Nottingham Trent UniversityBackground

Nottingham Trent University is one of the largest UK universities with nearly 28,000 students and more than 3,500 staff across four campuses, contributing £496m to the UK economy every year. In 2017 the University was awarded the coveted title of University of the Year at the Times Higher Education Awards. This comes just two months after Nottingham Trent celebrated being named the Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year, acknowledging success in both the National Students’ Survey and recent league tables. Aligned to this success, Nottingham Trent University has achieved an 88% satisfaction score in the 2018 National Student Satisfaction Survey.

The Problem

NTU has seen a period of change based on the ambition of the senior leadership, however this has not been without its challenges, foremost amongst these has been growing rates of absenteeism, with numbers having increased for a fifth consecutive year. 
The University itself has a higher than average long term absence rate when benchmarked against its contemporaries (52% compared with national sector average of 50.1%), but performs better than average when comparing short term absence figures (5.9 days compared to NTU figures of 5.3 days annually).

“The insights that Intec shared with us (from the data we gave them) in the early phase of the engagement allowed us to easily identify specific Work Streams and Hypotheses that we wanted focus on. The results from the first phase were so useful that it was straightforward for me to give them direction as to what we wanted to find out in the subsequent phases.” Jayne Billam (HR Director)

The Approach

PASS (People Analytics Support Service) by Intec is a service that allows organisations to make data driven, evidence based decisions by combining multiple data sets, a powerful analytics engine and senior consultants on an outsourced basis. More than 50 percent of companies report difficulty with integrating workforce data from HR and non-HR systems. And on average an HR department can be working with up to 18 different people data sources. Our service and process has been designed by HR professionals who are all too familiar with the internal challenges of finding resource and budget and having to make the investment case to the business.
Based on the above, Jayne Billam, HR Director at Nottingham Trent, commissioned Intec Systems PASS Service (People Analytics Support Service) to help her and her team better understand absence across the University.
Under Jayne’s direction, Intec focused on a) determining the factors surrounding absence and what patterns of behaviour are observable based on the data and correlations, and b) understanding what measures NTU can put in place to assist with the reduction of time lost through illness. For example: Why are some areas performing better than others? What is the variance and trend between absence categories, both long term and short term? Is there a relationship between absence type and staff role? (hypothesis).

“Having seen a very interesting and entertaining People analytics presentation on ‘Exponential change and digital workplace transformation’ from Intec at an HR event. I felt that we had a People Analytics project around Staff Absenteeism that their innovative thinking and pragmatic use of Analytics technology would be well suited to” – Jayne Billam (HR Director)

The Process

  • Working with the NTU HR Data Specialist, we gathered employee absence data over 3 years, cleaned and organised the data to form a single master data set.
  • A series of hypotheses were then tested and the most exciting insights were shared with the client for their input (Phase 1). 
  • Based on client direction we then created specific data sets for 6 targeted work streams like Zero Absence, Starters and Leavers, LT MNTL Absence, Gender etc. In addition a comparison of the NTU data against sector benchmarking was provided. 
  • Each customised data set was then imported into the Analytics Engine which produced a data quality score. (NB: a machine score of greater than 65% is generally seen as threshold to perform advanced predictive analytics.)

Summary

  • The PASS Storytelling approach and subsequent results have encouraged the NTU HR team to consider new Work Streams and other priority People Analytics projects for the future. A good example of this would be the addition of intervention data points like Occupational Health assessments to Work Stream 1 for LT MNTL Absence cases. This can also extend to analysis of ST Absence intervention effectiveness around “Involvement of Line Managers and Return to Work interviews”.
  • One of the exciting aspects of People Analytics is that in the process of testing a clearly defined Hypothesis, the analysis will often reveal new and totally unexpected insights. We take great care to create the conditions in the data preparation and enrichment part of our service for new hypotheses and insights to emerge. 
  • Based on the creation of a rich set of insights delivered against the 6 defined Work Streams, NTU have retained PASS by Intec to look at the addition of new data points to some of these Work Streams.

“The quality of this first project has given us confidence to continue the relationship and look at new projects and new data points as well as continuing to analyse and measure performance with a selection of the original Work Steams.” – Jayne Billam (HR Director)

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