HR Vision Podcast #22 – A customer’s perspective on HR Data ft. Jagannathan Raghavan

By FourVision
Dec 1 • 1 min read
HR Vision Podcast Episode 22 ft. Jagannathan Raghavan - Element

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We often talk about data in HR and its importance. But there’s nothing like some real world use of that.

Jagannathan Raghavan, Global HR Digitalization & Operational Excellence Director for Element Materials Technology, joined us from Dubai to give his view on HR Data.

This is a special episode for us since it’s the first time we have a customer on the show! Jag talked about his expertise, his relationship with FourVision but, most importantly,
the importance of Data in HR and what he’s been doing in that regard. Listen to him, don’t take our word for it.

Ivo:
Hey everyone, and welcome to the HR Vision podcast. I'm your host, Ivo, and every week I'm going to have a conversation that matters about HR.

This week I have Jagannathan Raghavan with me. Welcome Jag, how are you?

Jagannathan:
Hey, good Ivo, how are you doing?

Ivo:
I'm doing great. Thank you so much for being here. Jag joins us from Dubai and is the global HR digitalization and operational excellence Director for Element Materials Technology.

This is a very special episode for us, since it's the first time we have a FourVision customer on the show. Yay.

Jagannathan is here to talk about his expertise, his relationship with FourVision. But most importantly the importance of data in HR and what he's been doing in that regard. Which is I have to say, great. I've seen some snippets of it. So yeah, Jag, once again thank you so much for being here. And let's start a conversation. All right?

Jagannathan:
Yeah, it's my pleasure Ivo.

Ivo:
Alright let's go then. I just want people to know who you are. So let's start with a bit of an introduction. Who are you and what have you been doing in HR?

Jagannathan:
Hey, people call me Jag. You can continue to call me as Jag because I'm known more as Jag than my full name. That's fine.

I'm the global HR digitalization and operational excellence director for Element Materials Technology. Let me give you a little background about Element materials technology.

Element Materials Technology. We call that as Element. It is easy to say instead of saying the full sentence as Element materials technology.

At element: We are a global company. We are spread over 30 plus countries and we have above 100 legal entities. About 6700 employees spread over 30 plus countries. That is a mammoth of a company I'm working for right now. I joined this company some 14-15 years ago, and I moved into the role of digitalization a few years before that. And the journey has been stupendous for me.

Ivo:
I can imagine. It's been a while with that company, but HR was always your education? You knew that the that you want in HR? I'm just curious, why was that?

Jagannathan:
That's a good question. I think I need to go back in time to understand what I have done.

Ivo:
Please do, please do!

Jagannathan:
OK to be honest, I started my life as a programmer. I was doing programming way back in India. And then moved into HR. Then HR became my life stay for the last 20 plus years. So I've been, maybe because of my programming background. I'm always fascinated by IT, as well as data and how data can be used in HR. That is the reason my journey in HR and data is very long. It linked together. What I have done in HR and using data is very important for me.

Ivo:
OK, interesting. So that's how that connection between HR and technology happened. So you started with technology first, and you move to HR later, and you combined the two of them.

Jagannathan:
True!

Ivo:
Alright. I've seen, kind of from your past experiences that you had a lot of rolls around HR management, right? I'm just curious for all HR professionals out there, from all of your experience: What are the most important things to have as an HR manager?

Jagannathan:
You see, as long as you are people centric and making decisions with the heart, you are an HR person. I don't see any individual as a separate HR department, or an operations person or general management or finance. Everybody is in an HR person. Because everybody is human being; everybody needs to be an HR focused or people focused person. And to be successful specializing in HR, are all your decisions should be people centric and you need to be able to use the data available to you and make a humane decision. You will be successful in HR. That's what I've been doing all along, and all my decisions will be keeping the people at the centre of decision making. That is key for any HR person to be successful. My takeaway would be to keep people because people are the best thing can happen for you to get the business going. Any decision without people heart will not be successful. That's my view.

