Expert Interview Series: Erik van Vulpen of Analytics In HR About Using Objective Data to Guide HR Policy

Erik van Vulpen is the founder of Analytics in HR and a recognized expert in human resources analytics. We had a chance to speak with Erik about how HR decisions are increasingly becoming data-driven.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to create Analytics in HR?

We created Analytics in HR because we wanted to create a platform with reliable and practical information about HR analytics. There was a lot of talk about HR analytics in LinkedIn, but there was no dedicated platform for HR analytics.

In addition, we saw a lot of interest in more data-driven approaches to human resource management. A lot of companies have a very data-driven marketing and sales department. The HR analytics department is, however, lagging behind.

A lot of HR professionals want to know how to create accurate HR metrics and how to use these metrics in an HR report or HR dashboard. We help them to make human resource management more data-driven.

What are some “startling” discoveries that you’ve made using HR analytics that tend to invalidate some of the most widely-held HR beliefs?

There are quite a few. Did you know that algorithms make better recruitment decisions than human recruiters? We humans are very bad judges of character, and we’re even worse at predicting future performance.

In addition, it is hard to keep track of key HR areas without measuring them. As an HR professional, you might feel good about retention, but you can only see a small part of the organization. People analytics helps to avoid common biases that affect us all.

What types of elements tend to have the most negative impact on employee retention?

The first thing most people think about is compensation. However, the role of compensation is oftentimes overestimated. A lack of learning and development opportunities plays a much larger role, especially for younger workers.

Other factors like young age, stress, and bad leadership also greatly impact retention. We created an infographic about the most common drivers of turnover based on two meta-studies of the past 100 years of employee turnover research.

Name one change that most organizations can make immediately to lower the costs associated with absenteeism or sick leave.

It is hard to come up with an immediate fix. There are a lot of cultural and legal differences between countries that can make it easier or harder to stay at home. In addition, the private sector usually does a better job when compared to governmental organizations. The latter usually do good by actively combating absenteeism through interventions that help to get workers back to their desk ASAP.

One suggestion is to actively call employees within 24 hours of them falling ill. As a manager, it’s important to show empathy when you call employees; and when you actively facilitate workers to return to the workplace (even when it’s initially part-time), overall absenteeism is likely to lower.

What tangible benefits can a company reap from increasing diversity in the workplace?

Diversity is an important element for a lot of companies. More diverse workplaces often lead to more innovation, a more inclusive workplace, and better decision making.

According to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), employee diversity is associated with better business results. Gender-diverse companies are more likely to perform 15% better and ethnically-diverse companies are more likely to perform 35% better.

These benefits are huge. The big question is always whether these relationships are causal or correlational. Do top-performing companies have more money available for fancy diversity programs, or does diversity really lead to better performance? That’s always the question.

If a company executive were to say to you, “I won’t subsidize continuing education for my employees, because our organization will never see any return on that investment,” how might you respond?

There’s a cartoon that is often shared by HR managers on LinkedIn with the CFO saying: “What if we train them and they leave?” The CEO then responds: “What if we don’t train them and they stay?” I think that says it all.

In addition, it is hard to retain young, high-potential employees without adequate training and development programs and opportunities. According to Gallup, 59% of millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job. I see it all around me: most millennials rate learning and growth opportunities as more important than pay.

What do you foresee for the future of HR analytics and its integration into companies’ conventional hiring practices?

The future of HR analytics is exciting. I think there will be a tremendous growth in the coming years in more data-driven approaches to HR. In addition, HR analytics will become the norm for large corporations and will integrate with the HR (data) department. This means that HR professionals need to become more data-savvy.

There are also a lot of exciting developments in enterprise analytics. I think that in a decade, HR analytics will be part of enterprise analytics. This doesn’t mean that HR analytics will become obsolete; it means that it will be done much more efficiently and professionally compared to how it’s being done now.

In regards to hiring, there are a lot of innovative software solutions that focus on making a smarter and better selection of applicants. By connecting someone’s performance one or two years down the line with specific educational and demographic characteristics, you can make a better applicant selection. These processes will become increasingly automated.

