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A look inside Panasonic's talent analytics strategy

Implementing talent analytics can seem daunting, but there are a few ways to make it less intimidating.

In February 2018, Panasonic Corporation of North America brought in Lydia Wu, a former Accenture and Deloitte consultant, to start a talent analytics team. Wu shared her experience and advice in a session at the 2019 HR Technology Conference.

First, don't be too hard on yourself, said Wu, now head of talent analytics at the division of the Japanese electronics manufacturer, based in Newark, N.J.

Other companies suffer from the same data issues; the trick is not to let them overwhelm you, she said. Don't worry about doing it wrong, because so is everyone else. Her PowerPoint slides had aphorisms such as "Embrace the mess" and "Accept the unknown."

Wu sat down for a video interview at the conference to offer more tips on scaling talent analytics in an organization.

When she arrived at Panasonic, talent analytics was viewed as a mystical and elusive concept. The attitude was: "What the heck is she actually doing here, and how is she going to contribute to the organization?" Wu said.

The biggest challenges were getting stakeholder buy-in and fostering comfort with numbers and the concept of analytics.

"When you think about HR in general, it's about the people," Wu said. "It's about relationships. It's about helping people through certain aspects of their professional careers. None of that really has anything to do with numbers. If you're a numbers person, you typically ended up in finance."

To get buy-in, she started by providing business leaders demographics to help them understand who works in the organization, how much they make and how engaged they are. Then she layered on financial data.

Organizations don't need an expensive business intelligence tool to get started, Wu said. Use Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint to prove the concept before investigating specialized software, she said, noting that her team also uses the Power BI software that it gets for free with its Microsoft products.

There is no magic bullet to talent analytics, Wu said. Don't go into talent analytics expecting linear success. Be more exploratory, test hypotheses.

"The reality is, everyone is stumbling around a little bit," Wu said.

Panasonic's talent analytics team now has four people, and business units coming to it for data to help them build a case or run an employee engagement survey to glean the causes of possible problems.

Companies looking to assemble a talent analytics team should look for the hustle factor and the "get it" quotient, Wu said.

"They just need to be scrappy," she said. "They need to get the business solutions [and] challenges and figure out how to make do with what we have today."

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