Ivo:
Alright, alright. So despite all these technology background that you have and working with data for a long time. At the core, they are still people, right? That's still the most important thing?

Jagannathan:
You see, data is an enabler for HR to make a decision. At the end of the day data is not going to make the decision. People are going to make the decision. And how meaningful your their decision making is going to be based on data at the end of the day, it is the human who is making the decision.

Ivo:
There you go. Yeah, I think that's a good answer indeed. Let's talk about data. Sort of a general question first. Which is, you sort of touched that point before. But what do you think are the main important aspects of having data in HR? Keeping data safe, accessible, accurate. What are the main things around HR data that people should know?

Jagannathan:
Globally, I would say, the people side is really an intangible thing for everybody to make a decision. That will always be decision made on people, based on intuition, based on subjective elements.

With HR technology and HR digitalization, we are able to make a more meaningful data analysis, and then make decisions based on data which will be more realistic. But getting the data, how to maintain the data... When I'm talking about my own company here, we have 6000 plus employees within the company. And managing 6000 plus employees with an HR team globally placed in different locations, and have a unified approach and unified data management: We need a system.

With that data, how you're going to use data is very, very important. For me, it is not only having the data. The data literacy of an HR team is very critical for making the best decisions. So getting the HR team moved to be more people oriented, to become data literate. It is key for me to make them successful. What I'm trying to do with my company is: I'm trying to get the data to the HR team, get them HR data literate. To sit in front of their customers, for me all HR people have customers. I have customers. You have customers. Everybody has customers.

When I go to my customer with the data and present a case, the chance of winning that argument and making a good decision isn't very high without data. So having that data is very, very critical for an HR professional to be successful in a mid size, or big size, or a large organizations. Even I would say even a small organization. So start now to have data on people because there will be loads and loads of decisions that can be made.

I'll give you one small example how data helps in decision making. In my company, where I'm sitting now in Dubai. Previously I got a letter in Spanish suddenly landing in the company. It's a customer letter or anything like that. Nobody knows how to get data translated from Spanish into English. Somebody came and told me, hey, you have data. Can you find out who speaks Spanish in the company? Within two seconds I could see that three people can understand, write, read and speak Spanish. In Dubai, who is part of my company, has connected the people came out of it and the problem was solved within few minutes.

Ivo:
Amazing, yeah. There you go.

Jagannathan:
I'll give you one more classic example. What happened: We had a situation, one rare group of blood was needed by one of the companies in Dubai. And they were asking all the people what to do. Because I have data, I just run a report and see who in the company had that. I reached out to them and said "Hey, look, there's an emergency. Do you mind donating blood?". Within one hour he donated blood and saved a life. So that is the power of data.

Ivo:
Wow, that's two very good examples indeed. Let me just go back to one thing that you said around the importance of data, and using that data. It's to have HR professionals become literate in data. How do you go about that? Do you give them training, do you show them the systems we have in place? Is it very important to give them training, or do you hire people who are already data literate? Because sometimes that doesn't happen. They didn't grow up like that; using data for a lot of their decisions. How do you go about that?

Jagannathan:
You see, bringing data literacy is to get them the data. And presented to them in a format in which they will understand in a layman's language, because when I have 35 countries I have HR people sitting in different places. It is essential for me to give them the tool. So I use the data, analyze it through data analytics and provide it in a format. For example, what is core to an HR person to have a meaningful discussion? I'll give you an example here. You see there is an attrition happening in one particular place, in a country or in one particular department. As an adult person without data, what will I do? I'll go to the manager. There is something wrong with your department. Let us talk to you to understand that better. The manager will always start defending them, saying that 'no, no, no is everything is right', it's a recruitment issue; it is a engagement issue.

