5 Minutes with… Becky Thielen (Microsoft)

Rebecca Thielen Microsoft People Analytics HR
microsoft people analytics

We catch up with Becky Thielen, Director of Global Workforce Data Insights at Microsoft in the Seattle HQ, for her thoughts on People Analytics and the upcoming World conference.

How long have you been working in or involved in People Analytics?

Over the last 13 years, I've been working in People Analytics off and on in various different roles.  It's been within the last 5 years that I've had the opportunity to build and evolve the Microsoft Workforce Data Insights team.  This team partners directly with senior business and HR leaders to understand and advise on all aspects of the employee life cycle within each business.

How well do you feel the industry is progressing?

It’s exciting to see how the People Analytics industry is progressing so rapidly.  The last 5 years have been a transformative time for the industry.  It’s a thrilling experience to be in the heart of enabling data driven decisions for Microsoft.  We break new ground everyday on the insights we can provide, and the impact has been tremendous for the company.

What are your 2017 predictions for HR and People Analytics?

From tools to capabilities, I see more breakthroughs in many areas in 2017.  With the continued advancements in our tools and improved user experience in bringing data together, from disparate sources to analysis, our goal is to find new correlations and business challenges to solve.  I see HR as an organisation continuing to grow capabilities in using data and insights, with business leaders informing business decisions on an ongoing basis.  Also, I see further advancement within our People Analytics team capabilities to find more predictive analysis and leading indicators to take our business impact to a new level.

What’s been your greatest challenge(s) within People Analytics?

Here’s a few of my greatest challenges that I focus on daily within my organisation.

  1. Getting in front of business decisions to ensure they are the most informed for maximum outcomes, and prioritising to ensure we are working on the most critical projects.
  2. We now have so much rich information with all these great tools and access to data. However, we need to continue getting better at synthesising the increasingly large data options to be the most relevant and impactful. Too much data can be a distraction and we can lose focus on what yields the most impactful outcome.
  3. Privacy, privacy, privacy – Always has to be a focus and stay committed to the highest privacy standards.

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Can you give three general pieces of advice for someone getting started in building People Analytics?
(for example, what do you wish you had known when you started?)

When building the organisation there are many things I would have liked to have been advised on first, but to narrow it down:

  1. Make sure to include auditing resources on the team – without data accuracy you will not have quality insights or business credibility.
  2. User-designed self-service tools are a must to ensure the People Analytics team does not get pulled into basic data needs for day-to-day business.
  3. Understanding your businesses and what they are trying to achieve is critical in bringing insights to life with anecdotal storytelling. This is a major value proposition for employees - several analysts on my team thrive on seeing how their insights are applied within a business, and even more so, seeing how their insights drive real business outcomes.

What can we expect from your presentation at People Analytics World?

Within global Fortune 100 organizations, executives heavily rely on rich analytics to inform business decisions about the products they create, the markets they serve, and how operations are run.  But what about measuring managers, one of an organisation’s most vital assets?

A Gallup study found that at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores is driven by manager behaviors.  While executives can quantify discrete business outcomes like revenue generated, the manager actions that drive these results is often unclear, unmeasured and unseen.

Microsoft has identified the tacit connection between workplace behaviors and perception of managers within the organisation.  In my presentation, attendees will learn specific behavior changes that can make managers more effective based on insights from within Microsoft, as well as best practices based on research conducted by Microsoft for Fortune 100 companies.