Why Human Capital Decisions are the Hidden Treasure Within Organizations

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Why Human Capital Decisions are the Hidden Treasure Within Organizations

Welcome to another exciting episode of All About HR! This is the podcast & video series for HR Professionals and business leaders who want to future-proof their organization and learn about the latest trends & insights from industry experts, CHROs, and thought leaders. 

How do human capital decisions affect financial capital decisions? In this episode, we welcome Khurshid Anis — expert in Global HR Talent Strategy, People Analytics & Workforce Transformation — and explore the topic of human capital decisions in relation to financial capital, data-driven HR, and HR competencies.

As a strategic HR business leader, Khurshid helps organizations shape their talent strategy, build an agile workforce, and transform their culture. 

In this interview, we’ll talk about: 

  • How financial capital decisions depend on the right human capital decisions
  • Quantifying human capital decisions with people analytics 
  • Three key competencies of strategic and influential HR professionals

Watch the full episode to find out how human capital decisions can ensure the success of your organization.


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Khurshid Anis: When HR really focuses on the business and financial, HR is much more strategic and much more influential. And we will not be fighting for a seat at the table anymore because you know business wants to come and sit at our HR table because they want to understand people and they want to make better people decisions. 

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, and welcome back to another episode of All about HR. My name is Neelie. I’m your host, and on today’s episode, I speak with Khursid Anis. Until recently Khurshid was the VP of HR strategy at KeyBank. And previously she had roles at companies such as Comcast Advertising and Our Tech. Khurshid and I spoke about human capital decisions, the value they bring to the organization, human capital decisions versus financial decisions, how have we built analytics that can play a role in quantifying these decisions, and frankly, so much more. I think more than enough reason to go to the episode straightaway and check it out yourself. Before you do so, however, you know the drill. As always, please subscribe to the channel, like this episode, and share it with a friend. Thank you and enjoy. Bye.

Neelie Verlinden: Hi, everyone, and welcome to a brand new episode of All about HR. My name is Neelie and on today’s episode, I speak with Khurshid Anis. Hi there, Khurshid. How are you?

Khurshid Anis: I’m good. Thanks. How are you? Thanks for having me. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I’m very happy to have you here. And I’m super excited about our conversation today. Now, Khurshid, you are a global HR strategy and people analytics leader, can you tell our listeners a little bit more about what that entails? 

Khurshid Anis: Sure thing, Neelie. It entails a lot, especially at a time when the job titles do not really reflect what people are doing in their role. So what to change. But I’ll say my work really entails delivering business and financial results in the short term and growth objectives in the long term, by attracting, developing, and retaining the right talent, the right leaders, and then leveraging that collective talent as the most competitive advantage for the organization. Now that that competitive advantage can be maximized by using the right technology to drive the human experiences for the customers but also, more importantly for the employees and a culture of innovation, continuous learning doing what’s right for all our stakeholders. So you know, in other words, the majority of my time is spent with the business and business-critical functions, you know, advising, consulting, brainstorming, coaching executives, or technology leaders on making better people, workforce, and culture decisions. 

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Neelie Verlinden: I think that’s very nicely put Khurshid and I know that you mentioned that in your role, you regularly partner with the C suite or sales or marketing and finance executives and a lot of other departments as well. Could you give an example of initiatives that you’ve collaborated on? 

Khurshid Anis: Sure. So, you know, a lot of our work in human resources, everything that human resource does, touches every depth, breadth, and corner of the organization. And I don’t think any other function within the construct of a typical organization touches the depth and breadth that HR can. So our roles are different in a way where we get to touch every important every necessary part of the organization. With that said, you know, a lot of our work is cross-functional and interdisciplinary, right? About 80% of my role or 80% of any HR role should be spent with business-critical functions, with the business intelligence, customer service functions, innovation partners, technology departments, and then all a lot of time is spent on the outside to study what the market conditions are, where the industry is going, who are the disruptors that we need to be aware of, and only then can we bring those outside insights into the organization to inform better people decisions. So, you know, every day is different when I’m working with the C-suite or executives in any function, right? It is always something very critical or strategic, something long-term, and perhaps a big-ticket item. In terms of investment, you know, many bigger tenure organizations are going through large business transformations, right? Adopting agile and innovative ways of working, as well as learning how to conduct business in a hybrid environment. This obviously caused a radical change in our culture, and an entirely new workforce and talent operating model. A lot of discussions, you know, with the C suite or around those contexts these days, how to maximize effectiveness in a hybrid environment and work with agility and responsiveness. So when I was a sales executive, for example, you know, most of my time is spent with them trying to help our mid-management become better at giving feedback and coaching their frontline sellers or frontline employees so that they can, you know, sell bigger, better and faster, or they can take care of the customers in a better way, using all the technology that is available, and that some days I’m spending a lot of time with my finance teams, it is when we’re reviewing the performance to make sure that you know, the performance is at an optimal level. And if not, then we catch it early. And then we can, you know, course correct, or managers can give proper feedback, give proper coaching, they can hold their employees accountable. And working with finance, you know, these days, we’re defining our jobs, not in terms of roles, but more in terms of skills and capabilities. Now, this is new for everyone, finance for HR, so a lot of brainstorming and discussions and how to wrap our heads around that. And, you know, when we’re doing strategic workforce planning, a lot of time is spent with the finance teams. And I also find myself working extensively with the marketing teams to design and implement and communicate our employment brand value. Businesses spend so much time, energy and effort, and resources in customer branding, I think human resource has a great opportunity to work with, you know, recruitment teams and marketing teams to project our brand in a way that, you know, our outside talent finds it attractive, and inside talent feels proud about working with such an organization 

