The Data Chief | Episode 5

Schneider Electric's Gustavo Canton on optimizing human potential with AI and automation

Gustavo Canton

Gustavo Canton

Schneider Electric

Current EpisodeEP5: Schneider Electric's Gustavo Canton on optimizing human potential with AI and automation

Episode Overview

Joining Cindi today is Gustavo Canton, VP of People Analytics at Schneider Electric. Gustavo has been with Schneider Electric for nearly three years, where he’s been a change agent driving innovation across Schneider’s growing data initiatives. In today’s episode, Cindi and Gustavo discuss using automation to augment (not replace) humans, rebranding HR, scaling pandemic adaptation, the impact of staff well-being on performance, intuiting what customers really need, and team-building.

Key Takeaways:

  • People aren’t machines (and vice versa). Organize the structure so people are doing the work that only humans can do, and allow algorithms to take care of repetitive, mundane, report-driven tasks.
  • Monitor employee well-being and the impact on performance. We now have the technology to monitor and adjust the variables — such as workplace air quality — that contribute to (or detract from) staff well-being and overall performance.
  • Give the customer what they need (even if they don’t know what that is). Only by initiating clear communication and establishing trust with our clients can we best understand and serve their needs — because they’re not always going to know what those needs are.
  • Leadership at all levels. No matter your role in an organization, you can have an impact. A graduate student made the case to Sam’s Club’s CFO on why they should have fuel stations, based on data.

Key Quotes:

The mission of [Schneider Electric] is to ensure that energy is a basic human right.
We have programs today in the organization to reward and recognize employees. And so the question is: how are those programs with recognition improving or contributing to performance?
The issue today is that sometimes it takes five different spreadsheets to get the answer to the information. By having one solution, one portal that they can all go in, we are hoping to basically free up their energy and save them 10 hours per week per employee. … Does this mean some of these people are going to lose jobs because we are reducing the amount of time? My answer is no, I think you will reallocate their work in a different way.
I realized over the years that perhaps we are not really maximizing [the] potential of our talent within organizations. We’re trying to make them do work that is much more suited for an algorithm, a robot, or a computer or a program than what the human is supposed to be. And so what we should be doing and thinking, and this is one of my main goals for the year, is free up people’s energy so the humans can spend more time doing what humans are good at: creativity, empathy, communication, influencing. Repetitive tasks and things that are, let’s say reporting-driven, that we can automate, we should let algorithms and robots take care of.
We have so many sites and so many systems, the challenge is to have all the data in one place. I think the exercise today is trying to get all the data in one place, make sure that we invest in a system that actually allows us to have all these different data teams, and then from that, having the right solution — to allow people to get the answers quickly.
It was not about getting the use cases, it was about trying to weave a story … and we wanted to have a story that basically goes like this. We know through an external database from job boards the skill sets that we have in the company versus the skill sets that are out there — how do we close up that gap? We use data to create scoring algorithms to help recruiters to focus our time on how to recruit more efficiently by using [fewer] resources.
If I were to look at the change management component, one of the big hurdles that we have sometimes with the end-user is that some of the tools in the market today require too many clicks or the navigation is not intuitive or the performance might not be the best. In the end, what I care for is to free up your energy.
You have to ask different questions. I mean that’s basically what it comes to, right? And the question is: what is the user really looking for? … Let’s take the … philosophy from Steve Jobs. His philosophy was not, ‘I’m going to give the customer exactly what they are asking for,’ because sometimes they don’t know what is going to be the best for them. … You need to understand what the user is telling you.
I think you can learn a lot about sports in terms of how to look at things. And there are moments when teams are under a lot of pressure or there [are] a lot of team dynamics because teams are forming and you need to build trust. … But I think the important thing is, as a leader, I need to be adaptive. I need to adapt to my team.
Many of these bigger organizations or disruptive companies that we admire today — Apple, Facebook, Google and so on — they came from an individual with a very strong vision that actually disrupted the market and shaped the organization. … And going back to the human being and individual, we need to do a better job taking our talent and understanding how each individual can make a contribution [to the] organization as opposed to always the organization just basically shaping the individual’s behavior.
I do believe this disruption — even though it’s very tragic what is happening in the US and many other countries around the world — is giving us an opportunity to look at the world differently and hopefully, after things get better, we’re going to come with a different attitude in which we are more grateful.

Guest Bio:

Nearing his third year at Schneider Electric, Gustavo Canton is the change agent responsible for developing and maturing the company’s Global People Analytics and Metrics function. He also co-leads people analytics and data initiatives that sit across the talent lifecycle to help the company improve the way it works and ensure that HR is maximizing the value of data, predicting talent needs, and driving actionable insights.

Gustavo is a resourceful and strategic leader, with extensive expertise in research and analytics, enterprise talent strategy, business operations, financial management, organizational development, change management, employee experience management, CRM, client insights, and project management.

Gustavo leverages excellent leadership and communication skills to build, develop, and manage diverse global and domestic teams. He’s an innovative problem-solver with a proven ability to find optimal solutions within budget and timeline constraints, and an inspiring leader who manages a global team of 25 that aims to understand how to translate client requirements into value-added solutions.