Always there is conflict between the operations and HR will come saying that it is not me, it is something else. At that time, what I have done is that we have taken the data using FourVision performance management. And we have implemented Element Academy where it's a training platform. We implemented Element recognition, where the people are getting recognized by thank you card Excellence Awards, those type of things. I integrated everything into using D365HR core data on the organizational hierarchy. What I have done is as a manager, I go and open the scorecard for him. It will tell me how many people he lost in the last one year. How many his direct team and indirect team lost; How many people have been set performance management in the tool; How many people have not been set Performance management in the tool; How many people have been given training in the tool and how many are not given training? How many are recognized? How many are not recognized in the high attrition department. Is having a manager who has not done any of these things.

As an HR person, you can go and open the tool and say "Look, hey mate. You are a good manager, but you are not a people manager." You have not done performance management. You have not done recognition. You are not given training, you have not done this. Maybe you are doing it. You are indirect managers are not doing it. So why don't we do something to enable you to do these areas better so that your attrition goes down? That is how I use data to enable manager to become data literate. To make sure that they become on par.

How to interpret data. When I'm talking about data literacy, I'm not expecting them to go and see how to do this. I'm giving the data and analyze the data, interpret the data and use it for their own benefit.

That is the literacy I'm trying to get into my company and I have so far been successful.

Ivo:
Amazing, that's super insightful. OK alright . So let's move a bit to the to the work that you've been doing in a bit more detail. So at Elevate you worked with us, with FourVision and implemented our Performance web app. So take us through that decision first. We already have a previous conversation. Just Full disclosure here, but you told us that you were going for the system, for Dynamics 365 HR as a core system. But you found out that there were things in there that could be improved. So take us through that process and through that decision to come to us. And why was that?

Jagannathan:
OK this happened sometime last year. Same time, I think it was somewhere in October, November last year. What happened is, as Element. Element is a full and full Microsoft domain company. All our systems, solutions, architecture. Everything is based on Microsoft. So when we decided to have a global implementation of HR, the natural choice fell on Microsoft. And another important aspect of that is: Globally, there is a way in which Microsoft operates and there are in the HR-based - Microsoft 365HR, perse, is an evolving system. It requires a lot of effort in implementation, understanding the system and making sure it works for us.

When we chose the Microsoft system, we brought the core people data into D365HR and then started building in other addons for making sure that everything is working perfect, using the core HR system. The only thing what we wanted to do is we don't want to create multiple platforms that don't talk to each other. That is very important.

One thing what we have done in our company is: We will not keep duplicate data for people anywhere else other than my core D365 cloud system. When I'm saying that, what do I mean? Even any requirement built in F&O, be it in marketing, in sales, in communication, be it in a any other department. They want people data. I will provide a feeder into their database rather than asking them to create another set of data. So I have single source of truth, globally for people.

The biggest advantage of keeping single source of truth is that I can keep it clean. Then, when we were trying to get into performance management, succession planning, and other things. The Core D365 HR system needs a lot of evolution and we had a very short period to get it going live on performance management. When we started in October, November, talking to FourVision to get our performance management, the only goal is to hit the January deadline to go live. And what we have done is we have done a really good job of getting the performance that we call it OKR's, as that is Objectives and Key Results".

Some companies say goal, some say objectives. Some companies say different terminologies. We use it as OKRs. And we want the employees to fill in OKRs globally, and managers to go and approve it and sign it off. That was the primary objective we implemented in a record time of say 30-40 days. Globally and went live. That is a phenomenal achievement through the FourVision team, to make sure that we delivered whatever we wanted. One because that capability when we were exploring in within the D365, we filled that. There are areas where we may fail, so we want to have a web app solution, and then moved with FourVision because we felt that FourVision as a product which can easily talk to D365 as a core system and take the data and deliver what we wanted.

That is the reason we went with FourVision and we have been successful in implementing that so far.

Ivo:
That's great to hear. Just run me through the beginning. Where did you find us, was it something you worked with us before you? You've been referenced by Microsoft or something like that? How did that happen?

