October 25, 2021

TribePod: Things to Consider When Considering People Analytics

Courtney Lane and Jim Stroud navigate around a few technical issues to discuss people analytics with the CEO of HR Forecast - Christian Vetter. Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Is "The Great Resignation" going global? What do the trends say?

  • Should skills be the priority of job boards and not job titles? 

  • Lessons learned from going 100% virtual

  • Things to consider when considering people analytics

And more...


Christian Vetter is CEO and Co-Founder at HRForecast, a German HR tech company. Christian is an HR tech expert with a focus on cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and Big Data.


2-Recruitment Marketing





Jim Stroud (0s):
Hello, Courtney. It's time for another podcast. Are you ready? Are you ready?

Courtney Lane (5s):
I'm ready, Jim. Hello. How are you?

Jim Stroud (8s):
I'm doing pretty well. Pretty well, pretty well.

Courtney Lane (12s):
So tell me who is our guest?

Jim Stroud (17s):
Our guest-- I see your lips moving. I don't hear you. I don't hear you.

Courtney Lane (23s):
Can you hear me?

Jim Stroud (24s):
There you go. Now I hear you. I don't-- Sorry, listeners, technical difficulties. Okay, you were about to say something.

Courtney Lane (33s):
[Inaudible] today.

Jim Stroud (34s):
Oh, you went out again. I'm gonna read your, you know-- I do sign language. Yes. Okay. First word, guests. Guest. Yes, okay, first word guest. Next word. Who? Question who? Who is our guest? I got it. I got it. Okay. Here's our guest for today, Courtney. I guest is Christian Vetter, who is CEO and co-founder at HR Forecast, a German HR Tech company. Christian is an HR tech expert with a focus on cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and big data. It does not say on his bio that he is a charades master, but I think we will test them out if these technical issues do not get resolved, what do you say?

Courtney Lane (1m 19s):
Let's give it a try, hope and a prayer.

Jim Stroud (1m 23s):
I heard that.

Courtney Lane (1m 25s):
All right.

Jim Stroud (1m 26s):
And hopefully, our listeners will hear it right after this important message. You are listening to TribePod, a podcast series of interviews of interest to the HR community. It is hosted by Courtney Lane, produced by Jim Stroud, sponsored by Proactive Talent, and enjoyed by you. Today's episode begins right after this.

Will Stanley (1m 51s):
Recruiting Marketing as compared to maybe employer branding is all about getting your message and your story in front of the right audience. It's a lot to manage and what Proactive Talent does for our clients is we help centralize. So you have one partner, one vendor to help you manage all those relationships. And not only that, we help you track the effectiveness of every media dollar you spend on hiring so that, you know, in real time that you're getting the greatest ROI for your marketing investment to attract great talent in your company. We help our clients with Recruiting Marketing in a couple of ways. One is an improved marketing strategy. And with that, we really take the time to help you build the right strategy and then we get mutual approval on that strategy before you spend a single dime.

Will Stanley (2m 39s):
The other way we do is, is through our agency of record service. This is a partnership with you where we're able to reach out to publishers on your behalf to negotiate better pricing, to execute on media campaigns, and really act as an extension of your team. Some of the benefits that our clients have seen working with Proactive Talents recruiting marketing services is an overall reduction of 30 percent cost per applicant. That's really significant. It's showing that we're able to leverage great technology, programmatic, and we're also flexible and scalable. We're platform agnostic. We're always going to use whatever the greatest and latest technology is, whatever the best platforms are to help create efficiencies in your media purchasing so that you're always on the cutting edge.

Jim Stroud (3m 30s):
For more information on Proactive Talent, visit us online at ProactiveTalent.com or click the link in the podcast description.

Courtney Lane (3m 38s):
All right. Well, hello and good day, everyone. Today, I'm joined by Christian Vetter, the founder and CEO of HR Forecast, an AI-enabled People Analytics Platform that he founded back in 2014. Welcome, Christian. We are happy to have you on today.

Christian Vetter (3m 53s):
Hello. Thanks for having me.

Courtney Lane (3m 55s):
I mean, tell folks that are listening in a little bit about what HR Forecast is and really how it came to be, what led you to create a tool like this?

