How KPMG’s Workplace Analytics Solution Improves Retention: Q&A With Bill Nowacki


“KPMG developed a solution called “Workplace Analytics” to help employers predict when an individual is thinking about resigning in time to implement retention solutions.”

What makes a company a great place to work?

The ones who put people firstOpens a new window .

The key to this belief is retaining employees who are going to resign. Bill Nowacki, managing director, decision science, KPMG, reveals how companies can retain top talent in today’s competitive landscape. He discusses UK-based KPMG’s new solution called “Workplace Analytics” that can predict an employee’s attrition Opens a new window behavior and move to implement retention strategies.

HR Technologist spoke to Nowacki to understand what the actionable insights are for talent leaders to increase retention. As an expert and member of the Data and Analytics community globally, he throws light on the ways global companies can leverage its workforce and technologyOpens a new window to drive change at scale.

Key takeaways from this interview on workplace analytics and employee retention:

Here’s the edited transcript from our exclusive interview with KPMG’s Bill Nowacki:

Bill, to set the stage, tell us about your career path so far and what your role at KPMG entails.

I’m the Managing Director for Decision Science within KPMG’s Lighthouse, a Center of Excellence for Advanced Analytical Computing. In this role, I lead a team focused on helping enterprises leverage machine learning and big data to improve people, products and investment performance. During this time, we’ve developed a suite of Always-on engines that are being adopted by companies and incorporated into existing work streams and processes to augment or automate decision-making.

I’ve always held a fascination with data analysis and recognized early on the important role that data and analytics can play in helping an organization understand its business challenges. The idea that data in and of itself is merely facts and figures but with insight, analysis, and context it becomes an unparalleled tool is empowering. 

When unemployment is at an all-time low and competition at an all-time high, how can companies retain good talent?

Companies should look to data and analytics and decision science to help them gauge their employee’s satisfaction and intent to stay. It’s mission-critical to implement solutions that give organizations the ability to spot an employee’s change of heart early on, thus empowering them to act quickly to solve the issue both at the individual and enterprise-wide levels. Ultimately, solutions such as Workplace Analytics give organizations a chance to keep top-performing employees giving them a leg up in the war for talent.   

KPMG developed a solution called “Workplace Analytics” to help employers predict an individual’s attrition pattern and implement retention strategies. Can you share the highlights of the solution?

Predicting someone’s satisfaction at work is no small feat, which is why KPMG developed a solution called “Workplace Analytics” to help employers predict when an individual is thinking about resigning in time to implement retention solutions. While most solutions identify systematic problems that drive attrition, KPMG’s solution combines internal and external data to provide actionable insights to help retain individual employees. This data can come from sources such as Office 365 or Workday, to name a couple but the reality is that these signals, which tell us if an employee is disconnecting or becoming ambivalent at work, come from many different sources, and this is where the expansive signal repository KPMG has collected over time becomes key.

To date, we’ve identified about 1,500 signals that are helpful in determining employee equations and we tend to leverage five analytics so that organizations may identify and act to resolve the issue just in time. The five things we evaluate include:

  1. Identifying attrition and its reason before it happens;
  2. Identifying burnout as it’s happening;
  3. Identifying disconnect as it’s happening;
  4. In an incoming cohort or class, figuring out who the rock stars are, so an organization can accelerate their learning and nurture them; and finally
  5. Discovering and understanding why the perennial top performers are outperforming the others in a cohort, so an organization can better coach the broader group.

To put the power of this solution into perspective here’s an example: our inaugural client wrestled with high turnover of its professional global sales force, which was made up of over 6,000 reps. Our models had similar success to what we saw at the university level and in the end, this solution and intervention program created $19 million in income for the company.

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In what ways can analytics offer actionable insights to talent leaders for increased retention?

Talent leaders in every company in any region can benefit from solutions like Workplace Analytics because no matter the industry each employee within an organization has various normative behaviors and the solution is designed to spot slight deviations from that behavior. Ultimately, these deviations are typically indications of a “restlessness” that precede job change.

For example, I arrive to the office right around 6:00 a.m. every weekday and you’ll see me on my VPN every Saturday and Sunday morning, but let’s say I have a couple of new job opportunities in the pipeline and I’m far along in the interview process for one, so I stop showing up at 6:00 a.m. and no longer work weekends, this you could say would be a deviation from my normative behaviors, and these deviations typically preface that something is going to happen.

What concrete steps do organizations need to take to be proactive in today’s competitive job landscape?

