Jean-Paul Lucassen is a data driven professional, he ‘sees’ numbers and is determined to understand them when he doesn’t. At NS (Dutch Railways) Jean-Paul started the Analytics role stand alone in 2015 and is currently in the process of expanding the team to 4. Dutch Railways has adopted his vision on Strategic Workforce Planning.
Furthermore, Jean-Paul will be speaking at the Icongroup People & Workforce Analytics Seminar in November 2018. As our colleague Gido van Puijenbroek is chairing day 1 of the event we spoke to him about HR Analytics and Strategic Workforce Planning. Jean-Paul shared his views, experiences and also 3 interesting NS cases with us. “SWP is like a journey in which HR develops deep expertise about the business and all its intricacies.”
In November you will be speaking at the People & Workforce Analytics Seminar. What are your expectations for this event?
“It will be my third time around this year. First of all, I’m hoping to see new organisations and inspiring use cases. I’m especially attracted by the international nature of the event. NS is a Dutch organisation, but I think we can learn from multinationals, specifically how they manage complexity and create momentum despite the complexity.”
Could you give us a sneak peek of your own presentation?
“I’m proud to speak about the progress we have made with People Analytics in the last couple of years. Furthermore, I will discuss a Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) case that we are currently working on. We have a relatively large number of bulk functions: train operator, conductor, train engineer, etc. For one of these functions we are now planning 10 years ahead by looking at some of the mega trends that are currently impacting our society. And more importantly we will define action plans based on the generated insights.”
A lot has been written and said about the GDPR. What are your preliminary reflections on the new legislation?
“At the moment I think it is fair to say it has a paralyzing effect on the HR analytics domain. Because the legislation is so new we are in untested territories. As a result, everyone wants to be safe rather than sorry (from the HR professional to the legal counsel, to the security officer, etc.). Time will tell, but I think when we get more accustomed to the GDPR and jurisdiction the pace will pick back up.”
You had the honor to start ‘Insights Driven HR’ within NS three years ago. Could you tell us how you started the journey?
“It has been a journey indeed. When NS commenced with this topic the HR function was not used to think, or work in a data driven fashion. Moreover, we had to prove to the business that data driven HR is feasible and valuable. Later on we realized the organisation required some time to get familiar with the topic. Therefore – and because the data quality wasn’t always optimal – we started small and focused on creating positive case examples.”
Could you elaborate on a SWP use case that you have already finished, for instance the one on ‘train engineers’?
“Some time ago NS ordered new trains. Compared to the old trains, or compared to any standard for that matter, these new trains are really high-tech. However, we are also facing an ageing workforce in this workforce segment. Therefore, the analysis questions became: can our people do this in theory, do we have the right number of people, if people can do the work in theory, how are we going to train them up? From the analysis we learned we required more highly skilled and less skilled engineers, but fewer mid-level engineers to maintain the new high-tech trains, where we initially thought we required a more pyramid shaped workforce.”
Other interesting NS cases
“HR was working on a new expense policy. We used data from the expense application to provide input to the policy making. At NS expenses below a certain threshold are for instance immediately paid with approval post payment. This process design has always triggered a lot of debate (trust versus control). By analyzing the data we were able to prove managers truly look at the expense overview they receive for their teams and claw-back expenses that are disputed.”
“NS had to close a new collective labor agreement (CLA). During this process both NS and unions presented proposals to each other. On our side we installed an analysis team to calculate the impact of proposals made. The new CLA is probably the most fact based so far because we have been able to check a lot of assumptions that were made in the proposal process. For instance, there was an assumption that leavers were backfilled with younger candidates. But since this proved to be untrue we could show turnover does lead to a lower wage bill, but not as low as expected.”
As an SWP expert which 3 tips would you like to give to fellow HR professionals?
“First and foremost, be specific. SWP is about planning the strategic workforce, i.e. key segments in the workforce not the entire workforce of an organisation.
Second, the robustness of the analysis process and underlying assumptions is more important than getting the numbers exactly right since SWP is about big topics and long horizons.
Lastly, enjoy! SWP is an opportunity for HR to develop deep expertise about the business and all its intricacies.”
What are your expectations for the future of HR Analytics within NS?
“Most recently People Analytics has been labelled as a must-win battle for HR. The topic has been identified as an important way to secure the seat of HR at the management team table(s). Moreover, we learned from external benchmarking that our analytics capacity was lacking behind compared to other organisations. And last but not least, we had some good use cases, to make investment in this area compelling.
As a result of the external benchmark, the need to keep the seat at the board table and positive use cases we are now scaling up and growing the team to four. We will continue to focus on SWP but will start to invest more in Metrics and Advanced Analytics (both diagnostic and predictive) going forward.”
Want to learn more about the experiences of Jean-Paul?
Don’t miss his presentation ‘SWP at Dutch Railways: Adding Value to Our Customer’ on Thursday November 22nd at the People & Workforce Analytics Seminar in Brussels!
Gido van Puijenbroek (AnalitiQs) will be hosting day 1 of the event. We would like to offer you an exclusive discount of 100 euros on your ticket. Are you interested? Please send us an e-mail to receive your discount code. See you in Brussels!