Beyond the numbers

Alexis Saussinan, Head of People Analytics at Merck Group, explains how his team has integrated employee data into business strategy.
By: | August 29, 2017

Please tell us about your role at Merck Group.

I head the organisation development and people analytics team, which fits within the global HR office. Even though I have a global role, I am based in Singapore.  The Asia-Pacific is a key region for Merck Group. But my team is also spread across Europe and the Americas.

Our mandate is to support Merck Group’s business in delivering practical organisational development and people analytics services. We seek to deliver on business strategy, as well as people strategy, by looking into reorganisation, new business models, workforce planning, and mergers and acquisitions.

We want workforce analytics to be embedded in each and every single service of the business. As such, we don’t have a separate HR or people analytics team. Instead, it’s integrated with organisation development.  I understand that most companies have a dedicated HR analytics team, but we really wanted to provide very practical and business-focused solutions.


What benefits have you experienced from this arrangement?

Recently, we embarked on reviewing a Research and Development organisation within one of our business sectors where the overall mandate was to bolster innovation. We partnered with our HR and business colleagues to understand the characteristics around the current organisation, and were able to derive very practical insights from there. For example, we saw that the structure was too fragmented to foster good practice sharing and innovation.

We also found that there was not enough focus on developing pure expert roles, as most people had diluted roles and could not focus on making core contributions.

These insights arose from studying various angles of our analytics, and they helped to both provide new insights as well as confirm existing thoughts held by the business leaders.

Ultimately, we want to be able to measure team performance and team engagement to make sure that people do feel comfortable trying new things or putting new ideas to the table. It’s very important that people feel good, and for us to be able to measure that through our ongoing people metrics and engagement initiative.


How embedded are these metrics in everyday functioning? How does this aid later extraction and analysis?

How we measure metrics is important – it’s not measurement for the sake of measuring, but for understanding something specific. For example, innovation can and should be measured through a number of organisation, business, people, and financial aspects:  say, the number of patents you are able to bring to market.

Today, we’ve connected every single people-related data point in one people analytics service. We have more than 45 million data points embedded into our global platform.

That’s a lot of data points!

Exactly, and it means that at any point in time, I can ask a whole set of business questions to derive insights. That’s how we shape our people analytics platform: through layman questions. We don’t want the platform to be a technical platform; we want it to be a user and customer-focused platform.

Another big difference between us and most other companies, I believe, is that our people analytics platform is not only open to HR, but it’s open to all of our managers. It’s important to us to produce business-focused insights.


What would you say to those who think of workforce analytics as something that can be done virtually?

For me, it’s extremely important that all of us, as a team, make it a critical point to understand the business and to be together with the businesses. I spend quite a bit of my time travelling across the globe to do just that. I think having a global spread and a deep understanding of the various businesses is important. That’s why we have combined Organisation Development and People Analytics: to make sure we always stay very close to the business.


What will you be focusing on for your session at the Third Annual HR and Workforce Analytics Congress?

The anchor point of my talk will centre on our journey, and how it has always remained customer-centric: how our combined analytics and organisation development team has delivered practical  solutions focused on the business and customer by staying focused on those aspects specifically.

I’ll also cover some of the future objectives that we’ve started working on, such as reviewing customer experience to embed people analytics into the daily lives of our business and HR leaders, accelerating predictive analytics, and possibly taking baby steps towards artificial intelligence.

I’m very much looking forward to it. I hope to also learn about the practical journeys other people have taken – I’m always keeping an eye out for innovative approaches.


Accelerating people strategy through analytics

Alexis Saussinan, Head of Organisation Development and People Analytics at the Merck Group, will be one of more than a dozen speakers and panellists at the HR and Workforce Analytics Congress taking place in Singapore on September 26 and 27. Delegates will learn about accelerating people strategy and business performance through workforce analytics, with input from HR thought leaders working across a wide range of industries

Along with Saussinan, the programme includes speakers from General Electric, DBS Bank, and Lenovo. The event also features a two-day masterclass, tailored for delegates at different stages of the HR analytics journey.

For more information, visit