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

A Quick Guide to Lean in Healthcare

Applying lean principles to healthcare means giving customers the greatest possible value using the fewest possible resources. Lean management has gained popularity in recent years in many fields to reduce waste and improve efficiency, and these principles apply to healthcare in many ways.

Continuous Improvement

Lean healthcare doesn’t assume that the way things have always been done is the best way. Just like there are constant advances in medicine that lead to adjustments in patient care, the delivery of that care can also be improved continuously to make it more efficient and effective at the same time.

When healthcare management is continuously improved, it will create more value for patients by eliminating waste. When waste is eliminated, it can lead to lowering costs for users or to streamlining processes, which can improve quality of care.

Identifying Problems, Changing Standards

In lean healthcare, the main task is to find the root causes of problems in the way care is administered and to change the standard way of doing things so that the process is optimized. While it takes a considerable amount of effort to engage in this process on a daily basis, doing so is the only way to get the improvements lean healthcare seeks.

Finding better ways of doing everything from administering patient care to office management will prevent wasteful and inefficient processes that affect the profitability of the organization as well as the quality of patient care.

Benefits to Staff

Lean healthcare principles have significant benefits for doctors, nurses, and office staff in a medical office or hospital setting. Lean works best in healthcare when front-line workers are empowered to direct improvement, which shows respect for the people who do the work, rather than a top-down management approach.

Lean healthcare also unifies staff to work toward a shared goal—improved efficiency and less waste in healthcare services. Having a shared goal will encourage everyone to work together for the good of the healthcare organization, and ultimately, the patients.

When lean healthcare is done right, it leads to less frustration and stress for staff as well as a greater sense of accomplishment when the job becomes less about following rules and more about doing what’s best for patients.

Making Data and Processes Visual

Without a way for workers to access data, they will not be able to determine how well processes are working or whether improvement has occurred. A visual center can be a way to provide this data and also be a place to communicate ideas and concerns on an ongoing basis.

Certainly, staff will spend time meeting to decide how to implement lean principles in their particular organization, but a visual center can provide a way for change to happen between meetings and can show staff clearly when a change is working or not working.

Central Connecticut State University offers a Lean Healthcare Certificate Program to help you learn the principles needed to implement lean healthcare practices in your practice or workplace. Join our mailing list for information on this and other courses CCSU offers.

10 Tips for Effective Salary Negotiation

It’s annual review season for many business professionals. If your annual review is coming up and you’d like to negotiate a higher salary, you’re in luck. Here are some tips for effective salary negotiation that you can use during your next review or conversation with your supervisor.

1. Know what you want ahead of time. 

Do your research and decide before your review meeting how much you want the increase to be. If you don’t know what you want, you don’t have much chance of getting it.

2. Ask for more than the minimum you want to accept.

Asking for the high end of the range for your position will give you some wiggle room when your supervisor tries to negotiate downward (which will likely happen). Also, it is better to ask for a specific number rather than a round number or a range ($64,500 rather than $65,000). 

3. Know your worth.

Being able to talk about the value you bring to the job, ways you have saved the company money and/or time, and ways your skills have advanced can show in definitive terms why you deserve a raise. What you don’t want to do is compare your salary to the salaries of your colleagues. 

4. Put it in writing.

Making a written “brag sheet” of your accomplishments since your last increase will give you something to leave with administrators as they consider your request. Be sure not to stretch the truth or try to look even better than you are because it may negatively impact your credibility and hurt your chances of a positive response. 

5. Practice ahead of time.

It’s a good idea to role-play and practice making your case before you have an actual meeting with your supervisor because you will be more comfortable when you have practiced what you want to say ahead of time.

6. Wait until later in the week.

study in Psychology Today says that Thursday is the best day to ask for a raise, because at that point supervisors have become more flexible and open to compromise.

7. Keep it positive.

Complaining about your job duties or current salary is not an effective way to get an increase, but is more likely to turn off your supervisor. Focusing on what you bring to the table and what the company will gain by giving you a raise is a far better plan for success.

8. Use the pause.

When you do get an offer, career coach Jack Chapman says the best response is to pause and say nothing for as long as you can. This long pause may be interpreted as you being dissatisfied with the offer (whether or not that is true), and often the supervisor will increase the offer right away. 

9. Sweeten the pot.

Whether or not you get the salary increase you asked for, that shouldn’t be the end of the negotiation. You can also ask for increases in benefits like better health insurance, more time off, or a more flexible schedule. 

10. Keep trying.

If the answer to your request is a firm no, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. There will be another annual review next year, so spend time this year adding value to your work performance by completing projects and taking continuing education courses so that your brag sheet will be even more impressive.

CCSU offers many professional development courses as continuing education to help build your skills and resume. Join our mailing list to see what we offer.

Expert Interview Series: Brendan Rigby of WhyDev on Getting Started In Development Work

Brendan Rigby is the co-founder of WhyDev. He is a global education and literacy expert.

