People Analytics Summit Canada Review

Rob Catalano had the pleasure of attending the 3rd People Analytics Canada Summit this week in Toronto. Here’s his take..


For anyone that was there, I was the guy that looked like he was working on his laptop the whole time… but what I was really doing was taking notes feverishly and learning from all the wonderful speakers. I wanted to share my thoughts of what really stood out for me.

I loved how it started.

It started with the Own the Podium address together with Canadian Tire Credit Risk Management (Anne Merkingler & Paul Robinson). Canadian Tire discussed data driven decisions that they’ve had to make trying to compete in an industry that has major competition with other banks.

The level of research and data analytics required to find a competitive advantage is mind blowing. It was so interesting to see it related to sports, and if you’ve ever jumped into the analytics of sports, you know how intense it can be (if you don’t believe me, watch Moneyball).

CT discussed how they provided OTP with the analysis and insights to put our Canadian athletes on the podium for Rio 2016.  That was really cool.

And why does this matter?

Statistical measures of identifying key insights for the right athletic situations is no different than trying to find success for our talent.  Such a great story to frame the two days.

Ask yourself a question and let ‘em go

There was a wonderful session by Kenton Needham and Kimberley Snage from the University of Waterloo. They articulated that for HR to grow and have a seat at the table, they must have data and be evidence based.

And in the words of Kenton, “let your analysts loose!” Love this. Let them be creative on offering some insight in different ways to your organization.  And have fun with it. Remember, hackathons don’t need to be tech-driven.

I loved how they asked the question to the audience that we should always ask ourselves: “How innovative are we as an employer?” If you’re winning awards about your customer service, growth or product innovation (like U of Waterloo has won the Top Innovative University in Canada for 26 straight years), is that enough?  They showed metrics on how they defined their workforce, how they structured staff career movement and making better hiring decisions based on metrics. Amazing views of their workforce definition and using the data to define recruiting decisions throughout all levels of their workplace.  

“Machines don’t make the change. People do.”  

This was said in several different ways throughout the two days… and I agree with that sentiment completely. Technology is an enabler and a support mechanism, and your focus should start with a sound strategy and definition of what success looks like first.  Then choose the best enabler.

We know this. But often don’t do this.

And yes… I’ve been building and offering HR Technology for years, but it’s still true 🙂

Stagnate and die

Ok, maybe that title is a little dramatic. But true. Todd Humber from the Canadian HR Reporter discussed how Circuit City made people decisions that brought on subpar talent and training to save the bottom line… then they couldn’t even save their company. We all have seen Blockbuster and RIM grow and fall in our lifetime, and is a good reminder that this stuff happens.

My advice: crawl, walk, run. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Enter another cliché line here.

Leverage what you have

Anthony Spagnolo and Mohit Khullar from TD shared key advice to lean on what you already have.  They already had a business transformation project that they partnered with and appended the HR and People Analytics world. In other words, don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. Stand on the shoulder of giants.

Also, I loved the concept of “Workforce 360” so much that I’m R&Ding it:  Ripping-off & Duplicating 🙂

Leverage what you have

David Heather’s address as a senior leader at ADP was a refined list of fantastic sound bites. And his accent made it sound so much better!

What stood out the most as key reminders to me was that we need to make that transition from only time-based HR data to delivering insight that offers support to improving productivity and efficiency to the bottom line in addition to time-based data.

Also, he mentioned that we need to figure out how we “simplify the complexity”. I think this a brilliant way to put this. We need to challenge ourselves to do this and in turn enable ourselves and convince executives to make the right people decisions.

“The people I work with define everything”

When describing the key elements of a high-performing team at Google, Anuj Chandarana mentioned that other Googlers on the team were key in building a level of safety and trust as a base need. But what struck me most as something that reinforced what I see a lot with my customers is that transparency is key.  Google shares engagement survey data with their whole company.

In my experience, when companies do this, the level of accountability and trust rises. As Anuj mentioned: “Open is better than closed.”

People Analytics Geeks unite!

It was a great event to identify how People Analytics can offer a competitive advantage, and win the equivalent of a gold medal for our HR teams, people, and culture. Take a page out of the “Own the Podium” focus of getting your company to Gold in 2020 in Tokyo.  Get your multi-year plan in place to make collecting and gaining actionable insight in your business a reality.

These were just a few items that stood out to me. I had fantastic conversations and met great people. Two-days well worth it.

What was your key takeaway from the two-days?'

Author: Editor

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