Living the transformation of HR into people science

Meet Anne-Marie Cooper, Chief People Officer of international cloud-based co-operation software company Huddle

People science is the new reality of the HR function, according to Anne-Marie Cooper. Working in a fast-growing, entrepreneurial and tech-focused business, her focus on data as a basis for decision-making is hardly surprising.

That data is used for operational tasks, forecasting and employee engagement. “We gather data for literally everything we do: on recruiting candidates, to looking into causes of turnover; we evaluate the effectiveness of our learning and development programme, and we use data for salary benchmarking and performance management.” Online employee survey data shapes HR strategy and is particularly valuable in the areas of retention and nurturing a productive company culture.

Cooper says her team is becoming more and more commercially driven, with data metrics at the heart of their role. But that doesn’t mean dehumanising the HR team’s function. Although “there’s a real shift away from using qualitative, fluffy, data,” Cooper asserts that as long as her team always uses quantitative data with people in mind, in context of real individuals, it’s invaluable to signpost and confirm trends.

The care and attention of employees is still crucial. But using data to inform and refine instinctive decisions can give Huddle an edge as an employer. That’s crucial when attracting and retaining many of the core specialist skills Huddle demands is a competitive business.

The new demands of the tech-friendly millennial generation are also shaping HR science at Huddle. Employees have different communication preferences. They demand flexible working and a healthy work-life balance. A proactive commitment to training and development is key in attracting people with the current and ever-advancing skill set that Huddle needs. Millennials are also rejecting the time-served concept of the annual review. “It’s kind of unusual,” says Cooper, “But last year we removed ratings from our performance reviews and changed to something more continual, giving feedback in real-time, rather than months and months late.”

Cooper distances herself from the old-fashioned perception of HR as an administrative function that adds little business value. She advocates a “business partnering” approach. In the fast-growing, entrepreneurial environment of Huddle, with its burgeoning recruitment and retention needs, she is highly visible and influential in the organization.

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