By Rob Preston
Lots of HR organizations talk about becoming more strategic and data-driven. But the talent management group at health benefits company Anthem is stepping up to that challenge, having assembled an HR analytics team and created a portal to improve recruiting, hiring, promotion, succession, and other decisions—and ultimately boost the productivity of the entire company.
Anthem, whose subsidiary health plans serve more than 74 million people and which posted US$84 billion in revenue in 2016, already is an industry leader in analyzing data to coach consumers on ways to improve their health outcomes. Now it’s extending that data expertise to its own talent management practices.
Key to that effort is the People Data Central (PDC) portal, whose interactive “workforce intelligence” dashboard lets HR and other Anthem users access and ask questions of a range of internal and third-party data. What does our turnover look like for call center reps in Colorado Springs or actuaries US-wide? What is the cost of that turnover? Are we differentiating rewards for our top performers? How many of our nurses might retire within the next couple of years? What is the relationship between national unemployment rates and our own time-to-hire metrics?
From ‘hire to retire,’ we’re using data to zero in on important needs and potential solutions.”–Joe Knytych, Staff Vice President of Talent Insights and Analytics, Anthem
A newly formed Talent Insights team, whose members include MBAs, PhDs, and CPAs, brings an eclectic mix of experiences and perspectives to that analysis. Each month, the team curates a different slice of data. For example, it recently broke down Anthem’s workforce by generational age bands and the potential ramifications for company performance, highlighting its analysis in the portal’s “insight spotlight” section.
A high-level “executive scorecard” feature explores the relationship between HR metrics and business outcomes to support short- and long-term planning. The team’s latest report described the relationship between customer growth, Anthem’s net hire ratio, and total costs associated with internal and external labor. In all, PDC provides seven dashboards on “hire-to-retire” HR operations, 50 summary views from which users can drill down into detailed reports, and links to other relevant data and training sources.
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Industry: Health benefits
Revenue: US$84 billion in 2016
Oracle products: Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud
Length of tenure: Three years
Education: BA in communication, University of Illinois; MBA in general management, Keller Graduate School of Business; MA Education in human resource development, University of Illinois
The cloud-based PDC pulls together data from and is built on a range of third-party applications, platforms, and infrastructure services, leveraging Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service and Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud (Oracle HCM Cloud) at its core. An extract, transform, and load (ETL) layer, including the Data Sync service of Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, pulls in internal and third-party datasets from a range of cloud and on-premises applications as well as other sources.
Previously, much of Anthem’s talent and other HR data was scattered among myriad systems and spreadsheets, making it difficult to aggregate and compare. Basic questions such as “How many open positions do we have?” and “What’s our turnover?” would yield different answers depending on who was asked, even within the same workgroup or location. Getting a standardized enterprise view of the data opens up the prospect of applying analytics to derive higher-level insights, says Joe Knytych, the staff vice president who leads the Talent Insights team.
“From ‘hire to retire,’ we’re using data to zero in on important needs and potential solutions,” Knytych says. “These insights allow us to invest in our people with confidence and sharpen the associate experience.”
One Data View
The beauty of the portal is that it presents and filters data in highly visual dashboards, reports, graphs, and other formats so that it’s easy to consume, comprehend, and manipulate, Knytych says.
Part of the Talent Insights team’s responsibility is to help users mash up different kinds of internal and third-party demographic, performance, compensation, and other data. For example, it’s working with Anthem’s wellness team to crunch data on employees who make use of company wellness credits, to determine a possible correlation with reduced absenteeism and employee turnover. Third-party data is used to benchmark salaries to identify geographic areas for expansion and for a variety of other purposes.
But PDC is far more than a tactical tool, Knytych emphasizes. Anthem sees the portal as a jumping-off point for continued innovation in the area of people management.
One recent PDC innovation is a custom-built channel that encourages employees to weigh in confidentially on their work experiences, as often as they like, using emojis and limited text entries. Those ongoing sentiments are dynamically turned into “team vitals” reports, letting company leaders quickly identify and address potential productivity risks. Behind the scenes, Knytych and his team use that wealth of data to connect aggregate trends to performance, advancement, and other talent outcomes.