Neelie Verlinden: Khurshid, I heard you talking there. I mean, really, like one day, you can be sitting with a sales executive, the other day, you can maybe be sitting with the C suite, and then you’ll be talking with finance, or marketing, I imagined for each of these discussions, there’s a completely different understanding that you need of what they are doing and how they are contributing to the business. So I’m wondering now, what kind of skills would you say that you need? In order to be able to deal with all these different stakeholders within the organization? 

Khurshid Anis: That’s a great question. And I’m going to think, as I speak, you know, skills are changing everyone, including human resource and myself needs to keep learning and see what benefit and what value I can bring to every table that I am on, I think human resources, especially the HR business partner for the front end, that works with the business more closely need to know the business and the changes that are impacting the business. So if you think about the meta-skills that are important that continuous learning is extremely important, now more important than before, knowing the financials and the business details, like how is the company making money, and then, you know, having those coaching and advisory and consulting skills, I know a lot, I have a lot of data. But if I’m not able to convert those insights into an impactful story, and help change behaviors or drive actions, it’s not going to be of any use. So these are some of the newer competencies that HR really needs to double down on. 

Neelie Verlinden: Do you feel that HR is well equipped already with these kinds of newer skills and competencies or that there is still a little way to go? 

Khurshid Anis: There is definitely a little way to go, there is a learning curve. And I do see that HR at least is becoming more open and they know that they can, you know, really influence their business and add a lot of value. But before they do that, they will have to brush up on their own skills and learn new ways of working. 

Neelie Verlinden: Thank you Khurshid. Now, regular listeners may notice by now because I always like to frame the conversation that I have with the guests that I get to speak with. I want a certain theme or a red thread. And so for our conversation today of course I also found something that I thought was really interesting, it was actually one of your posts. And so I’ll read what the post says. It says human capital decisions are equal in value to financial decisions. Actually, in my heart, I believe it is far more potent, and it’s just a matter of time before the people analytics community can explain this in numbers. Of course, before we unpack this, could you please explain a little bit more about this? 

Khurshid Anis: Sure. It’s interesting that that caught your attention. You know, since I posted this, it has generated a lot of interest. And a lot of different entities. I reached out asking more about it. You know this, this has been an evolving thought. Something that I’ve been thinking about for the last few years. I’ve debated myself several times on it. I’ve tried to think this through various angles. I’ve discussed with a few mentors and experts that I network with, but I started writing about it more recently. You know the life and work revolution post-COVID has led to an increase in discussions around human centricity, and that has just solidified my belief. And for now, it’s more of a vision and more conceptual but I have a few hypotheses in mind that I would love to test. And then we’ll see where we go from there. And would you like to share maybe one of these hypotheses, I can share an example for you. So human capital decisions, think about it if you don’t have the right human capital, who will manage your financial capital, who will make the investment decisions, whether it is big-ticket technology implementation, or thereafter adoption of those technologies. So human capital decisions have not been focused on as much as they could be or should be. Businesses have usually focused on financial decisions, they have focused on technology decisions, but have not focused as much on human capital decisions. And I think it could be a goldmine for the organizations that can wrap their heads around improving their human capital decisions. 

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Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, because eventually, the human capital decision is the one that will have the biggest impact on the other decisions that are going to be made inside the organization. 

