Data Analytics Help Keep People at the Center

By Nicole Hazard, Director, People Analytics, AXA US

Nicole Hazard, Director, People Analytics, AXA US

corporate human resources departments have been forever changed by data analytics, something that received little emphasis not long ago. Today, a steadily increasing amount of science and technology is associated with the profession. And this sea change couldn’t happen at a better time. Companies are looking more carefully than ever before at how they can allocate their resources, not only to control costs, but also to stand out from the competition in attracting the best talent. Employers are challenged to fill jobs that require more skills, from entry-level positions upward. Technology can facilitate getting the right people into these jobs, uncovering people who could be trained to fill more skilled positions with innovative approaches to bring out the best in their people.

Being a data-driven enterprise can help that. The problem is that many HR departments are encumbered with systems and approaches that fail to capitalize on new technologies that bring speed and efficiency to our most C common human capital challenges. In my company, AXA, There’s a war for talent–to attract it, as well as to retain it we are piloting several startup companies offering digital technologies that hold great promise for our field.


Digital tools and data analytics can not only help identify professional potential in the selection process, they also can be used to help guide current employees toward development opportunities and career growth. While it may seem counter-intuitive to associate terms like machine learning and artificial intelligence with people, these new entrants in data analytics are helping to keep people at the heart of our enterprise. In a new initiative at AXA called People Forward, we are encouraging employees to provide information about themselves to help us understand company-wide talent trends and needs on a broad level. Data given on a completely voluntary basis are being collected through various projects and will be used to strengthen our learning programs to tailor them to new skills required in the digital age, such as customercentricity and digital mindset. The overarching goal is to make sure we are providing the tools and learning opportunities to employees so they can continue to develop professionally today and in the future.

One of our technology partners for People Forward is a Silicon Valley start-up that uses digital games to assess skills in a fun, interactive way. Based on a belief that all have special talents, this innovative technology uses cutting-edge behavioral and computer science to identify those talents through games. Eventually, we plan to use the collected information to understand our workforce needs in the digital age. The project is at the vanguard of skill assessment trends, so much so that the White House recently recognized us in May as one of 100 leading employers working to "Upskill America”.

 A second program, “Daily Pulse,” launched earlier this spring, uses real-time data to gauge employee engagement. Employees anonymously rate their day by pressing red (bad day) or green (good day) on a digital response meter placed near the exit doors. We are using the results to provide additional context on ways to enhance employee engagement in a “real time” way, to complement a traditional annual engagement survey.

Third, we have customized our HR information system to capture more robust and multi-dimensional employee-related information to assist with workforce planning. We are offering employees the opportunity to add information voluntarily and confidentially about themselves, such as their education, veteran, and disability status. We will use this information to assess and refine our benefit offerings and to strengthen our diversity and inclusion strategy.

With these technologies developed by a combination of start-ups and some more established players, HR has moved away from the “gut” approach that historically defined HR towards a data-driven approach supported by the most advanced technology. The landscape of HR technology has changed so that now, the HR vanguard uses a “test and learn” environment to assimilate change in a rapidly changing world. While also bringing new productivity, these new HR technologies allow us to keep people at the heart of everything we do—further shaping the inclusive and engaged work environments we know are vital to successful enterprises.

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