built that trust by being very empathetic, a lot of listening, and trying to understand their problem.

The people analytics ‘trap’ when it’s growing in influence is that you become self-focused. I’m interested in X or Y, but is the business going to use that? Or is each stakeholder going to use that?

The second part of the equation is being compassionate. It might be helping finance solve an operational management or expense management problem. It might be helping real estate solve an office strategy challenge. If we're doing those things, people know that an investment in us -  because we're so problem and solution-oriented - will grow, because it's not about something we only think is important but haven’t tested. We’ve gone ahead and tested it and solved other people’s issues, so they’re very comfortable investing in us or using our influence to support their work.

How does people analytics inform your approach to organizational design?

I spent a lot of my early career as an org design consultant and an HR business partner. Part of that work is driving organizational design activities, whether they be big or small. Helping one leader, helping a business line or corporate function, whatever it might be, data is at the core.

At S&P Global, we’re trying to reference it more from an organizational health lens. Again, the Ulrich model espouses the organization is created to support the value the being driven to the market. If we’re thinking about organizational health, you design an organization to effect that delivery as efficiently and effectively as possible.

We start the consultation process by asking why that organizational design exists, and is it healthy?

You bring people to do that work, or investments in technology and processes, and you try to understand the risks and the experiences of those people. If you think about health that way, you might design or redesign an organization in a certain way based on data-driven insights.

A classic example is spans of control. They can be high or low depending on why or how you design them. But is it about manager effectiveness? Is it about scaling influence? Is it about better supporting people's needs to drive more flow of work?

Those become the core considerations and data will show us where that where that happens. It then manifests in a strategic workforce plan if done correctly.

Do you have any advice to HR leaders where people analytics lacks investment or trust?

Find the activity with the most value and lean in there. It can be a minimum viable product, a proof of concept, or the adage of a burning platform.

If you're aligned to driving value there and you're doing it with empathy and compassion, you will get the investment, whether it be resources, technology, or influence.

You're then going to be able to fill a gap with more scale and support. If you're solving a big problem for a few people, you can then drive that scale to solve smaller problems for a broader audience, because you've built the foundations correctly.

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