Marlene de Koning (PwC): ‘Talent Intelligence is all about making evidence-based decisions’

Marlene de Koning, Director of HR Tech & Digital at PwC, speaks about the impact of technology and people analytics on employee experience, her new book, the rise of Talent Intelligence and about her appearance at the first-ever Talent Intelligence Conference on September 27 and 28.

Dirk Koppes on August 21, 2023 Average reading time: 6 min
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Marlene de Koning (PwC): ‘Talent Intelligence is all about making evidence-based decisions’

Within PwC, De Koning leads and expands the People Analytics & HR Employee Experience tech department. She will soon publish a book on the impact of technology on employee experience. Previously, she worked at both Microsoft and LinkedIn to bring digital transformation to the world of HR. De Koning is a keen follower of all developments happening within HR spheres, particularly the rise of Talent Intelligence. 

What is the difference between Talent Intelligence and People Analytics?

‘Talent Intelligence is all about combining internal and external recruitment, talent attraction and labour market data. What does your target group look like, is it a reflection of the general population? Maybe your audience is 20% male and 80% female in the labour market, how is that reflected in your organisation? Is this in line or do you want a more balanced workforce to reflect the market? These are the types of questions you can answer.’

‘Employees go through a cycle, from onboarding to offboarding and in each stage employees produce data points. With the analysis of this data, employers can continuously make data-driven decisions.’

‘People Analytics, on the other hand, refers to making decisions about people within your company based on the data and insights you have about them. Employees go through a cycle, from onboarding to offboarding and in each stage employees produce data points. With the analysis of this data, employers can continuously make data-driven decisions. This hard data enables organisations to gain insights in how to achieve a higher productivity and results in a better strategy and happier employees. Incidentally, these two concepts are sometimes interpreted differently or used interchangeably.’ 

You have been working on People Analytics for years. Why is it such an important topic for every company, large or small?

‘It is important to decide what you want to focus on as an organisation. The world of work is changing rapidly. The more insight you have on your workforce — for which data collection in my view is required — the better. This data allows organisations to implement policies strategically. It’s all about gaining strategic insights on your own organisation. That’s so important in making decisions.’

How can you make intelligent decisions within your organisation? 

‘Organisations need to identify what they are struggling with, is it a talent attraction or retention challenge. Do we have to attract different talent? What does the labour market look like? Is that reflected in our organisation? Sometimes oganisations run into demographic problems, or the departure of — too many — people from the company. Why do they leave, and what can be done to prevent it? Are you dealing with a lot of absenteeism? The more data organisations collect, the more interventions they can make.’

‘Organisations do realise that their employees are their human capital, but struggle to understand what they do and which actions allow employees to thrive. This is particularly true for knowledge workers. People Analytics can help unravel the mystery, no wonder People Analytics is one of the top trends we are seeing now and every study agrees in this being a top of mind for more and more companies. There is a prediction that says that by 2026, 30% of organisations will use forms of behavioural economics and AI/ML-driven (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) insights to nudge employees’ actions, leading to a 60% increase in desired outcomes.’

To what extent does AI affect your work, talent intelligence and people analytics?

‘The effect of AI is immediately seen in organisations for example on the skills of employees. When thinking about strategic workforce planning, you see that many companies plan for a short term. But with the arrival of AI, many jobs are changing and this effects your workforce. In 3 to 5 years, the world of work will look very different. Another example that effects our work is, Copilot, Microsoft’s new AI tool, that helps employees to be more productive in their daily work. This has a direct effect on talent and the organisation.’

How are you going to shape your workforce in 2 years with the use of technology?

‘At PwC’s Legal Business Solution, for example, we will be working with AI start-up called Harvey. It is a platform that is build on OpenAI and ChatGPT technology and uses natural language processing, machine learning and data analytics to automate and analyse massive volumes of legal data. All outputs are inspected and reviewed by PwC professionals. AI does not replace lawyers and is not used to provide legal advice. Further within the HR department the way we’ve always worked will change too, which you can respond to with AI and People Analytics.’  

