16 07 2014
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The HR analytics journey at ABN-AMRO: interview with Patrick Coolen

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Businessman choosing the right doorSince 2012, ABN-AMRO partners with iNostix and Bright & Company for their HR Analytics projects. Time for an interview with Patrick Coolen, Manager Workforce Planning and HR Analytics at ABN-AMRO, based at the HQ in Amsterdam. Patrick also presented the ABN-AMRO HR Analytics general framework at several international conferences and the participants really liked his presentation very much. Patrick presented his insightful opinion on several specific ABN-AMRO analytical projects, the required expertise for HR Analytics and his personal advice to HR professionals on how to start with HR Analytics. We are delighted to be able to present Patrick on the HR Intelligence Blog. Here we go with the interview…


Patrick, can you introduce yourself a bit please?

Schermafbeelding 2014-07-14 om 21.33.55I am a senior all round HR expert/ manager with over 14 years of experience in HR. I was a member of the HR management team within ABN AMRO and I have experience in HR strategy, HR IT, HR admin, engagement, recruitment, talent and rewardperformance management. With a master degree in Management of Information and one MSc in Cooperative Computing, I started my career in IT and moved to HR in 1999. I am a true believer of bringing HR back in the center of decision making by making HR more fact based and data savvy. Today I am the manager of HR workforce planning and analytics within ABN AMRO.

When and why did you start working with HR analytics?

My interest in HR analytics started two years ago. As a member of the HR management team I initiated a small research project where we applied statistics to our HR data in order to retrieve better information to support our decision-making. Because the project was a success and the importance of HR analytics was confirmed by the results of our HR trend identification program, we decided to set up a specific department for HR analytics and strategic workforce planning. I am heading this department since 2013.

Recently, you have been using ‚the 3 P’s’ as a metaphor for starting with HRA? Could you elaborate a bit on that?

The 3 P’s stand for Pilot, Proof and Preach. I thought it was a nice way to say that you can start small with HR analytics (Pilot). You do not have to collect massive amounts of data to do analytics. As long as you have a relevant business question, and you have access to the related business and HR data, you can make a start. By applying statistics to your combined datasets, you are likely to find (causal) relations between HR factors and business outcomes (Proof). The moment you find these results, you should share it with every senior stakeholder in your organisation (Preach). 

What is your focus with HR analytics at ABN AMRO and why?

Our focus is to support decision-making in our organisation. For us decision-making used to be equal to experience, gut feeling and descriptive reporting. We strongly believe we need to add “proof” to this equation. We also focus on real business questions. Only then our research results will have a change to drive business decisions and actions. Making insights actionable is key.


Any HR or Business results you were able to achieve with HR analytics?

We conducted several research projects in the last year and a half. Within our retail bank for example we found interesting HR drivers for customer satisfaction, quality of advice and products sold. We also investigated our employee engagement data to see which HR factors have the most influence. Other areas where we are conducting research to find causality between HR factors and business outcomes, are within the private banking and large corporates divisions. We also look at the effectiveness of some of our larger HR interventions like our leadership program. Are these programs delivering what they promise?

In your approach, you chose for the outsourcing of the analytical expert work. Could you explain us your choice?

First of all, we didn’t have experienced data scientists with good knowledge of the HR domain. Another reason why we partnered with an external partner (iNostix and Bright & Company) is we simply did not want to worry or lose time by getting our statistical capabilities right. And a third important reason is that in some cases, to protect the anonymity, we are not allowed to handle data at an individual level within our organization. This simply means our external partner can perform richer models and therefore can create better insights than we can internally.

What do you see as next steps using HR analytics at ABN AMRO?

In the end it is not about HR analytics but about enterprise analytics. But we are still a couple of years away from that “ideal” situation. So for the next year or two we want to do several things. We want to be able to have access to more types of HR data. For example, adding leadership and competency data to our HR data cube, which will allow us to build better models. Another thing we want is a good spread of our research projects in our organisation. In that case all business lines benefit from HR analytics. And we are also ambitious when it comes to training our HR staff and making them more data savvy. A final thing on our list is to integrate our strategic workforce analytics approach with HR analytics. They simply go very well together. 

What would you advice HR professionals who are planning to start with HR analytics?

Here are my recommendations to keep in mind when you start with HR Analytics:

  • Get your CHRO and HR MT on board!
  • Make every research business relevant!
  • Be realistic in your expectations!
  • For every research find a business sponsor!
  • Do not start research projects without consulting compliance and legal!
  • Know your HR data and systems!
  • Involve subject matter experts in every step of the process!
  • Make insights actionable!
  • Improve your models in time!

And do not forget, Pilot, Proof and Preach! And in fact, HR should also be reading about HR Analytics all the time. Here are a few suggestions:


Thanks a lot, Patrick, for this great interview! By the way, Patrick also publishes great HR Analytics related articles on his Flipboard! Have a look at it here

Related article: The HR Analytics Journey at Maersk Drilling, interview with Peter Hartmann – HR Analytics Manager

Interested in using predictive HR analytics as a key component in your HR strategy? Get in touch with CEO and co-founder Luk Smeyers for more information ([email protected]) or via Google+. Or follow iNostix on Twitter and/or Facebook for exciting international articles on HR analytics.


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