Lisa Maxey, director of compensation and HR information systems at GBW Railcar Services, used to spend a lot of her time looking for information and running reports. Managers at the nationwide railcar repair operation, busy in the field, regularly asked Maxey and her team for detailed workforce metrics necessary to make critical business decisions. Today, though, she spends her time talking about what the information means, rather than finding it, because the data is now being delivered directly to her management team by a new mobile app offering from ADP.
ADP's new Executive and Manager Insights product, a feature within the company's Mobile Solutions app, pushes relevant "headlines" to managers and HR pros on everything from overtime rates to employee churn and direct labor utilization. As users click down into the application, more workforce metrics are available, and because of underlying AI and machine learning capabilities, the system will be able to learn preferences and deliver more relevant results over time, said Marc Rind, chief data scientist at ADP. "The management community really needed to know this data, but they're too busy managing to go into the HR software and dig it out," Rind explained in an interview. "We've now found a way to push the most important information out to them."
At a time when technologies like AI and machine learning have enabled an unprecedented data flow, the challenge at many companies is how to filter and channel workforce metrics to the appropriate people. That task has traditionally fallen to busy HR staff who were closest to the reams of employee information, but that wasn't the most efficient use of anyone's time, said John Sumser, principal analyst at HR Examiner in San Francisco. "The job of HR is to serve the company, not to serve the company tools," he said. From his perspective, making this data easily visible just makes sense. "If you look at payroll data, effectively, it's a guide to everything," he said. "And ADP can give [a customer] integration with other systems so you know how you're doing against your KPIs [key performance indicators]. When the rest of the country is riding its seasonal shift and overtime is doing its normal thing, [the product] can tell you you're riding the same curve as anyone else."
John SumserPrincipal analyst, HR Examiner
To get to the point where ADP would have a tool that could conceivably mine the data of its close to 30 million employee users, the company started building a data science team a few years ago, Rind said. The goal was to normalize workforce metrics so they could be used regardless of industry or occupation. That entailed making sense of different job titles, pay codes and more, he said. Then, it was a matter of deciding how to present the information. Email or texts on a mobile device made the most sense. Finally, Rind's team chose to streamline the information presented initially to avoid management information overload, but also made it possible to go deeper as needed. "We really intended this not to be a 'judgment' product but more of a direction to point people to in a given area," he said. "We think about this as kind of a human GPS."
As of late August 2018, ADP's Executive and Manager Insights portion of the app had nearly 1,400 customers and 55,000 active users. Rind said 15% to 20% of those workforce metrics users are at the senior manager or C-suite level. "You normally don't see that in an HCM [human capital management] system, so we're feeling pretty good about that."
If this product can help free up HR, it is a good thing, Sumser agreed. "It takes the burden off the HR department and gives HR the capacity to think about things and better navigate the hard questions, like the skill shifts," he said. "They're not busy writing reports. They're able to apply that energy to help them figure out what the big problems mean."
All of Maxey's managers are now using the new ADP Executive and Manager Insights product as of the last month or so, and she can already see a difference. "This is really a win-win for us," she said. "Our managers can get the information themselves, and then we can focus on having a different conversation in HR. What do these numbers mean? How can we fix them? Now, we can have more conversations that actually drive business results rather than conversations about getting numbers."