Need to shore up the “education” category of your resume? Check out our open courses today!

Want to Get Ahead at Work? Start Here

If you have goals and plans for your life, chances are that they include getting ahead at work — getting a promotion, taking on more responsibilities, or advancing in some other way. While some aspects of getting ahead at work may be more difficult to control, there is still a lot you can do to set up the conditions for advancement.

Look at the Big Picture

Many professional jobs involve many small daily tasks. However, when jobs become overwhelming, or you feel like the work never gets done, it helps to look at the big picture and see if you can find solutions that will make smaller tasks more manageable or resolve the daily problems that arise and take up so much of your time.

Instead of dealing with the fallout of poor organization on a daily basis, for example, you can make a plan to organize yourself better and save a lot of time that you can allot to other priorities. Looking at the big picture always helps you to realize and remember what is important to accomplish so that you can focus more on those things.

Developing Self-Confidence

If you doubt your ability to succeed at your job, you will have a difficult time moving forward and finding ways to advance in your career. You can begin to develop self-confidence by focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses and by looking at improvements and progress rather than having an expectation of perfection or instant success.

Working with a mentor or career coach who will encourage you and help you find ways to build on your strengths is another way to develop self-confidence. If you suffer from extremely low self-esteem, getting some counseling may help you get to the root of the issue so you can move forward in a healthier way.

Keeping a Positive Attitude

Supervisors will not look to promote employees who complain about their jobs often or display a negative attitude in the workplace. Even if you have legitimate reasons to complain or be negative, you can learn to phrase your complaints in constructive and positive ways that may get supervisors to listen to your concerns (which complaining usually doesn’t do).

Instead of saying, “It’s not fair that . . .”, you can say “It might work better if . . .” There is always a more positive and constructive way to express something, and supervisors respond far better to someone who has thought through a concern and its implications for everyone in the workplace, rather than just for yourself.

Learning New Skills

Sometimes you just can’t get where you want at work without learning new skills. Even if you may be reluctant to go to a class after work or on a Saturday, think of all the great things you’ll learn! It will help you get that promotion or get your supervisor to take notice that you know what you’re doing.

CCSU offers many continuing education courses that teach valuable skills, and many of them even lead to certifications that employers will take into consideration as they decide who to promote or put into leadership positions.  Join our mailing list to see everything we have to offer.

Expert Interview Series: Betsy Idilbi of Tech Talent South on Growing Your Tech Skills

Betsy Idilbi is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tech Talent South, a tech education company that is fueling the need for tech talent through immersive courses and empowering people on a mission to Do Something BIG!

We recently asked Betsy for her insight on the importance of continuing education and the value of tech skills. Here’s what she shared:

Tell us about the mission of Tech Talent South. How are you hoping to help aspiring developers?

Tech Talent South (TTS) is fueling the need for skilled human capital in the tech industry by offering accessible and inclusive training programs. We aim to be as flexible as possible to lower the barriers to learning how to code for anyone who wishes to have the skills. Our code immersion and topical courses are designed for aspiring developers to build a custom track that fits their passions.

What are the challenges facing aspiring programmers when trying to grow their skills today?

The main challenge is not unlike most endeavors: Time. Learning to code is learning a new language, and it is a field where one will never be without bugs, blocks and new things to learn. Devoting the time to becoming proficient in a new language is no small task. A more specific challenge is that a lot of students come in totally unsure if this is right for them. It takes some time to get past the learning curve and decide if this is something you really enjoy doing! We do our best to encourage students not to give up before getting around this first learning curve.

What do these students need to know about finding high-quality courses?

A big quality indicator for TTS is the ability for students to get one-on-one time with an instructor, TA or fellow student. Even when sitting in the same class, everyone can end up with code that looks different. Having the ability to ask questions and figure out bugs one-on-one with an actual human can be a game changer. With technology and coding, the best thing that we can do is teach students the best ways to analyze the code and discover solutions on their own. We can model this through mentors and industry professionals that have found a problem-solving rhythm that works for them.

