HR & Communication Tech, Interviews

Interview with Visier: Solving the unique challenges associated with starting and scaling a people analytics function


“Solving the unique challenges associated with starting and scaling a people analytics function”

In the run up to HR Analytics & AI Summit we asked some questions on the role, applications, challenges and future trends about people analytics to Ian Cook, VP People Analytics at Visier.

The pop in your job – you work as VP, People Analytics at Visier – which tasks would you highlight as particularly interesting? What is most exciting about your role, and why are you passionate about your job?

I have spent the last 20 years of my career working to enable CHROs and their organizations to take a data-informed approach to people strategy. The most exciting thing for me in my role right now is that all the work that our community of pioneers has done is translating into proven and high value practices. These are being adopted by every organization, big and small.  Seeing the growth and impact of this new area of work break into the mainstream is very rewarding.

The other aspect of my work which is very interesting is being able to engage directly with so many people analytics leaders. We work with, support, and learn from a large number of the most successful people analytics teams globally. Being able to discuss emerging practices, learn approaches which have helped these organizations scale, or deepen the value they are delivering is a constant fuel and helps to move the whole Visier community forward.

What solution are you bringing to HR Analytics & AI Summit? What is the most important message to the participants and your clients in this context?

Visier is the most comprehensive people analytics solution available today. Whether you are looking to make a quick start, or are looking for efficient ways to scale beyond the confines of your traditional BI stack, Visier’s capabilities accelerate your journey. Visier is the only solution which combines world class data management capabilities with a leading analytics engine, that contains tested and proven people analytics domain knowledge. Our approach can deliver in months what typically has taken years.

Our overall suite of solutions is broad and deep. However, it also bundled into the packages you need to solve your most pressing people or business challenges. The packages build on each other, enabling you to extend your analytics coverage into areas like talent acquisition, learning or cost management, without having to re-build your core capabilities or wait for a long time to get source data integrated into your complex data warehousing or data lake systems.

If you think of your clients’ requirements: Which areas in the context of people analytics and artificial intelligence do you regard as particularly critical?

When it comes to client requirements for people analytics, our focus is on the need for scale. What the pandemic, and our own research has proven, is that having the answer is not enough. You need to be able to get the right answer to the 100s, or even thousands, of people managers who are constantly managing work and impacting the direct experience of employees. This is necessary to run the business. And our own research has proven that this aspect of the people analytics value chain is key to delivering a return on the required investment. One of the main reasons that customers have been selecting Visier recently has been to overcome the challenges to scale that exist with traditional approaches. Our ability to automate the data management, cleansing and updating, as well as our ability to securely share data with 100s of users is the differentiation they needed. Instead of building a separate dashboard for each business unit or limiting what is shared due to security blockages, these clients are able to deliver what their consumers need simply and quickly through the adoption of our solution.

Visier has been supporting our clients with AI for over 7 years. We have always been at the forefront of the ethical use of AI, sharing our methodology and publishing the validation of the algorithms performance directly to each client. We are proud of the success stories that our customers have generated using this capability, and what we bring to the show is the knowledge and experience of how to scale and use AI both ethically and effectively. For example, our most recent AI addition enables clients to automate the normalization of job names. This is a common challenge for organizations who struggle to gauge equity across pay, promotions, learning opportunities, etc, because they do not have consistent job names. Through Visier, we now use AI to augment the individual employee records with an additional standardized job name, helping to build internal consistency, and external alignment to market data.

What do you think are the best approaches or technologies to meet these challenges?

Visier has been purpose built to solve the unique challenges associated with starting and scaling a people analytics function. For our new and advanced clients, we form the foundation upon which they can quickly build success.

What would you say makes Visier a unique solution to solve these issues?

Data about people is different to any other data in the business. It comes with unique ethical considerations, and whilst not high volume, the rate of change and interdependence between different elements of data has no parallel anywhere else in the business. Linking pay to hire source by supervisor and cost center is table stakes when it comes to answering the most important people questions. What differentiates Visier is that we have been purpose built to handle the set up and ongoing maintenance of people data. Our security model enables teams to automate the distribution of the same content to hundreds of users. The domain expertise embedded in our application gives new teams a fast start and a proven set of standards against which to benchmark. Our learning content quickly brings both the HR team and the business leaders they support up to speed on how to make the proper use of the answers being shared. Simply put, with any other solution you get pieces of the puzzle that enable you to build a successful people analytics practice, With Visier, you get all the pieces and a relationship with a vendor that is committed to your success.

Now, looking at the various Use & Business Cases that that are announced on the program: where do you see the particularities of your approach? What can other companies learn from you?

Whilst retention is a hot topic and one that many organizations are just getting to grips with, Visier customers have been able to navigate the resignation wave informed by extremely detailed analysis of exactly where and how they need to intervene to reduce exits and sustain their business.

The area where we have seen significant growth is related to employee experience. Many of our clients have moved away from annual, highly aggregated surveys and towards much more agile and timely listening strategies. They then leverage Visier to combine this sentiment data with everything else they know about people such as changes in role, changes in pay, changes in supervisor, etc. This enables them to not only understand how people are feeling, but also to find out how this is impacting key employee events, like resignations. And in some cases, connecting this to business outcomes like production quotas, revenue or customer satisfaction. It is our leading companies that are building these leading-edge practices, connecting a wide range of insights about people to the direct impact on business operations and results. We know that other companies can learn from them, and benefit from the knowledge sharing that comes with being part of the Visier community.

Looking to the future, what topics and trends do you see regarding people analytics and artificial intelligence in the next 12 months – what is the expected development?

The trend for people analytics has accelerated through the pandemic, rather than changed. One shift has been from people analytics being an emerging practice to being recognized as a core contributor to business strategy. It is now clear that a CHRO without a strategic people analytics function will struggle to support the business at the level expected.

Alongside this shift has been the growth and breadth in the types of data being integrated into people analytics outputs. Our leading organizations are integrating data from 5+ discrete source systems, including data from non-HR systems such as sales or finance. With the explosion in different types of people-tech, and the move to hybrid work models, there is every sign that the need to be able to integrate and use multiple sources of data within a single integrated capability will increase.

The other trend which has accelerated—and will continue to rise—is the range and number of people who need access to people analytics. The consumption of answers from Visier spiked by 40% in March 2020. This was 40% more usage from our existing customers. This volume shows no signs of reducing. This means that “success” for a people analytics function cannot be limited to a single dashboard, or an intelligent deck delivered to an executive team. It means that success can only be defined as people managers having on demand access to the people answers they need to run the business.

About Visier

People are complex—your people analytics shouldn’t be! Visier is the global leader for people intelligence & workforce planning, providing cloud-based analytic application solutions & technology.

Serving thousands of customers, Visier delivers the quickest, clearest insight by starting with the right questions and guiding you to the right answers Visier People lets you hit the accelerator on data-driven HR, giving you always up-to-date answers to your important workforce questions. Up and running quickly at a fraction of the cost of other approaches, Visier People lets you know your workforce like never before, connect people decisions to business outcomes, and share insights and plans with stakeholders with ease.

For more information, visit

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