Khurshid Anis: Right. If you want, I can share a very specific example of how to think about it. Now think about two similar companies in the same industry. During the same times with similar budgets, they both implement a human capital management system, the same system with the AI and digital capabilities, they both spend $1 million to buy the technology. Now Company A and its HR teams rally behind that technology, they drive changes in communication, they adapt, they help the employees adapt and make full use of that system. That is the end-to-end employee lifecycle journey or moments that matter in the system, all the workforce and performance data in one system of record. And as a result, they are able to hire, develop, retain better talent, have better leaders and managers in the roles, and they just deliver an overall better employee experience to all its constituents, right? In other words, Company A is able to make data-driven decisions faster and better. Company A also knows their employees better, and the employees know the company much better, right? It’s a very productive relationship between the two entities with far greater transparency and hence more trust between these entities. Whereas in Company B, or the second company, and their HR teams could not drive adoption and usage of the technology, both companies implemented the same technology at the same cost. However, Company A is much more efficient and drives far more EBITA, which is earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, then Company B is still operating within the constraints of their operating budget, whereas Company A is realizing the value of implementing this technology. So the technology and the investment and the financial decisions were the same. It was the people that are behind it that drove the value in one company and could not in another company. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, absolutely. And that led to a much higher adoption rate in Company A than in Company B. Right? All right, we’re gonna continue a little bit along with these human capital decisions versus financial decisions theme that we first started talking about here. Now, I’d like to ask you that, in your opinion, and you touched on this a little bit already. But in your opinion, what kind of value should human capital decisions provide? 

Khurshid Anis: Great question, I think all kinds of value is right, you think about value in terms of market positioning, you think about value in terms of financial value, intellectual value, merit, everything. Everything would be better if you focus more on the human capital decision. So I’ll carry forward the same example, think about Company B. It has no data in the system, people analytics, business analytics, or financial planning cannot do anything in this situation. Because there is no data, the company won’t know their employees, they can’t make evidence-based decisions, they will keep losing critical talent, they will not be able to attract better talent, the business leaders will be at a huge disadvantage, because as you said they are making decisions in the dark. Now think about company A. Great people analytics can run various analyses and test hypotheses. And they can offer more meaningful insights options that will help make better people decisions or make any business decisions and on the other side, Neelie, think about all the data that company A has in their system. People analytics can run various analyses, test hypotheses, offer meaningful insights and options that will just help the business make better and faster decisions. You know, with growing sophistication in people analytics, we’re able to tackle any business workforce problems in a much more informed and timely way. Think about optimizing employee experience or building strategy around hybrid work. Or think about experience or engagement that every business is trying to deliver in this hybrid work, right? People analytics can also track various performance indicators and metrics, right? The NPS scores, Net Promoter scores, you know, our business intelligence team, continuously monitor and measure that for the customers, we can do the same for our employees, right? We want our employees to be happy working with us, and we want them to go out and tell people how great it is to work with their company. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yes. And now there’re various things that I’d like to ask you about Khurshid. So we now talked about the value that human capital decisions should and could provide. And you already started talking about people analytics. But what role does people analytics play in quantifying the value that human capital decisions provide? 

Khurshid Anis: You know, until now, a lot of work that has happened within the workforce and for the workforce has been mostly, you know, driven at a superficial level, if you are an organization of let’s say, 10,000 people, you are listening to them, at least, you know, hopefully, once a year through an employee survey, you’re not listening to them every day, you’re not making your decisions including them. And that’s why you have less voice at the table with people analytics and communication technology. We have these tools so that we are able to listen to our employees continuously. And with these sophisticated human capital management systems. We know what our employees want, what skills they have, what capabilities they have. And we know where the business needs are. So once we have our data, and we have analyzed them, and we have products that can help us make good decisions by quantifying the skills, quantifying the capabilities, highlighting where the gaps are, so that let’s say if, today, Python is a good skill to have, a company will know how many employees have those skills, where there is a need for that skill, and deploy that skills in an effective and a responsible way. And you can catch that all through your learning and development, right? Learning and Development is not just taking those mandatory training, it is much more than that. And you want to encourage your employees to learn, you know, many employees want to learn, they want the resources from their employer so they can learn, it is really up to the HR department, the learning and development teams and business to invest in their employees, and give them the resources so they can learn. And what I’ve seen is that many organizations have these capabilities, they have just not communicated it to their employees or not made it easy for their employees to leverage these resources. 

Neelie Verlinden: Thank you. Something else I wanted to ask you a question is that, would you say that having some quantifiable evidence to be able to equate human capital decisions with financial decisions? Is that much more important in one industry than another? Or would you say that it’s the same in terms of importance across all industries? What are your thoughts on that? 