Christian Vetter (4m 8s):
Well, it's a rather long story. I'll try to keep it short. So when I finished my studies in 2009, coming from the financial planning and controlling side of things, I first had-- I met my first encounter with HR. So basically it was a company that I worked for and they were about to remove 2000 people from their organization due to some external pressure they had. And that's when I first discovered that this is maybe not the proper thing to do because all these people, I mean their families behind them, et cetera. So there'll be losing their job and the company had the urgent need to hire people on the other end though.

Christian Vetter (4m 53s):
They had different skill requirements. So I thought, well, can we use data somehow to proactively figure out what are the needs of a company in the future? And how can I try to utilize my existing workforce and the best way to make sure that I have, well, fewer redundancies and I can make use of the skills in the right way? And that's when we started to bring in the data perspective and try to fuse that with traditional HR methods.

Courtney Lane (5m 23s):
What kind of data is a tool like this pulling in to be able to make those kinds of assumptions or forecasts?

Christian Vetter (5m 31s):
Well, we rely strongly on data that's not within our clients. So it's what we call external data. Data that we publicly crawl, a little bit like Google. They get fetched all this data around the world. Same thing we do. So, especially in the talent acquisition or recruiting domain, there's lots of data on labor markets. What are my competitors doing? Which skills are they hiring at this time? Where are they hiring? What actually are the skills these companies are hiring versus the skills I'm hiring? Do I have any white spots? Are there any gaps? Am I doing something very good? Or maybe is there some potential to improve my actions?

Christian Vetter (6m 11s):
That's basically the whole external data that we utilize. And then we funnel that basically towards the organization so that they obviously can use that with their existing workforce, or they can think about hiring those people on the external labor market.

Courtney Lane (6m 25s):
So what about the internal data component? Like where does that come in? Is that something that within the organization themselves, they need to have a data analyst that knows how to sort of pull those pieces together, or is there a way to plug in and see what's happening within the systems particular ATS or within the HRS systems?

Christian Vetter (6m 45s):
Yeah, so most of the organizations we talked to they have done these skill assessments with their people. So that usually it took them a year or two to basically assess what kind of skills they have, line manager talking to the employees, HR talking to the employees. Now, the downside of this is that after one or two years, you do have some rough understanding of what the people might know. So this is where we come into place. We propose to do it a little bit in a different way because we have this technology that basically utilizes the data that's already there. So we believe employees, they have this footprint of data points within the organization, in the CVs. It could be in the training databases, in the talent system, in the ATS, as you mentioned, everywhere.

Christian Vetter (7m 29s):
And we basically pull all that data together and use an artificial intelligence to automatically extract skill profiles from that. So that everybody who uses that has hopefully more or less realistic skill profiles of themselves. And then while that can be obviously utilized directly. So it's more like a real-time approach rather than an assessment kind of, yeah, reactive approach.

Courtney Lane (7m 55s):
So who is it in the organization that's engaging or interacting with this tool the most? I mean, is it the HR team that is owning it and sort of putting it, you know, pulling the data out and looking at it and applying it to the organization or are line managers actually engaging with the tool in some capacity?

Christian Vetter (8m 13s):
Well, it depends on the use case. So it has a very broad application range. So when we talk about recruiting, it's a lot of data that we bring in from the outside perspective. So that data crunching would be done in our end and then we funnel it basically to the clients and then on their end, some [inaudible] people might use it to integrate it with recruiting insights they provide or if we talk about internal use cases, such as succession planning or job matching, then even the employees working in the organization, they get direct access to it individually or together with line manager.

Christian Vetter (8m 57s):
And obviously, HR is gonna consume all this data to then analyze it and find with the building analytics to find out what are the gaps we have, how future-fit are the employees in my organization. So it's really a teamwork effort and depending on the use cases, it's sometimes more technical people and sometimes more, let's say, end-user target groups using it.

Courtney Lane (9m 23s):
Do you have any favorite use cases? I mean, do you have any examples of where you feel like somebody really came in and leveraged the tool in a pretty special or powerful way?

