HR Analytics

What The Walking Dead can teach us about implementing People Analytics

By | Matthew Hamilton | Head of HR Strategy & People Analytics at Protective Life

Several years ago, I spoke at a leading people analytics conference about driving the adoption of a people analytics program. One of the ideas I shared was for leaders to pace themselves. Implementing people analytics is a journey and takes time. 

You’ve probably heard the analogy of something being more like a marathon than a sprint. When it comes to people analytics, however, I said that analogy isn’t as accurate. Even though a marathon is long, it still has a clearly defined ending point. But the implementation of a people analytics program is never over. So I think a better analogy is that it’s more like running from the zombie horde: sometimes you have to sprint; sometimes you can take a break; but you can never stop.

So I thought to expand on that idea, dive into a little zombie apocalypse pop culture, and draw some lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead for how we can improve our chances of successfully implementing a people analytics program.

If you haven’t seen The Walking Dead (“TWD” hereafter), no worries. Here’s a brief synopsis: Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes awakes from a coma in a hospital to learn that the zombie apocalypse is in full swing. He bands together with an ever-rotating cast of strangers to survive the “walkers” for another day. Rinse and repeat for 10+ seasons. Got it?

So on to the lessons we can learn:

Sometimes you have to move fast

Rick and his group of survivors often find themselves close to being overrun by a horde of zombies. Sometimes the only thing that saves them is to simply move fast to get away.

When you’re implementing a people analytics program, sometimes there’s a big upside to moving fast. Conversely, there could be a huge missed opportunity by not moving fast enough. Analytic insights that you can provide may help influence some major business decisions, and also help build credibility in your function. But insights won’t be valuable if they come after the decisions are already made.

Sometimes you should slow down

Survivors in TWD know that they can’t sprint from the zombies forever. But they may not have safe shelter readily available. The solution is sometimes to keep moving, but at a slower pace, just fast enough to stay ahead of the walkers.

When implementing a people analytics program, it can be exciting to push out all kinds of new capabilities and insights to the organization. But remember all the other normal business activities are still happening. If you’re not careful, it can become easy to overwhelm HRBPs and business leaders if you push out too much too fast. Doing so runs the risk that they may disengage more permanently than just during any short-term periods of busyness.

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