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Leadership

EPISODE

13

Leadership Buy-In Strategies from a Fortune 100 Company

Brad Williams

Brad Williams

28 minutes

May 26, 2024

Leadership Buy-In Strategies from a Fortune 100 Company
Interview Highlights

According to a Deloitte Survey, only 33% of HR professionals believe that senior leaders possess a strong understanding of HR analytics and its implications.

In the realm of HR, the journey towards embracing data-driven strategies can often feel like traversing uncharted territory.

One of the key hurdles is gaining the support of senior leaders, who may not fully grasp the potential impact of HR analytics on organizational success.

As we gear up for the esteemed HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas this October, it's paramount to explore effective ways to communicate the value of investing in data-driven HR tools.

To shed light on this topic, we turn to Brad Williams, Head of HR Technology and People Analytics at Northwestern Mutual, a company boasting nearly 9,000 employees.

 

Challenges in Gaining Leadership Buy-in:

Brad Williams recounts his experiences at Northwestern Mutual, where securing leadership buy-in for HR initiatives proved to be a multifaceted challenge.  Founded in 1857 and headquartered in Milwaukee, Northwestern Mutual stands as a stalwart in the financial services sector. With $34 billion in revenue and 5 million customers, the company's reach extends far and wide.

In particular, he highlights the need to merge separate HR technology and analytics teams, transitioning from outsourced to in-house models. This required meticulous persuasion and alignment across various leadership levels within the organization.

 

Navigating Stakeholder Collaboration:

Central to Brad's strategy was rallying support from his peers within the HR leadership team.

By articulating the benefits of the proposed changes and addressing concerns head-on, he gained crucial backing for his initiatives. This collaborative approach ensured smoother implementation and fostered a shared vision among stakeholders.

 

Addressing Reservations about Data-Driven Practices:

Some leaders are a bit worried about using data to make HR decisions. They're afraid it might take away their freedom to decide things on their own. But Brad says data isn't meant to take over. It's more like adding extra info to help make better decisions. He compares it to how data helps sports teams make smarter choices

 

Communicating ROI and Value Proposition:

Quantifying the return on investment (ROI) of HR initiatives can be challenging, yet essential.

Brad advocates for a comprehensive approach, blending quantitative metrics with qualitative insights. By demonstrating the financial implications of attrition, the competitive landscape, and the intrinsic value of employee engagement, HR professionals can bolster their case for data-driven strategies.

 

Future Perspectives:

Looking ahead, Northwestern Mutual aims to leverage skills-based analytics to inform workforce planning. By identifying critical skills, aligning them with organizational goals, and facilitating employee development, they seek to build a dynamic, agile workforce poised for future success.

 

Conclusion:

Navigating the complexities of leadership buy-in for data-driven HR initiatives requires a strategic blend of persuasion, collaboration, and evidence-based reasoning. By aligning with organizational objectives, communicating tangible ROI, and fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making, HR professionals can pave the way for transformative change within their organizations.

In the dynamic landscape of HR, the journey towards data-driven excellence is ongoing, with each step bringing new challenges and opportunities for growth.

Official Transcript

Getting leadership buy in for HR data driven initiatives can be challenging due to factors such as a lack of understanding and awareness among leaders.

According to a Deloitte Survey, only 33% of HR professionals believe that senior leaders have a strong understanding of HR analytics and its potential impact on the organization.

This lack of data literacy combined with concerns about cost, change resistance, and competing priorities often make it difficult for HR professionals to secure support from senior executives. As we prepare for a world renowned HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas this October, it's crucial to understand how to effectively communicate the value of investing in the tools needed for data driven HR strategies using statistics and evidence to highlight the potential benefits and ROI. 

Joining us today is Brad Williams, head of HR Technology and People Analytics at Northwestern Mutual, a company with nearly 9,000 employees. Brad, thanks for being here today.


Brad Williams: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Could you start by giving us an overview of Northwestern Mutual, including the organization's size, stakeholders, the design, and so forth? 

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