Christian Vetter (9m 33s):
Yeah. My favorite use case is actually the one that's I would say is connected to strategic workforce planning. So this is my passion also. I like to develop methods around that domain. So one of it is this equation we recently set up. It's one equals to two, which obviously is wrong in the mathematical sense, but what it means is the company that's transforming, we'll have some jobs that will become redundant and it will have other jobs that are in dire need. So one means taking an existing employee and moving it from Job A to Job B as one move while the other option is two which means taking an existing employee, placing that back onto the labor market while having another interaction with the labor market, bringing somebody external in.

Christian Vetter (10m 26s):
So that means two interactions, yeah? That's why one obviously is less than two. So one is cheaper and also, I mean, more convenient. It allows new career paths. It makes the organization more dynamic as a whole. So this is really my favorite use case to prove not just from a monetary perspective, that it saves money, but also from people empowerment and employee experience perspective that proactively identifying these people, moving them into the new jobs. And first of all, of course, practically identifying the requirements of the future. This is really what HR is all about, going a little bit away from the administrative reactive topics, more towards strategic planning, being proactive, and making sure that the organization gets the proper talent internally, and then obviously also externally as required.

Courtney Lane (11m 17s):
What's interesting from a labor market's perspective, I know here in the US we are going through what people have deemed The Great Resignation where there's just individuals coming out of the pandemic have decided they either don't want to go back to the job they were in prior to or, you know, created a time for them to really decide they wanna make a complete shift in careers, or just to get a shift in employer. One sort of two questions, one, are we seeing that at a global level? I mean, are employees very mobile right now? People, rather, very mobile right now in the market globally? And if so, I would imagine that that means, you know, that sort of how this tool comes into play and really understanding the data and the kind of data that's coming in is starting to shift as well.

Courtney Lane (11m 59s):
And curious if you're seeing sort of shifts in the data.

Christian Vetter (12m 3s):
Well, I think globally, the trend is going in that direction. I think the pace in the US is always a bit faster than everywhere else. The labor market in the US has always been much more dynamic than the labor markets, for example, in Europe. One big reason is that in Europe, there are typically very strong employee unions advocating for the people. And then also the social security is much more supportive here for people that, for example, unemployed. Well, in the US, it's just much faster. Twenty years ago when I lived in the US it was like that.

Christian Vetter (12m 46s):
And Germany, for example, was much slower, but I think overall looking at the workforce, we have a lot of digital talents as well obviously. Locations become less relevant. Yeah, they can work from everywhere. It's more about the time zones maybe. And it also means the culture becomes more important. And I think a lot of people going out of the office working remotely. They now understood that maybe the culture doesn't fit so well for them. So that's why they probably are less bound to stay with their existing employer. And I think that is one of the reasons why the global shift was becoming more, let's say nomadic in an a employee perspective or not more dynamic is for sure being supported right now, yeah.

Courtney Lane (13m 37s):
So does HR Forecast, I mean, does it speak to that sort of culture and engagement piece as well? Or is it really, I mean, is it really more focused on that workforce piece or is it looking more sort of emulate to maybe this quote-unquote, "softer pieces," you know, of sort of the trends that are happening within an organization or even just within the market, I guess?

Christian Vetter (13m 56s):
Well, in the end, our platform is also built for matching. So an organization that doesn't have any internal employees but rather relies on a swarm of skills, let's say wherever they may be, needs some kind of technology to make that work because what keeps organizations running nowadays is knowledge about the people, the leaders of the team they know what kind of capabilities the people have. So if you take out this dimension of this knowledge, obviously, you need technology to understand who could be a proper fit for a project, for a task, for an activity, et cetera, especially with new activities popping up everywhere now.

Christian Vetter (14m 40s):
So this tool is for sure, or this app is for sure made to support exactly that use case because it does in the first place make skills transparent. So it goes away from jobs more towards the skills, and then it allows the organization to match these existing skills, whether they are internal or external to whatever needs to be done. It could be job postings, could be projects, could be any kind of activity or requirement. And this, in the end, I think is also a bit, a little bit of a vision now that we think organizations in the future will be obtaining skills from everywhere.

Courtney Lane (15m 19s):
So talk to me about the future, from a platform or a tool or an app perspective, how do you see this sort of being continued to grow and gain greater adoption in more organizations? Anything you can share about sort of what the roadmap for this tool is?