Jagannathan:
OK, I heard about FourVision's name, but I was literally clueless on how to get it done. I did, in fact I sent a mail to Bert, your CEO. And he sent a mail to Peter. In fact, Bert responded in next to one hour's time. Then I got connected. We got going. It was a initially through a LinkedIn connection.

Ivo:
OK that's interesting, alright. So that's the basic things and how you got to the performance management, Microsoft Core HR and everything. So let's talk a bit more, because you did more. You went to a step forward and that took basically all the data that you have within the systems, and you start building this kind of dashboard that gives you basically all data available for HR where you can take your decision.

So how did you go about that? How did you feel you should go? In what direction did you feel you should go? Just run it through a bit of that.

Jagannathan:
OK. I think you're trying to concise something what I have done for last one year.

Ivo:
Sure, we have limited time. I'm sorry I would love to give you more.

Jagannathan:
That is true! You see, when we started this project. It is an evolving decision making for us when we walk, we know where we want to go. The objective is to become a one stop solution. For my team to make business decisions based on people data. We added some Web app solution. We use some core data or D365 HR. We implemented compensation now. We did everything together. But what I felt is how to make it useful for not only HR for business leaders to make decisions.

And how it is going to be useful. So I have a team with me. And I went to the team and said I have the core data now. We need to get it more meaningful for people consumption of data, because that is very essential. Without you can have tons and tons of data but you don't know what to do with the data. You're not making any use of the data. So what we did is we started building. The first project that we started was with performance management, to understand how many people have objectives set in the tool? How many people don't have objectives set in the tool? And how many people have management bonus plan, and whose objectives are not set because that is going to affect that bonus and those type of things. Then we started evolving into data gaps. For me, having a clean data is very essential to make sure that the data gaps are filled.

So we gave a tool to the team saying that, "Hey, this is your data. This is what it is. This data is missing, go and fix it.". We pushed it to the operational HR team to have access only to their data. Another important thing what we have done is: in HR, confidentiality is very high. With GDPR regulations and other things, you cannot allow everybody to have access to the data. So we felt 'OK. How to leverage on that and making sure that confidentiality is maintained?' So we adopted the D365HR security for managers and direct and indirect managers, the position hierarchy. And then build a security matrix in our analytics tool where people can access only their own data. Otherwise they will not get access to anything. So we are using a single source of truth, also by using the D365 HR security into Power BI, so that we don't have to create a separate security matrix.

Ivo:
Yes, right.

Jagannathan:
So by that way we started building it, then it has evolved in to the last six months, from one screen analytical report. Now I have at least a 45-55 screen Analytical report available, in single source of truth to the people. Now I'm building the next stage, in fact I'm talking to the FourVision team to get the merit increase through the tool for 2022, where that merit increase data capability is built into the analytical tool, so whatever is happening in performance management is visible to the management through performance management analytical tool, rather than coming into the system to see individual records.

That is the direction we are taking it. My belief is: What is digitalization? Digitalization is not automating the process. It is not. It is about automation and making sure that automated data is clean. And it is available for end-users to make meaningful decisions. Then only the digitalization is complete. I can go back and say, look, I'm providing an app. You put in your leave application and manager will approve it. That is a process. Yeah, but what am I going to do after that with the data? That is more important to me. That is what I call it as digitalization, and then operational excellence. How to improve that? How to make it happen, and how to make sure that whatever data is captured globally is used meaningfully for arriving at decisions. That is what I'm trying to do now.

Ivo:
Amazing, I'm learning a lot today, so thank you for that. Just one more thing related to that. What is the feedback that you've been getting? You know, we've been implementing this for some time, for a year. What is the feedback from your teams? Are they using the data? Are they happy with it? What's been the feedback?

