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Why Predictive Analytics Are More Important Than Ever: Sean Huurman, CHRO Service King

Uncategorized Jun 18, 2019

Join me to hear from Sean Huurman the CHRO of Service King to learn about the importance of predictive analytics,  how the reporting tool can take businesses and Human Resources to the next level. Sean explains predictive analytics can help answer the questions we have been struggling with for years.

Sean shares that predictive analytics allows you to dive into data and look at what it is telling you in terms of attrition, employee engagement, and culture. What that data is showing you is key especially with advances in technology. It helps you to craft programs that benefits your employees based on the individual and help your company retain employees. Sean also gives insight to how HR is more like Marketing. Employees should be treated like your customers, and analytics is a large part of how Marketing departments run.  Click above to watch the full VLOG interview.   (If you prefer to read the interview, see the transcript below.)


All My Best,

Cindy Lu

Founder, HR Mastermind Peer Advisory Boards

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Transcript by

Cindy Lu:                      This is Cindy Lu with HR Mastermind Groups and I'm here with Sean Huurman, Chief HR Officer of Service King here in the Dallas, Fort Worth area and Sean's going to speak to us today about predictive analytics. Sean, maybe just a quick introduction about your background first?

Sean Huurman:             Sure. Good morning, Cindy.

                                    I'm Sean Huurman. I've been in human resources now for over 25 years. I have focused the majority of my career in technology and management consulting, but moved over to Service King Collision Repair about three and a half years ago to focus on a completely different workforce, and have spent the time here really helping the organization mature it's HR function.

Cindy Lu:                      That's great.

                                    Sean, you are one of the smartest guys I know, and I think the topic of predictive analytics can scare some people. But what's your point of view on the topic and why it's important?

Sean Huurman:             I think it's absolutely essential. When you look at what we're able to analytics today, it takes business, and specifically human resources to the next level in terms of answering questions that for years we've been struggling with.

                                    When you think about attrition, when you think about employee engagement, when you think about culture, being able to dive into the data and look at what it's telling you is absolutely key.

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah.

Sean Huurman:             Now, with schools and technology, we're able to do it more than ever before.

Cindy Lu:                      When you talk about struggles, what's it looks like if you're not tracking this data?

Sean Huurman:             Yeah, ultimately it's otherwise guesswork.

                                    We like to think we know what's going on in employees heads, and why they're acting certain ways, or what we can do to get more out of them, but honestly it's just been hit or miss and all the programs that we've put together, as you look back at the findings in research, you see that, for the most part, we were missing and that now as you get into the data, and you look at the analytics, you can see individual employee behavior and figure out exactly what it is that they're looking for, what they want, and how to craft programs to help them and help your company both retain and drive efficiencies from your employees.

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah, it seems like really HR departments are almost turning into marketing departments. Your employees, or team members are really your customers. Marketing would never guess at the consumer's behavior or the client's behavior, so I think it's sort of high time that predictive analytics really entered into the HR space. When it's done-

Sean Huurman:             I-

Cindy Lu:                      I’m sorry go on.

Sean Huurman:             Yeah. When you look at marketing, I would say that certainly when we look at what we're doing here by way of our consumer behaviors. Many of the marketing analytics are one, two steps ahead of where we are because they've been doing it for a little bit longer. But they're able to, as we know through a lot of data and information, they're able to determine consumer behaviors and we're just trying to now do the exact same thing for our employees.

Cindy Lu:                      Right, right. Yeah, it's actually a pretty hot topic these days where the Chief HR Officers and the Chief People Officers, just really the whole employee experience but how do you create that employee experience if you don't have the data to support it? I'm personally tested as a driver analytic so-

Sean Huurman:             All right

Cindy Lu:                      -yeah so, the numbers have always been important to be but I'm glad to see it coming into HR. So when it's done well... Maybe some examples of when it's done well what's it feel like? What are you experiencing as a HR function?

Sean Huurman:             Sure. So what we found is that you're able to unlock, as I mentioned some of the questions that the CEO is constantly asking you and the CFO is constantly asking you. What can we do to get more out of our employees, what can we do to curb the tide of attrition and through predictive analytics you're able to get ahead of it, you're able to now look and say "these sorts of activity, this sort of event causes a certain percentage of your population to leave the organization," and you're able to do so earlier than the exit interview. We've always been chasing our tail trying to figure out after the fact why folks left us as opposed it really understanding it and changing our behavior before they do.