WhyDev was started by you and your partner, Weh Yeoh, in response to a lack of student voices and critical discussion about development theory and practice. To start, can you talk a bit about what you mean by ‘development theory’, for people unfamiliar with the term?

Development theory is a fragmented collection of theories on how individual communities and countries achieve economic, social and political change. It is often dominated by economic theories and the discipline of economics, but also includes a range of academic disciplines from education and gender to communications and media.

What are the risks of biased or incomplete theories regarding development work? Why is it it important to have diverse viewpoints and demographics working together, in development work, to truly cultivate a healthy global culture?

The risks are enormous. The sociologist Basil Bernstein put forward the idea of the pedagogic device, which is a concept describing the translation of theory and knowledge into teacher’s classroom practice. Development actors use similar pedagogic devices to translate development theories into policy and programs that will impact the lives of real people, often with unintended consequences. Often they go searching for silver bullets to ending global poverty. However, if we work collaboratively and challenge each other’s viewpoints regarding how we theorize and make change happen, we can avoid repeating the mistakes of many failed silver bullets and programs.

What were some thoughts or perspectives that were being left out of the development theory conversations that you sought to correct with WhyDev? How much has that changed in the seven years since you started, and in what ways?

One of biggest ongoing concerns is the portrayal of so-called “beneficiaries”, and the reproduction of inequalities through discourse and language. How we talk about development and those involved is critically important, but often given little thought. Those who are targeted by development policies and programs are often left out of the decision-making process. They are often not involved in the design of programs, their implementation or evaluation. They are treated as passive recipients, who have little to offer because they might lack a formal education. Aid recipients, beneficiaries and target communities are portrayed as props in media and communication materials, with little or no agency. We’ve seen some change in dialogue and discourse with development actors adopting more positive portrayals of people and looking at communities through a strengths-based approach. The default, however, is still to consider poor, uneducated beneficiaries as incompetent, undignified and miserable. We have started to understand better that poverty is multidimensional and this understanding needs to be reflected in our understanding and portrayal of people’s lives.

The site describes development work as ” helping a country become more competitive across many overlapping sectors, from health, to education and many places in between.” What are some of the in-between sectors that are also important in development work?

I would dispute that definition as wholly superficial and lacking. Reducing development work to enabling competition is reductive and unhelpful. Development work should be defined by collaborative efforts that are evidence-based to support individual, communities and countries achieve economic, social and political change. It is hard to pin down development, because development can be everything and applied to every country. The United States of America has a lot of development work that needs to be implemented.

Unfortunately, development is often associated with “developing” countries. But, if development work is about economic, social and political change then it is relevant to every country and essentially encompasses every sector from agriculture and manufacturing to local government and early years learning.

They also talk about the key to development being sustainability. Why is it important to make sure that not only each sector is working, independent, but that all the systems are working together, as well?

We are realizing more and more that we cannot look at development work in compartments and silos. Systems thinking and complexity theory have revealed the interdependencies, non-linearity and adaptiveness through which change occurs. It is not about ensuring that all systems are working well together, but first understanding those systems and how change emerges. Sustainability can only be understood through systems thinking.

In today’s globalized culture, development work is essential for a fair and just society, healthy cultures and ecologies. Can you touch on, briefly, how globalization helps create the conditions that make development work necessary? Why is it important we address these imbalances, to fix the systems we already have in place?

I’m not sure globalization helps create the conditions for development work. Neoliberal policies, conflict, gender inequity and colonialism are just some of the past histories and present actions that have created the conditions of development work. Clearly, the current system of economic order is unjust and inequitable. Wealth is held and passed on through the hands of a handful of people. Despite progress in the number and ratio of people living in poverty, inequality is rising. The rationale for fixing the system is very strong, but the how is less certain.

For someone thinking of getting into development work as a career, how can studying the top NGOs and their employees help them get started in that industry?

If you want to work in development, look beyond the big International NGOs. Development work can be found in your own country, working on issues relevant to your communities. I think the most important step to take is networking and reaching out to people working in different sectors and organisations to talk to them about their work. Everything always looks better from the outside and it’s hard to get an inside look at organizations. Take up internship and volunteer opportunities to get this inside look. This can be at smaller organisations, not just your Oxfams and World Visions.

What are some of the non-financial benefits of working in development work and aid work, for people considering getting involved in the industry?

There are a lot of benefits to working in development, depending on the organisation you work with and how your role is defined. It is not axiomatically “good” to work in this industry. It is hard. A good organisation with effective leadership, a healthy culture and a clear vision to creating change can be nourishing to work with, however. There are also often increased mental health risks associated with humanitarian and development work that often go unreported and undiscussed, so keep that in mind when choosing development work as a career.

What are some of the most important countries and cultures in need of development work, at the moment, and why? What could happen if they don’t receive the aid that they need?

The United States is a country most in need in regards to significant economic, social and political change. In regards to humanitarian assistance, those countries include Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia.

Want to learn more about getting into a fulfilling career? View our open courses today!