What Is People Science Really All About?

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Written by Adam Hale, EVP of Sage People.

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You’ve heard the phrase ‘People Science’ and have maybe even seen job postings for a ‘Head of People’ or ‘Chief People Officer’. But what does People Science really mean and why does it matter?

People Science is an approach organizations use to relate to their employees instead of seeing them as just human resources. Our Becoming a People Company report found that 87% of HR leaders think more should be done to put people at the heart of their business and that’s what People Science is all about. It looks at every part of an employee’s experience and goes beyond traditional HR in reach and influence, becoming a business-critical strategy that integrates with every part of the organization.

If you’re just starting to wrap your head around People Science, below are 6 ways to understand the power of the approach and the impact it can have on your workplace.

1. 3D not 2D

When you’re looking to engage with people, rather than manage people as resources or capital, you need to know about an employee’s skills, pay scale and reporting lines, and then look more deeply at the individuals themselves. When using People Science, every employee is treated as a multi-dimensional personality, not just a flat outline. The best HR and people leaders understand cultural fit, working styles, strengths, values and the goals each person brings to an organization.

2. Home cooking, not takeaway meals

When you cook at home, you need to collect the right ingredients and add them at just the right time and in the right proportions to get the perfect result. You know how each ingredient reacts, what brings out its best and how to avoid burning or undercooking it. You can learn from your results and refine your recipes, knowing which elements work well together.

People Science is like home-cooking your organization’s culture and values, balancing the people in teams and ‘shopping’ for top-quality hires who have the potential to add depth and flavor to your projects. It’s got a strategic long-term side, as well as a skillful day-to-day process. And while it takes a little more time and effort than grabbing a takeaway snack for instant relief, it’s a more sustainable way to nurture your organization’s long-term health.

3. Sherlock Holmes with DNA fingerprinting

Sherlock Holmes is a genius who can use deduction and logic to unravel murder mysteries with his mind. But imagine if he had a DNA forensics lab and Big Data at his disposal. Intuitive talent plus hard data? He’d be unstoppable.

In today’s business climate, it’s now unthinkable to not use data to analyze customer behaviors, but many companies don’t apply this same logic to understanding their own people. Why are so many overlooking this? If companies want to attract and retain the best people, the use of people data to improve the employee experience is no longer optional.

People Science takes the intuitive power of HR and adds data evidence to support ideas, investigate theories and take pre-emptive action. Because it’s data-backed and evidence based, it can provide iron-clad answers to back up your hunches about things. It can also predict outcomes, so you can foresee and prevent issues like flight risk or talent shortages.

4. Google vs. your multi-volume leather-bound encyclopedia

Google is an essential reference tool, much like your trusty set of encyclopedia books. It knows the answers. But while you can use it to look up facts about ancient Egypt, there’s so much more to it than that.

Like Google – and the technology industry in general – People Science is always changing and innovating. Instead of sticking to rigid processes, HR and people leaders who take a People Science approach are reinventing things according to movements in their industry, in technological tools and in People Science itself. It’s nimble enough to respond to the transforming world of modern business.

5. The X-Men vs. your favorite sports team

Your favorite sports team consists of players with finely-honed skills in shooting hoops, blocking passes or scoring goals. But only in (or on) their own field. Pit them against an unexpected challenge like, say, an evil supervillain intent on world destruction, and they’ll probably be out of their depth.

People teams are multi-disciplinary, with an array of superpowers including data analysis, marketing, building relationships, social media and talent scouting (not to mention saving the world on a regular basis). Think of them as your all-star team of people superheroes, ready for anything life throws at your business, even game-changing digital developments that fall outside the traditional HR field.

6. A hotel, not a dorm room

Like a hotel, a business with People Science knowledge understands that its commercial success depends on keeping people comfortable, feeling valued and leaving with a great experience. Hospitality is vital, not just a nice-to-have – unless you want your people, like the students in a basic dorm room, to upgrade to a nicer workplace once they’ve finished learning from you.

See how your company stacks up in the journey to become a People Company with our free People Company profiler.

About the Author:

Adam Hale, EVP of Sage People

Adam Hale, EVP of Sage People, previously acted as Executive Chairman and Non Executive Director having spent over 30 years in the technology industry. He was formerly Head of Software and European Technology at Russell Reynolds Associates, the leading executive search firm and before that ran large system implementation projects at Accenture. Adam is also a committee member of the Technology Leadership Group (TLG) for the Prince’s Trust.


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Filed under: HR, Leadership, Management, Talent Tagged: Adam Hale, Big Data, Business, Digital HR, Employee Engagement, Employee Experience, HR, HR Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Organizational Culture, People, People Analytics, People Company, People Science, Sage People, Strategy, Talent

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