                                    A great example that we found here, we have technicians, they're body technicians, hard to come by it's a trade skill and there's a war for that particular talent out there and there's a lot of turnover in the space because there's a lot of competition for that talent and what we've been able to do is we've been able to trend work levels of these technicians and were able to determine 12 weeks prior to someone leaving the organization we're able to see a dip in their work level. Now if you know anything about technicians, they're not thinking 12 weeks ahead in terms of where their next career move's going to be. They're looking for the work here and now so what we're able to do is we're able to now highlight these issues and let a manager know "hey you have a teammate at risk here because you having been giving them enough work. What are you doing to address that? What are the particular issues that you may be facing with that particular employee?" So the HR business partner is now able to work with our general manager and understand what's going on with that individual, prior to them leaving the organization. So that's one-

Cindy Lu:                      That a-

Sean Huurman:             -one [inaudible 00:06:04] example of how we're using it.

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah that's amazing. We're just wrapping up our annual survey on Chief HR Officer skills and what's required in the future and one of the top skills was obviously business acumen and sort of being an internal consultant and I can see where if you don't have these numbers it's really hard to be consultative and see around corners.

Sean Huurman:             That's right. The HBR article that talks about the G3, the CEO, CFO, CHRO, this is what we're able to bring to that relationship. A deep dive into what's going on with our work force and I think that's what the CFO and CEO was looking for from the seat is really helping them understand how they can improve their business by improving the relationships with their employees.

Cindy Lu:                      Right, alright so how does one get started right? How do you get started with this? Do you have tips, tools that you use?

Sean Huurman:             Sure. I think you have to start broad and then you have to sort of work your way down. So you have to figure out what's important to your business by way of workforce measures so what's really going to drive productivity within the organization. It may be different for a high tech company versus a services company versus a manufacturing environment. So what are the key drivers that as an organization you're looking to get out of your workforce and then you start looking into the data because think too often you can sort of get into this track of boiling the ocean and you got all these numbers and all these things that you're looking at as opposed to really pin pointing what the particular issue is that you're trying to solve for and then seeing what the data can tell you. Once you understand those key measures then what you can start to do is you can just start to peel away the onion with the data.You're not going to magically overnight say "okay we're trying to solve for this and the data is telling us this so now we're done." It takes constant revision and review and planning to really get to the ultimate answer. I say ultimate answer but I don't know if you ever have ultimate answer but at least continuing to get more refined in your hypothesis and ultimately move the needle.

Cindy Lu:                      So, are there some simple examples as far as levers does somebody if you're an HR business partner do you go to a business unit leader and just talk to them about what ae the big levers for growth or profitability?

Sean Huurman:             Sure so I think obviously the easiest one for any HR business partner in business is turnover.

Cindy Lu:                      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean Huurman:             The cost of turnover to an organization is huge. We all deal with it in some form or fashion. Being able to solve why people are leaving your organization and addressing those concerns in a pin pointed fashion is table stakes in my opinion. Something that every HR business partner needs to know and understand and being able to deliver. But I think then it moves in to efficiency levels. How can you and your organization make sure you're getting the most out of your teammates as possible? I think back in the day we felt like engagement surveys may be able to provide us that information but I think that's one small piece of it. We're now able to tap into financial data I think in any industry and be able to say okay the behaviors of the workforce are driving this out. How can we help our employees get more productive in these particular areas in order to make us better and anytime you're able to put some dollars and cents around it, you're going to get the CFO and CEO listening.  What I love about the services business like I'm in today or like I was in management consulting, there's this direct connection between people and revenue. We don't make any products. People are our product so it's very easy for me to connect those dots but you can do so in any industry. We were successful in doing it in the technology industry and manufacturing industries as well. To say "this particular outcome will drive this sort of financial response so what can we do to improve that particular outcome?"

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah. So I imagine people are figuring out what kind of tools they can use right? Excel's a pretty simple one, but are there other tools that have helped you make these predictions and gather the data and get more insights versus just getting more data?

Sean Huurman:             Yeah, absolutely. Well reporting tools are key like you said, robust tools beyond Excel. So being able to get access to the same tools that the finance team has is key but you're also seeing organizations popup that are very focused on HR analytics so we partner with predictive HR as an example out of Boston and they have been phenomenal at really helping us crack not only the calculations and the findings but the dashboards that we need to be able to present it to our leaders. I'll tell you when I first got to Service King and we started talking about this concept of HR analytics and workforce planning, we got a lot of glazed eyes because people didn't understand it and we weren't speaking the language of the business. We had to learn how to speak their language. Once we did that and we were able to put it into data that they understood in a format that was simple in a dashboard thanks to predictive HR we were able to really now start to make a difference and I can tell you that the 350 GMs in our business are clamoring for this information now because they can see the value that it's bringing into their shop.

Cindy Lu:                      That's awesome. I love it. So you're like-

Sean Huurman:             Yeah.

