Behind the steering wheel at Deutsche Telekom

In November Icongroup will host the People and Workforce Analytics Seminar in Brussels. Gido van Puijenbroek (AnalitiQs) is chair of the seminar and in the run-up to the event he will interview several speakers, such as ING, NS (Dutch Railways). This time around Gido has had the pleasure to speak with Michael Rubas who is Senior Vice President of HR Planning, IT and Operations at Deutsche Telekom: “We don’t have a crystal ball, but we want to get firmly behind the steering wheel.”

In November you will be speaking at the People & Workforce Analytics Seminar in Brussels. What are your expectations for this event?

“Of course, good food and a nice Belgian beer. But more seriously, I hope to have interesting conversations with and gain insights from other companies and practitioners. I’m particularly interested to learn more about questions which got answered through HR Analytics and had true business impact. Ideally not on an abstract or infrastructural level, but truly at a case level which created value.”

Could you give a sneak peek into your presentation ‘Skill up: We Create the Workforce of The Future’?

“First of all, I will point out that we are on an HR Analytics journey at Deutsche Telekom, like many other organisations. I will touch on topics such as infrastructure and legislation. From this framework I will make a deep dive into a couple of cases, for example how does the network of leaders influence their performance?”

I’m very curious about your cases, but before we go into the stuff you and your team are doing, could you tell more about yourself?

“Sure! In the course of my career I have spent about 50% of my time in IT within the B2B industry. The other half of my time has gone into HR And People Management. These two experiences led to my personal passion. Bringing ‘people’ to the business and bringing ‘technology’ to HR. In the world we currently live in, both are important topics and enablers for value creation. Within that space Workforce Analytics is an exciting topic, since it is both people and technology focused.”

Two interesting features of your presentation are the use of external big data and data about skills. Could you elaborate on the relevance of these two features?

“Within Deutsche Telekom the quantitative part of Strategic Workforce Planning, FTE and total workforce costs, has a very reasonable level of maturity. We can match actuals and forecast pretty well. It’s part of our DNA of the constant transformation towards more efficiency.

Next to becoming more efficient we also looking at new business opportunities/innovation since this will keep us relevant. The need for innovation makes skills planning essential and a new objective, because it is pivotal to understand whether new markets can be opened up. Another driver behind this trend is the awareness that we can’t bring in all these people with new skills from the outside because of labour market shortages, and by offering our employees opportunities we want to stimulate corporate citizenship.

So that is the ‘why’ behind skills planning. The ‘how’ is extremely difficult because no one can exactly predict what will happen in the future. After all, we don’t have a crystal ball.

To mitigate for this, we do our best and partner with those positioned best, such as the Strategy department. They can provide information about trends, likelihood of certain developments and potential impact. In addition, we have started using external big data. We scrape/crawl the data from the internet and use the data to inform ourselves about questions like: what kind of skills, for example 5G or cloud computing, are other competitors looking for and how many people are on the market for this kind of positions? Having these insights helps for discussions, for instance: why do we search for fewer cloud computing people than competitor X? Why do other organizations act differently?

Ultimately, we want to get out of the reactive approach and we want to get firmly behind the steering wheel, without claiming we have a crystal ball.”

On your LinkedIn profile it is mentioned you are responsible for driving customer centricity of the HR organization. Can you share how you use data to establish this?

“HR has a tendency to live in its own world and to set its own priorities. As a result, the customer wasn’t really happy in the past. At Deutsche Telekom we now start with two questions: what does the customer need? How do we optimize business value from an HR perspective? From there we select a limited number of topics.

For the selected topics, we consider how to effectively implement them. For this purpose, we use design thinking, including journey mapping: how do customers inform themselves, how do customers interact with us and what are the moments that matter? Also, we involve our customers early in the process. We want to measure four things: client satisfaction, promotion, adoption and effort. The data we use in this space is a combination of survey data, for example satisfaction and promotion, and system log data for adoption, for example the number of people who have sent out a feedback form.

We look at this data at an aggregated level because of privacy concerns, but that is still quite interesting and insightful. The dimensions we can use depend on the agreement with the workers council. For instance, for the correlation between perceived leadership and team cohesion, we were allowed to analyse patterns such as age or gender using data from the engagement survey.”

Could you elaborate on a use case which you are proud of in terms of impact created and/or innovative methods used?

“That would be the leadership performance model that I mentioned earlier and which I will also discuss in November during the seminar. Our CEO has introduced three leadership principles, one of them is collaboration. This principle ran the risk of being perceived as a fluffy principle and as typical HR stuff. Nevertheless it is a paramount principle since in today’s world, no one is able to create products in a silo. Therefore, collaboration is truly important and represents business value. We were able to show the relationship between collaboration and value creation. Consequently, we have mitigated the risk and no we can link people and HR unequivocally with business outcomes.”

Creating and measuring the ROI of HR analytics is a concern that many leaders in this field ponder about as it is thought to be a requirement for long term relevance of the field. What is your view on this topic?

“ROI is challenging. To give an example: our most expensive investments are in reporting infrastructure. The ROI of good reports is hard to establish. So rather than ROI calculations we use a different measure for success. We look at what happens after presenting insights. Do we discuss insights and say we find them interesting but then go back to work? Then there is a negative ROI. If we discuss insights, say we find them interesting and follow through by changing practices in accordance with the insights, then there is a positive ROI.”

One of the requirements of making people decisions fact-based is a data savvy HR function where data is not a mere after thought, but truly integrated in the way of working. HR people tend to be not the most fact-based people. Is this something you recognize and if so how should HR leaders anticipate on this?

“I do recognize this. As soon as people end up in an HR department it seems like they immediately switch to a mode where they inform themselves by observations and subsequently act or advise on it. I believe we need more social scientists and anthropologists in HR. These people are trained in observing, continue from there with collecting data and only then derive conclusions. If we want to be true people experts, we have to recruit these profiles.”

Finally, a lot has been written and said about the GDPR. What are your preliminary reflections on the new legislation?

“Not an expert on other countries, but for sure the GDPR led to standardization and this is helpful in terms of expectation management. In Germany work councils have a strong position. Therefore, mutual trust and dialogue are extremely important. If there is a good relationship and we also look at the employee advantages of analytics, many things are possible. However, using a tool such as Humanyze is unimaginable in our organization due to opinions. So legal framework is converging, but opinions about where to draw the line might still set Germany apart.”

Want to learn more about Michael’s insights?
Don’t miss his presentation ‘Skill up: We Create the Workforce of The Future’ on Thursday November 22nd at the People & Workforce Analytics Seminar in Brussels.

Exclusive discount
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!

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