People are an organisation’s greatest asset and HR is an essential contributor to company strategy and competitive advantage. As a result, the profession is increasingly called on to quantify their impact on the bottom line. However, the precise value of core activities – from recruitment through to retention – can be difficult to pin down.
The burgeoning field of People Analytics is now arming HR professionals with the tools they need. A skilled user can reveal patterns in data from multiple sources to show how workforce development creates value for the business over time. The greater the accuracy and immediacy of the data, the greater the ability to optimise workforce initiatives and adapt to changing employee expectations.
Collaboration, for example, is increasingly recognised as a driver of productivity. Teams and individuals who reach out to each other for ideas are often better able to innovate and contribute to projects. High levels of interaction therefore point to the kind of dynamic and creative environment that employees enjoy and that drives high retention rates.
Software tools are becoming available that can measure this ‘collaborative intelligence’ across the whole organisation. How often are different teams communicating via online meetings and chat? Are some teams relatively isolated within their silos of expertise? Who do senior management consult with the most?
One way to measure the effectiveness of employee onboarding, for example, is to examine how quickly new joiners engage with colleagues, both within and beyond their immediate team. By analysing patterns in emails and conference calls, HR can optimise the onboarding process to ensure employees become connected and engaged as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Surveys are traditionally used to capture employee engagement levels, but they can only produce a historical snapshot that relies on employees’ own assessment. Collaboration data can complement this method with more robust findings that might also challenge assumptions in some cases.
Priorities for HR analytics
Of course, the multi-faceted nature of HR can’t be reduced solely to a set of charts – people are individuals and qualities of empathy and relationship-building are essential to the professional toolkit. Data simply offers the potential to unlock value that may otherwise be underutilised, partial or hidden.
Several HR professionals have told us that the ability to present data effectively is changing their relationship with the senior management team. Being able to provide insights into productivity has elevated HR’s status in the board room, from highly-valued support function to key influencer.
“The business is asking us for data to support business decisions. That means we need to be able to extract the Key Performance Indicators,” said an HR Director at a national construction firm. However, he added that a lack of analysis skills on the team can be frustrating as it limits what HR can deliver in response. It’s not enough to pass on a mass of data points. Instead, Boards are demanding a level of interpretation that is more akin to ‘business intelligence’.
Intequal believes that data skills training should be an upskilling priority across the business, not only for IT and professional data analysts. HR is well-placed to be the first mover, building its own capabilities while co-designing suitable training for Line of Business employees and team leaders.
Based on our conversations, we have identified several trends and priorities for HR departments who are starting out on their data analysis journey.
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