Cindy Lu:                      -"when this happens with your people, this is what happens with your [pianal 00:12:42]"

Sean Huurman:             We've got it so it starts blinking bright red "don't pay attention, we're about to leave you." Imagine the power of that to be able to know that when you walk in the morning "Cindy's thinking about leaving for some reason so you may want to go talk to her." Pretty powerful stuff.

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah, that's awesome. That's awesome. Definitely sounds like marketing. I love it. So what about some simple tips for people to get started today. If they don't have these tools yet what's one or two things that they can do to just get started today? I'm all [inaudible 00:13:20].

Sean Huurman:             Yeah. I think even when I think about some of the members on my team a lot of HR people tend to shy away from the numbers right? They get intimidated by the numbers and analytics so you have to build a team around you of folks that have the talent to be able to think this way and dive into the numbers so I like to think of myself as a numbers oriented HR guy. But I make sure that I got some key really smart people that can help me dig into the data and tell me what I'm seeing. So making sure that you got the right skillset as an HR team in your team to be able to look that this stuff, the data scientist, the analytic, analytical folks, we pull in and partner with a lot of folks from finance because they have that particular mindset.

                                    And then I think the second thing is making sure that we look up a little bit of about this already but... and once your workforce measures are [inaudible 00:14:28]. I think too often we're willing to hand them over to finance or another organization to run those numbers and I can tell you that often those numbers aren't necessarily telling you what they could be simply because the finance team may not be looking at them in depth the way that you or I would every day. We think about the employee base, we focus on what they're doing every day and so we look at the data differently so being able to own those numbers and be willing to stand up to how those calculations are happening is key so that again you're bringing that to the table.

                                    And then as we talked about I think the third thing is just making sure you're speaking less in the HR language and speaking more in the language of the business. I think too often we will still around networking tables or conferences and start to use HR speak but when we'll get back to the office we've go to really turn it around and talk in terms that they understand in terms of how it will influence their business. Back to that GM in the shop that's concerned about somebody leaving. If I start using terms like "workforce planning" and "data analytics" I'm going to get glazed eyes. But if I break it down to "Hey this person is potentially going to leave you which means you're going to have x less revenue next month" now they understand what I'm talking about.

Cindy Lu:                      Right, right. Gosh it's amazing the correlation. It's marketing 101 right. In marketing they're like "figure out who your avatar is or your ideal customer is and then you've got to listen to how they speak and what's the language they use and what are the words they use to describe their paying" so yeah it sounds like marketing will be a valued skillset within the HR function in the future.

Sean Huurman:             Absolutely. Great point.

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah. Well Sean so thank you for this I think you gave our audience some really great tips and tools to go back. How do they fin predictive analytics? Is there a website just like

Sean Huurman:             That's right yup. Predictive HR.

Cindy Lu:                      Okay.

Sean Huurman:             You can find us on the web and they've been phenomenal.

Cindy Lu:                      Okay great. Okay so last question. This is departing from our data, our predictive analytics discussion but I'm curious how has your network whether it's peer group or otherwise been helpful to you and your career Sean?

Sean Huurman:             Sure. Well first off just the number of mentors that I've been able to find and stay in touch with. My managers over the years have served as amazing mentors and I make sure that I stay in touch with them as it relates to my network and then I'd try to pay that forward as well so HR tends to be a pretty small community especially here in Dallas, Fort Worth and so being able to stay connected and learn with each other is doing is key. I'll tell you I didn't value it as much as a probably should have earlier in my career but over the past decade I've realized that value and so many organizations are doing so many cool things and we can get so focused on our own work at our own company and once you step out and you start talking to others you realize first that they're dealing with the same macro as you but second that they're dealing with it in a micro way that maybe slightly different than you and there's always something you can learn from that.

                                    So I just cherish the time where we're able to sit down as HR professionals and talk about what we're dealing with because we're able to feed off of each other. Every time we get together I take away some good nuggets and I think that's the case for CHROs, I think that's the case for your teams so obviously working with you, Cindy, being able to network personally but what with my team getting them involved in your networking groups has been fantastic because they bring back ideas that we wouldn't have otherwise ever thought of.

Cindy Lu:                      Yeah, that's great thank you and I appreciate your giving back and being a mentor at so many of our events. Really appreciate that.

Sean Huurman:             Oh yeah, I love it absolutely.

Cindy Lu:                      Alright so Sean Huurman, Chief HR Officer at Service King and Cindy Lu here signing off. Thanks

Sean Huurman:             [inaudible 00:19:17]

Cindy Lu:                      Alright, thank you.

Sean Huurman:             Yeah, thank you.


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