“Engagement is now a daily topic as opposed to an annual event,” Knytych says. “More importantly, we’re learning what drives a positive experience and what might happen following a downtick.”
In many cases, he notes, company leaders find nuggets they can act on immediately, such as ideas to improve processes, enhance systems, or reprioritize resources. “The voice of our associates is stronger than ever,” he says. “We’re tapping into local insights and formulating long-term plans based on data, not speculation.”
Breaking Down Silos
More broadly, the Talent Insights team is helping the other centers of expertise within Anthem’s HR organization (diversity and inclusion, benefits, HR business partners, and so on), as well as decision-makers outside of HR, see “multivariant” views of the people data, Knytych says. For instance, how are the high-potential associates they’ve invested in advancing compared with people elsewhere in the company?
“The business partners typically have had access only to their business unit data, looking at their people and talent,” he says. “Now they have access to enterprise talent trends, either to benchmark against or to say, ‘Let’s connect with another group that seems to have solved this problem.’”
As such, PDC is helping Anthem’s talent management team forge new relationships and raise its profile across the company. For example, the team developed a model that identifies causes of turnover and accurately predicts first-year attrition, which Anthem leaders are using to increase retention and inform future hiring profiles.
In addition to standardizing on key metrics, managing the portal’s self-service data capabilities, and deciding which views and stories have the most relevance, the Talent Insights team has committed to take on several high-impact, deep-dive data analytics projects a year, which are chosen by the senior HR management team in association with the company’s other executive leaders. Among the current priorities are projects around workforce productivity, turnover, and diversity.
There’s no shortage of demand for the team’s services, Knytych says. “Generally speaking, people see value in data and analytics,” he says. “The constraint is capacity, as these projects can be resource-intensive and iterative in nature. Relentless prioritization is needed to ensure we’re focused on the right questions.”
Anthem HR is investing in cultivating a data mindset and data competencies across the company. It provides Talent Insights team members with regular training and stretch assignments to build their predictive analytics, data visualization, and storytelling skills. Other HR associates get training to improve their data acumen and ability to access, manipulate, and customize the portal’s data. A Talent Insights Network, including representatives from outside the HR organization, serves as something of an advisory board on PDC enhancements and priorities.
Anthem’s business leaders have used data and analytics for years to make informed decisions and investments, Knytych notes. Now—thanks in part to its Oracle-based cloud platform, which took less than six months to deploy, as well as the subsequent training—the HR organization is able to match that same level of sophistication when it comes to decisions about the company’s people.
We’re tapping into local insights and formulating long-term plans based on data, not speculation.”–Joe Knytych, Staff Vice President of Talent Insights and Analytics, Anthem
“Taking advantage of new technology and lessons learned, we are leapfrogging traditional investments,” he says. “We’re not building a data center for HR. We’re not hiring teams of database administrators. With support from our IT organization, we’re going straight to the cloud, all-in, maintained by Oracle and managed by us. This approach improves total cost of ownership and enables HR to move at the speed of business.”
A critical consideration, Knytych says, was finding a platform that’s flexible and scalable enough to accommodate ever-increasing amounts and new types of data—“and not break what we’ve done before.”
Number of people served by Anthem’s subsidiary health plans
The future of analytics at Anthem, he says, is “analytics for everyone.” That is, any nontechnical associate should be able to go into PDC to form a hypothesis or “curate a story” for his or her own purposes. Using “guided path” views and a variety of data filters, HR managers and other associates can dynamically generate reports and dashboards to help them improve hiring, promotion, succession, and other key decisions.
“We’re not trying to put our arms around it and say we own data and analytics,” Knytych says. “We want everyone in HR to take ownership of analytics and use data to improve talent decisions.”
Photography By Paul S. Howell
Rob Preston is editorial director in Oracle's Content Central organization, where he provides insights and analysis on a range of issues important to CIOs and other business technology executives. Rob was previously editor in chief of InformationWeek. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @robpreston.