What do students need to know about succeeding in these types of courses? What are the dos and don’ts?

The age old golden rule of school: Do your homework! Our most successful students are the individuals who go home after class and re-do all of the exercises that they did in class. At TTS, we are known for some pretty intense homework. This is not only a good way to learn, but also a good litmus test to find out how much you enjoy working with code!

What types of courses are you finding are most in demand right now? What types of courses should those interested in tech careers be pursuing?

We always recommend starting with the basics of programming. This foundation is such a good platform for anyone doing tech related work. Our eight-week code immersion program gives this foundation. We then have additional courses depending on a student’s passion. We see a lot of opportunity in the Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics and Internet of Things space.  We have developed curriculum to provide students the skills to innovate in these spaces, but we always recommend that code immersion foundation first.

What types of jobs have your graduates gone on to find? How has the training they received helped grow their careers?

We have graduates who have found their passion and have gone on to become senior, full stack engineers.  We also know a lot of former students that are now front end and app developers as well as a large portion of grads are successful entrepreneurs who have launched their own dreams. Another category of alumni worth mentioning is all of the folks who didn’t end up in development careers, but attribute their success to code immersion. These are people working in marketing/digital advertising, design, and customer support roles for tech companies.

What are the benefits to professionals to continuing their education? How can training help grow their careers?

If you want to help a company grow, it just makes sense that you would start with growing the set of skills that you can contribute. The more you are leaning into solving new problems that you haven’t seen before, the more valuable you are making yourself as an asset to a company.

Why is training on tech skills so critical to success in business today?

Technology is changing so fast that it is becoming impossible to keep up without some sort of focus on training (or at the very least self-teaching.) It isn’t just a thing for the “tech industry” either. The way that we use tech every day, regardless of industry, changes so much from year to year that in order to make a difference in business you have to keep up.

Learn about the continuing education opportunities available from CCSU. View open courses.

CCSU Instructor Interview Series: Mike Harrison

Mike Harrison is an instructor for the newly-added Waveform Warriors course for Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Summer Technical Youth Program, Tech It Out. He has been involved with the program for two years. In his Waveform Warriors course, Mr. Harrison will be teaching students about electronic music production, composition, and sound design. In 2016, Mr. Harrison was also an assistant instructor for Tech It Out’s ParaDYM Academy course. Through this course, he helped program participants explore digital media production, creating two PSA campaigns, one against drunk driving and one against bullying. Instructors and students teamed up to create a PSA for the cause, code a short video game to go with it, and compose all original music.

In addition to his experience with Tech It Out, Mr. Harrison also founded Torches Music Academy, which is a free community program for the youth in New Britain to explore and learn music production. He believes that a huge shortcoming in the way we teach music is that we leave out a lot of practical application for the present time. His mission is to help children fill some of these gaps that he struggled with growing up, and give the youth a safe, friendly environment to explore modern music and sound. Mr. Harrison is currently a freelance music producer/composer as well. He composes instrumentals and songs for artists, films, video games, and commercial campaigns.

Mr. Harrison was also a student in CCSU’s music education program. He feels that his time at CCSU helped to strengthen his skills in music theory, ear training, history, and more traditional applications of classical and jazz. Although his focus in recent years has been more electronic/modern music, he realizes and very much appreciates what invaluable information he attained from CCSU. Mr. Harrison says, “Although the sounds, methods, and genres may be very different, at the core of it all still lies fundamental music theory and comp. CCSU did a great job nurturing my ear for music, allowing me to do what I do today.”

His experience with CCSU’s Continuing Education program has also been overwhelmingly positive. Mr. Harrison says, “I can’t tell you how much I love what Continuing Education is doing; I think it’s so important to let the youth explore different mediums of learning to find what inspires them. Technology evolves so quickly; it’s crucial that it is not foreign to them. We can do our part by giving them the resources and the instruction the best we can to help them find success and passion. I am thrilled and honored to work with Continuing Education and CCSU, in that I believe we share these visions.”

For more information on the summer technical programs, contact Christa Sterling at 860-832-2277 or