Alison Ettridge calls Talent Intelligence a ‘bridge between strategy and execution with data’. What do you think is new about that approach to HR?

‘Well for me, it’s all about the infamous ‘you have to measure something to really know for sure’ (in Dutch we say: meten is weten). It’s about making evidence-based decisions. Personnel is one of the biggest costs of your organisation, which alone is important for the rest of your business strategy. You can use that strategy on all kinds of components. Increasing wellbeing, as I write in my upcoming book, often results in extra vacation days at many companies across the world.’

‘Personnel is one of the biggest costs of your organisation, which alone is important for the rest of your business strategy.’

‘That may sound really nice to some, but does it really have the desired effect? That’s something you need to measure. If your employee is on the verge of burnout do they then feel completely recharged due to extra 5 days of vacation or a massage, then you have solved the problem. Otherwise analysis can help in understanding how to provide different solutions or even prevent the problem.’

Could you give any more examples of what it has resulted in?

‘For example when our clients conduct a quarterly survey to gather insights about the engagement of their employees, different questions related to engagement, wellbeing and other HR topics are asked. As an employee you score the organisation and share how involved and/or stressed you are. These data insights help organisations understand if employees are stressed and what differentiating factors between those stressed employees and other groups of employees are.’

‘Another example: when gathering insights around wellbeing, questions that can be answered are: is it important that employees have a large network, or is more regular contact with the direct manager a significant differentiator in creating more engagement or wellbeing. Once the right factor is determined, HR can take the appropriate actions and measure the effect of these interventions.’

PwC is renowned for testing new technologies. Could you tell us about the wearable devices pilot?

‘Measuring wellbeing is super complex: different factors contribute to wellbeing; financial, mental and physical factors all contribute to an employees’ wellbeing. So, in 2019, a pilot group of PwC employees in the UK volunteered to wear devices connected to their work calendars. This way, the firm could receive anonymised data that linked, for example, stress levels to meeting sprawl. The pilot also revealed a clear difference between actual stress, which was measured from the heart-rate-variability feature on the wearable device, and perceived stress, which was tracked through a daily survey that asked participants how stressed they felt.’

‘So, in 2019, a pilot group of PwC employees in the UK volunteered to wear devices connected to their work calendars. This way, the firm could receive anonymised data that linked, for example, stress levels to meeting sprawl.’

‘Maybe technology will help organisations to make everyone work more efficiently, and that allows the company to implement a 6-hour workday. Or the company decides that this efficiency contributes to have the employees produce even more, in these 8 hours. The latter can cost the organisation more than the return if many people get burned out. In my opinion we have to take care of our employees and if technologies allow for more productivity, perhaps a 5-hour working day in six days would be better, for example for those employees who are caregivers.’

Finally, can you speak about your session during the Talent Intelligence Conference and your new book?

‘Historically, HR lags in implementing technologies compared to elsewhere in the company. In my book I call for more collaboration between HR and IT. HR historically is a people profession and focused on the human side of things and not the technical or data side. For example, recruiters like to interview people, to interact, not necessarily to analyse data. But if, for example, you have to solve a staff shortage, an organisation can decide that everyone needs to work harder and work more hours or can ensure that departments work more productively and efficiently with the skills that are present. Data technology can play a crucial role there. I don’t think everyone is aware of that, of the power of technology and data. I believe that HR and IT have to work together, it’s a team effort.’ 

Don’t miss PwC at the Talent Intelligence Conference

Meet and listen to Marlene de Koning at the first-ever edition of the Global Talent Intelligence Conference. On September 27-28, Intelligence Group will organise the Talent Intelligence Conference in collaboration with ToTalentStratigens, Werf& and the Talent Intelligence Collective. Book your tickets here.

 

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Dirk Koppes

Dirk Koppes

Journalist and Editor at ToTalent
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