Christian Vetter (15m 38s):
Well, so one of our biggest topics we've been working on is this external data piece that I briefly introduced in the very beginning. So our knowledge is basically on what's going on out there at this time, and we're currently working on merging this knowledge with the platform. I mean, there are many platforms out there, I guess, that do some of these use cases in a more or less similar way, but I don't know any of them that actually integrates this knowledge about future jobs, future skills to shift the trends, et cetera. So I guess, we owe to all the employees in the world to make them understand what they can expect.

Christian Vetter (16m 22s):
Yeah, so transparency on requirements of the future are currently heavily dependent on the knowledge of the leaders and if they don't pass on that knowledge, or if they don't even, they might even not have that knowledge then this is where we come into place and we make that transparent. So everybody should be able to match themselves against any kind of future job and see what skill gaps you might have or a person might have, and also see how to close these gaps just to also to motivate people, to always develop, but also to show them that transformation is not necessarily a negative thing. And maybe even though their job might be redundant or the job might change significantly, there are many opportunities out there they might not even think of right now, different job families, whatever, that they can, well, they can take on now.

Courtney Lane (17m 16s):
I could see, I really love the idea of switching from like sort of a job title or kind of, you know, bucket a perspective and to more of a skills-based perspective because I think job title alone can be such like a concrete thing, but it also is a little bit built in assumption of when you have the job title was in one organization, I assume that that's the exact same job when I come to another organization. And I don't know to like peel back sort of the skin and understand that, oh yeah, there may be some sort of differences here, and even how I fit from like a skills perspective. When you think about sort of like future landscape, do you imagine or hope that there will be, you know, even greater transparency and openness in the sense of maybe more even a marketplace where maybe I'm not only looking at like, you know, sort of myself matched against skills within my particular organization, but there's an opportunity for me to look at myself against skills of an organization I'm not even with yet today and see if there's a potential fit there?

Christian Vetter (18m 16s):
Yeah, that would be, well, realistic, I guess, in the near future. Yeah, something like that. I don't think employees would mind too much. Employers would have to adapt to it. And again, this is very much around the transparency topic I mentioned before. I'm sure not everybody would like that, but I mean, as soon as technology is available to do that, sooner or later companies and people would adapt to it, yeah. So that's I think something we should be prepared for.

Courtney Lane (18m 49s):
Maybe transparency is a big piece of it and sort of going back to a little bit of where we see the trend and The Great Resignation so to speak where I think there's this, anecdotally speaking, this feeling that employees sort of had their eyes opened a bit about who their employers really were over the course of the last 18 months. And now they're taking that information and going forward and to some extent, really holding who their current or potential employer is too much higher standard than they may have previously. And I think transparency is a big piece of that. They wanna understand what's going on and don't wanna just sort of feel like they're a cog in the machinery, so to speak who, you know, is just waiting for maybe their manager to tell them what's happening.

Courtney Lane (19m 32s):
And to your point earlier, if their manager even knows. Sometimes it's many layers up. So I think it transparencies are really sort of key piece to sort of what we're seeing happening. Are there any, when you think about sort of like ongoing trends along with transparency and things like that, any other trends you sort of see happening from a market perspective when we look into 2022?

Christian Vetter (19m 57s):
Well, one of them I think is globalization of labor markets, maybe not globalization, but, of course, going away from on-premise recruiting to a more broader scope. For example, in our company, we have grown tremendously through COVID, and at some point in time, I mean, we couldn't interview people anyways, personally. So we started hiring them everywhere, which not as the big advantage that, of course, our labor market that was maybe limited to Munich and [inaudible] before is now-- Well, everybody is small or less in our time zone. That's great. And I think other companies can learn from that with all the, I mean, ups and downs that come along with it.

Christian Vetter (20m 37s):
So, of course, we haven't met most of these people personally. So that's, of course, a big disadvantage there, but that's, I think something everybody would need to be prepared for.

Courtney Lane (20m 49s):
Well, I'm curious sort of, I mean, unrelated, but what has the experience been like on your end as you switched, as your organization switched over to having completely virtual relationships with new employees? How have you seen that sort of internally impacting you as a company?