Khurshid Anis: I believe it should be so across all the businesses, irrespective of their size, or industry, or geography, because you know, where COVID has changed a lot. COVID has not changed, my businesses exist. They are still trying to drive their mission and maximize the financial and economic growth for all their constituents. If that is the end game, you can achieve that end game by making better decisions. Now, in other industries, there are differences and nuances in the industries and there could be different applications. But we react to the test there and measure that. So I don’t want to go ahead of myself by saying that’s more important than one and not another. But if you think and anecdotally, people’s decisions should be more important in every industry that I agree with you. 

Neelie Verlinden: Absolutely. Now, of course, you just spoke about how we can use people analytics to identify where certain skills gaps are, for instance, but what types of complex problems can we solve potentially with human capital decisions? Can you maybe give us another example? 

Khurshid Anis: Sure, that’s a good question. And I’ll use a very current situation and circumstance that every business and employer is dealing with, right, the great resignation, and I was looking at some of the data and I saw that only in the US the labor market is showing the 16 million people have left in the last six months. That’s huge. That has never happened before. And we all are learning at the moment how to control that. Let’s take that as an example. And that is something that is keeping a lot of business leaders and human resources up at night, and we’re trying to solve for it at the moment, right? Every minute of delay, we’re losing someone to our, you know, outside competitor or even outside the industry, think about internal talent, mobility, right? Companies are very good at attracting people from outside and hiring people from outside. However, we have not done a good job with internal mobility. And we started looking at our data as to why people are leaving and trying to understand what was the real core reason. And the root cause of this, you know, at least the initial data is showing that the people are looking to do better work, they’re looking for growth, they’re not necessarily looking to leave the company, right, they’re going after the role, they’re going after the work. Whereas on the other side, the company is trying to find people from outside for that same better work. So had we used people analytics, the way we can use and quantify our skills and capabilities and align them with the business needs. Our businesses will have better talent quicker and faster. And our brilliant talent will find that same exciting growth opportunities internally. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, no, absolutely. I know that there’s a lot of attention at the moment in a lot of organizations for internal mobility. And I think that they realize a huge opportunity, they’re looking externally, rather than thinking of the talent that they already have in the company. So yeah, this is a very good point. All right, so we are moving on and slightly changing tack here a little bit Khurshid because one of your expert areas is people analytics. We’ve talked about it already. So I’d love to talk about people analytics a bit more. Starting with, could you maybe share an example of an actual business problem, from your time in one of the companies that you previously worked for, that you and your team had to address? 

Khurshid Anis: Yes. So there have been a lot of problems, but the way we are dealing with the problems has changed post-COVID. Right, think about the hybrid work, and how to drive not only engagement but also retention and employee experience in this hybrid work. And that is one of the critical factors that will retain our employees with the organization. So a lot of work, you know, internal talent, mobility is definitely one of them. But the day-to-day, the short-term work that our employees are doing, how do we make sure that they are able to work in a hybrid environment? Now keep in mind that your organization may take a stand on work from home or work from the office, or they may divvy up the days, right two days in the office three days from home or wherever, however, your clients may not have done that, or a client may be doing it differently. So how do you adapt to all these different permutations and combinations of hybrid work? And how do you continue the productivity and the performance on a day-to-day basis? These are some of the very complex challenges that the entire business is dealing with. But HR is able to provide better insights and better options for our leaders to make decisions. That is if we are data-driven HR. So we are able to say that, okay, this is a pocket or this is a skill that our people are lacking. They knew how to do good business in person, how can we teach them how to do that same good business virtually, I’ll take an example from my revenue-generating role. Salespeople, you know, much of the sales until now had happened in person, they know how to do it. They know how to build relationships, but how do you teach them to do that on social media? How do we teach them to move beyond that Rolodex and get on to a social networking platform and connect with people to grow their networks? While many have started doing that? How do we help them acquire the skills where they can leverage that network for a mutual benefit? These are some newer skills that we’re trying to quantify and help our workforce learn. And in our minds, without saying it out loud, we want our employees to learn it faster than our competitors. So time is so important. 

Neelie Verlinden: How exactly do you see the role of HR in there? For instance, in this example of salespeople who, before, were maybe doing a lot of their job in person, and then they had to switch to doing that in a different way? How can HR help with that? 

Khurshid Anis: Good question. And, you know, HR has a huge role to play as I said, think about people analytics, right? There is an HR team or regular HR team with a smart people analytics department within it, versus a team of human resources where everyone is data-driven. The value that both these teams would provide will be different, so the majority of their organizations have a people analytics team or a large HR team. But the value is more when everyone in human resources is data-driven. Think about the HR business partners who are working with the business every day if they are not able to understand the data. And if they are not able to quantify and present that data in a way that helps the business executives or sales executives or even mid-level managers understand what we’re saying, they’re not going to take any action, their behaviors are not going to change. I think HR plays a very critical role. But we can play the right and relevant role if we are data-driven. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yes, I think this is very, very interesting that you’re saying that because here at the Academy to innovate HR, we, of course, are all about educating HR professionals of the future. And so we have our T-shaped framework where we have identified various key competencies, and one of these key competencies for HR professionals is data literacy. If you have an entire HR department, there are only a few people who are specialized in people analytics, and the others do not have a certain basic data literacy, then you’re still going to have an issue. 

