People Analytics Conference: A First for Wharton

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The inaugural People Analytics Conference (PAC) was held on March 28th and featured keynote speakers from Google, Goldman Sachs and the Philadelphia Eagles. The goal of the conference was to provide a clearinghouse for those working in people analytics or interested in doing so. Interest in this area has exploded in the previous years– in companies, students and researchers — but the field is very disconnected. The conference provided a forum to discuss how the vast amount of data collected can be used to make HR and recruiting practices more efficient and streamlined.

With close to 200 attendees at a sold out conference, PAC featured young and old HR professionals as well as noted academics in the field. Our own professors Cade Massey, Adam Grant and Peter Cappelli have focused research in this area and were instrumental in making the conference a reality.

Keynote speaker Edith Cooper, the global head of Human Capital Management at Goldman Sachs spoke about the move from data gathering to data analysis and its importance in making HR decisions. It was after analysis conducted by her team that Goldman introduced a policy limiting the number of hours employees could work in a week. However, she stressed the importance of retaining personal judgment when making decisions. Cooper advises businesses looking to implement people analytics programs to think big, start small and stay focused as this is the only way to develop momentum and gain sponsorship from senior leadership.

A case competition was held, leading up to the conference, featuring real data provided by Teach For America. The winning team presented their solution for improving TFA’s hiring practices, highlighting how key indicators in a candidates profile could be used to determine probability of success and drastically reduce the number of candidates interviewed.

Brian Sivak, CTO for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) presented a case study about how crowd sourcing is being used to improve the efficiency of data analytics in a bureaucratic organization like the government. The IDEA lab- Innovation Design Entrepreneurship Action lab at HHS brings in entrepreneurs to work on data analytics problems for 8-12 months, ensuring quick work by an outsider that brings a fresh perspective.

But how can we get involved in people analytics? The afternoon panel, featuring recent MBA graduates answered just that question. Julia Rozovsky, a recent Yale SOM grad and People Analyst at Google described the use of analytics in designing Google’s happy employee program which promotes stress reduction and socialization at the company. When asked what is required to build a career in data analytics, the young graduates cited the importance of comfort with statistics, communication skills and strong opinions.

The People Analytics Conference was a well received and extremely successful event. With the increasing popularity and relevance of this topic, it will be interesting to see the conference grow after its inaugural year.

To learn more about the Wharton People Analytics Conference, visit the website by clicking here.

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