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First Person: Understanding and Investing in Current and Future Talent

Michelin’s Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics Rick Williams recently answered questions posted to him by Area Development’s editor about fulfilling a company’s workforce needs in these unprecedented times.

Q4 2020
AD: Can you define people analytics for our readers?

Williams: People analytics is described as the method of analytics which can support leaders as they make decisions about their employees and workforce. This method applies statistics, technology, and expertise to large sets of HR data, which should result in better business and management decisions by an organization. Another way of looking at this is how to get the best return on investment from their people — in an analytical, data-driven way.

AD: How can the use of data help industrial companies satisfy their workforce requirements?

Williams: Data can prove instrumental to inform industrial companies on the best way to satisfy workforce requirements — from understanding the current company workforce characteristics (retirement rate, longevity with the company, skills of each person, time to reach full competency in a post, etc.) to the insights needed to best recruit (number of available workers in a geographic area, skills of graduates of nearby universities, population growth/decline near industrial sites, etc.).

Data can help a company understand how to best deploy its current talent, and which areas are “target rich” with talent that’s attractive to the company. Lastly, data can be very useful for enterprises to work with local communities to spur types of local talent investment that benefit both the people and the enterprise.

AD: Why are people analytics important when a company is choosing a location for a new facility or an expansion project?

Rick Williams was named Director of Business Intelligence for Michelin North America in January of 2018. In 2008, Rick joined Michelin working in IT department. Rick held various positions within the IT department until the end of 2012 when he and his family moved to France. While in France Rick led several international IT groups which supported the aircraft business line, all commercial agencies, and the geographic zone of Africa, India, and the Middle East for marketing and sales. Rick returned to the United States in 2016 as program and delivery manager for the digital initiative to transform marketing and sales worldwide through
Williams: There are many factors that need to be considered when vetting a new location, and information about the local talent is one of them. Companies will use people analytics to answer important questions such as:
  • Will there be enough local talent to staff the level of employees needed?
  • Who else would the enterprise be competing with for these employees?
  • Can the company pay the salaries that this location would command?
  • Would people want to re-locate here?
Leveraging people analytics can give critical insight to these questions for a potential location.

AD: How does this approach help in cultivating a company culture as well as team-building, and why is that important?

Williams: Understanding the talent in an organization and using that understanding to make strong investments in current and future employees sends a strong message: People matter. When this is done well, it’s possible to build a more engaged workforce that recognizes the emphasis their leadership places on them. This recognition creates a virtuous cycle within an organization, which not only attracts talent but retains talent.

AD: Many workers believe automation will replace their jobs, but can you explain how it can maximize employee talent and potential?

Williams: In the current era, we are embracing a digital revolution. This revolution brings with it explosions in the speed of business, the amount of data produced, and a breadth of capabilities companies must bring to the table in order to remain competitive. When this is considered at scale, automation is a key tool for employees — not a risk for their jobs.

Data can prove instrumental to inform industrial companies on the best way to satisfy workforce requirements Automation coupled with advanced analytics can help augment the intelligence and impact of workers in their jobs. It releases the workers to leverage their true expertise in a job — which was formerly hidden by rote repetition or repetitive tasks. Employees who show a clear understanding of how to leverage automation, rather than fearing it, will find themselves addressing the more interesting and complex subjects in their area — making themselves and their companies more successful in these competitive markets.

AD: As we come out of the pandemic, what advice would you give an organization about scaling its workforce back up?

Williams: This pandemic has introduced an unprecedented level of uncertainty. Many of the traditional models of predicting what comes next are simply not equipped to speak with confidence. Companies need to focus on understanding where their commercial opportunities are — and deploying talent to those areas. No company wants to scale up blindly and put its people and future at risk. Use this time to invest in the current staff and chart a path to the future.

AD: What should companies’ overall approach to human resources management be?

Williams: People matter. Companies overall approach to resource management should be the embracing of this simple fact. Using the vast amount of information at our disposal today, companies should know their talent better than ever before — and the deployment of this knowledge toward respecting and investing in employees should be tangible to the entire workforce.

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