Christian Vetter (21m 4s):
I didn't worry too much about the employees to be honest because back then, when Florian, my co-founder and me, we had the company, we were only two people and we already lived totally away from each other. One in the very north of Germany and the other one in the very south. So we could say we are a remote-first company from our DNA. So when we hire people already before COVID, we always took great care that they are independently working from wherever they want. It was also one big advantage, I guess, compared to bigger employers or more well-known employers that we didn't mind if they would work out of Bali or wherever they wanted to go. So, yeah, I guess that's for us, it was more worrying about the clients, you know.

Christian Vetter (21m 47s):
How are we gonna find new clients if they don't meet us personally, but luckily they adopted fast. So it's fun. It's fun and fine.

Courtney Lane (22m 2s):
Well, yeah, certainly I think as everything was hitting, organizations started scrambling to really understand what was going on and what to expect. And I think sort of the data-driven decision-making and things like that is, you know, a lot of times has been maybe some words people are saying, but not a lot of follow-through. And I think organizations were sort of put to the test of like, no, now you really actually do need to understand what's happening within the market and be prepared for it because it got flipped on its head and then flipped back on its head again, I think. So, well, as we are sort of coming in and wrapping up, I wonder if there are any big takeaways that you would wanna make sure that folks think about when it comes to people analytics and leveraging a tool like HR Forecast?

Christian Vetter (22m 51s):
Well, I think the two main points are, first of all, what hasn't been included into decision-making enough in the past is integrating external insights on markets and on competitors. So kind of overcoming these data silos. That's number one. And number two is going away from jobs towards skills. I think we talked about that actually before, and these are I think the two most important aspects. And maybe just to add a third one, I think what companies should be aware about as the strategic component. Again, they must utilize it much more. I still talk to a lot of large corporate teams that they don't even have a structured strategic workforce planning process, which in the end combines everything, external and internal workforce.

Christian Vetter (23m 41s):
And I think that is the main topic that's gonna continue to become more relevant for the role of HR. Also, to learn how to cope with that, that has new requirements. It's a very analytical, driven approach, but obviously, I was surprised people require a method and a process. So I can just encourage everyone to start thinking about the strategic workforce planning journey because that really is, I think, for me, a big game-changer in terms of savings, but potentials also in terms of making the business much more successful.

Courtney Lane (24m 19s):
Absolutely. Well, as we wrap up, if folks listening want to connect with you or learn more about HR Forecast, what are the best ways for them to do that?

Christian Vetter (24m 28s):
Well, the easiest way is on LinkedIn, I guess. They can either connect with the HR Forecast page, follow that. We always have also some knowledge nuggets we like to share or they can, of course, engaged directly with me. And then, of course, we also have the website HRForecast.com where everybody is able to download materials and get in touch with us.

Courtney Lane (24m 59s):
Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Christian. It's been really interesting hearing about the tool and sort of the things that we're seeing out in the candidate market right now and the marketplace from an analytics perspective. So thank you again and thank you to everybody who joined in and listened to the Tripod podcast today.

Christian Vetter (25m 17s):
Yeah. Thanks so much. And looking forward to engage and, yeah, let's see how strategic workforce planning will change over the next years.

Courtney Lane (25m 29s):
Wonderful. Sounds great. Thanks, y'all.

Christian Vetter (25m 29s):
Thanks a lot for having me.

Jim Stroud (25m 43s):
Wow, that was special. What'd you think of it, Courtney?

Courtney Lane (25m 46s):
Oh man, it was really great. Like what was really super impactful for me was when he said [inaudible]. Then, you know, he like really, he drove it home.

Jim Stroud (25m 57s):
You're going in and out again.

Courtney Lane (25m 59s):
You know what I mean, Jim? Did you feel that too?

Jim Stroud (26m 2s):
I wish I could say yes, but we're having the technical difficulties again. Do as you raise thing, when he said great, one word is super, one in one, one equals two strategic work. I don't know. I'm sorry. I can't quite understand her. She raised, but if you think, you know what she possibly had said about how great the podcast was, please give us an email. You can reach us at TribePod, that's T-R-I-B-E-P-O-D@ProactiveTalent.com. We'd so very much like to hear from you. Until next time, I'm gonna wave at Courtney because I think our microphone is gonna go out again and I'll wave at you, dear listener, but you can't see me, but believe me, I'm waving at you.

Jim Stroud (26m 50s):
Until next time. Bye. Bye.

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