Khurshid Anis: It’s definitely a problem. I really like your concept of T-shaped professionals. You know, think about someone in our benefits department or compensation department. Right? They may have their specialized skills in compensation or benefits. But if they are not able to quantify those, if they’re not able to connect those data sets or insights to the business problems, those business problems are not going to be solved. There won’t be an alignment between the problem and the resolution. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, because that was going to be my last question. If HR is going to be able to both deal with complex business problems and use people analytics, it needs certain new competencies. We already talked about data legacy, but in your opinion, are there any other competencies that are essential for HR and disregard? 

Khurshid Anis: Oh, that’s a great question. Really Yes. And I will tell you that these competencies have changed. So if HR is thinking that we acquired new competencies in the last two years, we may just need to rethink it. I think the three most important competencies are irrespective of which domain within HR your work. They have a deep understanding of the business, how it makes money, a good understanding of the financials, and an extremely good understanding of the outside conditions. Who are your competitors? Who are your disruptors? How do you see the industry trends? So looking outside is even more important. And then being data and tech-savvy, many people come into human resources because they don’t enjoy math or statistics. Many people come into human resources because they don’t like technology while those days are gone. You have to understand data. And you have to know how to use digital technology, or what does artificial intelligence behind the technology mean for the business and mean for human resources. And lastly, what I’ve seen is the advisory consulting, and presentation skills, these are some of the core competencies, which usually the sales and marketing and recruiting functions have, but to be very strategic and influential, and really engage in, you know, the decision making tables, HR really have to learn these competencies and adopt these new behaviors. 

Neelie Verlinden: Yeah, I think I agree on all of these competencies Khurshid. So again, we are totally aligned here. Now the last part of each episode, what we do is I always like to ask our guests about an epic win and an epic fail that they’d like to share with us. So of course, at this time, your turn, maybe you can start by sharing an epic win with us first? 

Khurshid Anis: How about I start with Epic fail, and then end with epic win? 

Neelie Verlinden: Sure. 

Khurshid Anis: Alright. So epic fail, you know, when I and this is me personally, when I became a manager, for the first time, leading a few different HR teams and HR functions, I really generally wanted to do really good work for my team and be a great manager. And I was spending about 70 to 80% of my time with my teams, and we were doing good work. My teams were happy, we were connected, we knew each other very well, we had great relationships. However, when we were talking to the business, there was a disconnect. And that disconnect came because we were spending too much time within our own silo within human resources. And, you know, going back to my earlier discussion, HR is one function that touches every depth and breadth of the company and can be a very business-critical function. That was a learning point for me. And I said, No, I have to change this to be more effective and be more business aligned. I have to spend and my team has to spend more time with the business and less time within ourselves. So that’s an epic fail. I got that feedback from some mentors. I got that feedback from the business and was not too happy at that time. I said, Oh my god, I’m putting all my heart and soul into it. I’m getting feedback. I’m not as effective with the business I could be. But that has really changed how I look at HR professionals since then. And now going back to your initial question of an epic win, when HR really focuses on the business and financial, HR is much more strategic and much more influential. And we will not be fighting for a seat at the table anymore. Because you know, businesses want to come and sit at our own table at our HR table, because they want to understand people, they want to make better people decisions. So with that change in mindset, I think it has been a huge win for my career, where I have had tremendous feedback and tremendous engagement from the business. And as a result of that, my HR teams have been better because they are spending more, more time with the business and less with me. 

Neelie Verlinden: I really love that Khurshid. I love how you say HR is not going to be fighting for a seat at the table, but then they want to come and sit at our table. I really liked that. And I think it’s a fantastic way to also end our conversation today. I’ve really enjoyed it. I want to thank you very much for taking the time and coming on All about HR. So thank you very much. 

Khurshid Anis: Thank you Neelie. This is a great discussion. Thanks for all your insightful questions. Some of them are very tough, but I enjoyed them. 

Neelie Verlinden: Thank you. And thank you everyone for tuning in again for another episode of all about HR. If you haven’t done so yet, please do not forget to subscribe to our podcasts that are available on all the major podcast channels. And also follow us on YouTube so that you won’t miss any new episodes. That’s it for me and I’ll see you soon for a new episode of all about a show. Thank you and bye

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