Jagannathan:
Within Element we have more number of applications or analytical tool available. I measure that. Microsoft gives a capability to put a leader board on all the analytical tools available within the company. In the last five months we are number one. HR is number one in utility and usage across the globe on all the platforms, all the analytical tool available within the company so that shows volume of usability for the people. Because it's a big organization. When 6000 people are there.

When we have a sales and marketing analytical tool, we have another analytical tool. We have thousands of analytical tools available in the company and we captured the number one place sometime in July/August, and we are still number one. So that shows answers.

Ivo:
There's your feedback. Yeah, if everybody is using it, it's the top tool. I think there's your feedback. Great.

Jagannathan:
And another thing is, as a data analytical person I could see that I'm using a tool given by Microsoft for my advantage to see where I'm standing, rather than asking people whether you are using it.

Ivo:
Yeah, that putting the tools to work. Digitalization, making meaningful, a meaningful utility for those tools. A couple more questions and I'll let you go.

What would you say to HR professionals that don't use a lot of data. They're not very into data and they never been there starting, maybe their careers, and they're more about the emotional side of things. And they never look too much into data. You know, how can good data improve their working experience? Because it's also about them, even if they don't believe in data, it's still meaningful for them to use to use it, right?

Jagannathan:
Yeah. I'm not saying it's a piece of advice or anything like that. There is value in going digital in HR. The value is more for the HR person to become more professional and this would not only help you to automate the process, but also help you to generate a volume of data. Then when you become data literate with the data, you will be able to make meaningful decisions, which is key for HR professionals. Because there is an abundance of data generated through the digital processes. HR professionals may be able to filter them and use it for making evidence based decisions. And achieving operational efficiency. And by automating and then going digital, that would provide HR professionals loads of time to make meaningful decisions.

And I always say this, HR always has to always fight for a seat on the table. The reason is: it is always marketing, which is evidence based. Finance, which is evidence based because numbers. And operations is evidence based because they have data to talk. When an HR person is having data, unable to make meaningful decisions and support the business. And with the data, he will earn the seat on the table rather than fight for the seat on the table. That is my take.

Reading and interpreting data for business will be having a major business impact, which will help them to go through the HR value chain. In the business. So going digital on HR is key for an HR professional to be successful and in taking the next step in their lives.

Ivo:
There you, enough said. Just to one less thing for you. More sort of a general question to look into the future, is that we've been asking this to a lot of guests in the show. What do you see in the future of HR technology, HR professionals? You know, are there any interesting trends that you anticipate or that excite you? Or it's just continuing proving that data and making meaningful decisions?

Jagannathan:
Yeah, that's a really good question. People call HR 3.0, now it's 2.0. HR 1.0 was the industrial revolution, then data revolution. Now we're talking about HR 3.0. My take would be to how it is going to evolve. Technology will evolve in people decision, but it's always in one place which is human and the emotions controlled. And people may say: with technology, HR will not be there? No, that is not true. HR will be there as long as human beings exist.

The reason is: every human being is unique. You cannot automate that at all. You cannot do anything, but it will help you to make decisions. I'm seeing things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, all those things coming into the HR domain. And people talk about blockchain technology. I'm seeing blockchain technology coming into HR much faster than in currency. The reason is: what you do? End-to-end from recruitment to retirement? You can have a blockchain technology to enable the employees value chain created through blockchain. Even an offer-making process, from recruitment process. Everything can be enabled through blockchain over a period of time.

That is what I'm expecting HR to evolve into. Using machine learning, artificial intelligence and making sure that all the routine processes are automated. And use that data and this thing to make decisions for your business. I'm seeing it's all getting into the high-level value addition to the businesses, through technology. That's what I'm aiming at.

Ivo:
I think that's a great note to end this episode. Thank you so much, Jag.

Jagannathan:
Thank you, it's a pleasure talking to you.

Ivo:
It was a pleasure for me. So thank you so much for taking the time. For everybody listening out there: We hope you enjoyed the episode and we'll see you next time.


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