The first step in becoming proactive in today’s competitive job landscape is keeping data and analytics top of mind and letting these solutions do the tough work for you. Findings from KPMG’s recent 2019 U.S. CEO Outlook reportOpens a new window reveal that 67% of CEOs admit to having ignored insights provided by data analysis or computer-driven models in the last three years. It’s clear that this sense of suspicion puts good decision making at risk. How then can leaders develop the type of data-driven strategy that will inspire the trust of their colleagues, customers, and even their own selves? There are five steps to take in order to build a data-driven organization:

  1. Stay business-focused – Leaders should ask the question, what is the business problem we want data to solve? Once that’s determined executives can set business-relevant key performance indicators (KPIs).
  2. Create a data-led culture – Many times leaders approach data purely from a business strategy point of view but it’s impossible to implement a successful strategy if company culture hasn’t already embraced the idea of being data-driven.
  3. Have confidence in using data insight to create value – Building a framework of checks and balances to ensure trust in the data is crucial. That involves making sure algorithms aren’t relying on biased information and that diligent quality control measures are in place.
  4. Know what you do well and when to collaborate – Every business leader needs to think very hard about where their business fits into the new data ecosystem. Simply put, how safe is your business in this data age? Leaders will want to review their current value chain on an ongoing basis to evaluate how data analytics, intelligent automation, and AI can help them stay relevant and competitive.
  5. Time to lead from the front – Even when organizational leaders do grasp the importance of integrating a data culture throughout the company, they sometimes don’t think they have the authority in the subject to convince others. Because they lack expertise they look to delegate, putting responsibility for building a data-driven culture in the hands of other executives, which may also send the message to other parts of the business that it’s not their concern either.

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In what ways can global companies leverage its workforce and technology to drive change at scale and at a pace that is in tune with the needs of the 21st century and beyond?

The pace of progress is currently at an all-time high and companies who don’t keep up risk falling behind. Right now, retaining top talent should be top of mind for global companies because competition is stiff.

Organizations should focus on retaining today’s talent but must also start adopting and implementing solutions to keep in step with the needs of the 21st century and beyond, and the future is where embracing data and analytics solutions such as Workplace Analytics becomes crucial. It takes time to gather data and build signal repositories (e.g., the 1,500 signals KPMG has identified that are helpful in determining employee equations), so it’s important to start capturing data and implementing solutions today.

How have you seen HR leadership’s attitude towards HR tech evolve? How can HR leaders of mid-size companies build a successful business case for investing in more HR tech?

In recent years, forward-looking HR leaders are confidently harnessing the resources and insights that will redefine the traditional HR model and its contribution to the enterprise. They are boldly following strategic plans and implementing new technologies such as analytics, digital labor and artificial intelligence. And they are pursuing the critical new skills needed to succeed in the digital age.

Investing in HR tech is crucial to creating a solid new employee experience and defining the right employee value propositions to match the needs of five generations in the workforce. Forward-looking organizations are already sharply focused on the employee experience and managing multiple generations of diverse workers—and this begins with an investment in innovation and technology.

Additionally, it’s mission-critical for HR to be the function that is taking the lead on integrating technology into the overall company culture. In fact, accordingly, to KPMG’s 2020 Future of HR Survey,Opens a new window pathfinding HR organizations are five times more likely to “strongly agree” that they have dedicated roles in HR that focus on purpose and culture (40 percent vs 8 percent).

Learn More: Q & A with Brian Proctor, Managing Director, Workforce Strategy & Insights, Deloitte Consulting LLPOpens a new window

Can you give us a sneak-peek into the upcoming projects at KPMG on HR analytics that you are most excited about?

We are increasingly seeing the use of network analysis or graph analysis to understand how employees are connected to one another, as well as what their knowledge base is. This enables employers to put together high-powered teams, as well as helping companies rapidly redeploy people as workplaces need to transform with new trends.

Which are the key trends you are tracking in this space? 

In addition to the use of network analysis or graph analysis to understand employees, we are also seeing a major shift towards large software providers incorporating HR analytics, as well as large corporations incorporating it into their teams, it’s fast becoming table stakes.

Based on the Future of HR study mentioned previously, we are also excited to see that HR organizations believe in the power of data science to generate actionable insights. Almost half (45 percent) of respondents rank data modeler/scientist within their top three roles to invest in over the next 2-3 years. Additionally, we found that 35 percent of respondents are also planning to experiment with new technologies such as AI within 2-3 years.

Neha: Thank you, Bill, for sharing your valuable insights on how to employers can retain employees ahead of their resignation. We hope to talk to you again, soon.

 About Bill NowackiOpens a new window :

Bill is the Managing Director of KPMG’s Decision Science initiative within KPMG’s Lighthouse, a Center of Excellence for Advanced Analytical Computing. He’s focused on developing predictive analytical solutions across industry sectors. With 35 years of experience in developing and leading emerging technology companies, he’s collaborated with senior business leaders in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. As an inaugural member of Teradata, Bill has been a part of the Data and Analytics community since its inception and has over that time worked with 20 of the Global 100 to help architect elements of each company’s strategic information architecture in order to improve market execution and business results.

About KPMGOpens a new window :

KPMG is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, providing innovative business solutions and audit, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s largest and most prestigious organizations.

KPMG is widely recognized for being a great place to work and build a career. Our people share a sense of purpose in the work we do, and a strong commitment to community service, inclusion and diversity, and eradicating childhood illiteracy.


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