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How can data drive HR insight for businesses?

By Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources

Following a boost in computing power, many people predicted a data revolution for HR. While advances have certainly been made, many organisations are failing to get the most out of the data available. Barney Ely, Hays Director, explores the ways in which data can be used to drive HR insight for businesses. 

1. Understand the end goal

It is important to decide what you hope to gain from data says Karen Minicozzi, Vice President of HCM Product Strategy at software company Workday. She sees the analytics journey in three stages. “HR is looking at doing something descriptive with data analysis – how many people do we have in this department; then predictive – when do people leave and are there trends; and finally action, such as, can I step in with a career opportunity if someone is thinking about leaving?”

2. Tell a story

It can sometimes be difficult to champion raw numbers as something important. Once you have gained insight, it needs to be put into a format that means something to staff. Actions based on data-driven insights are pushing businesses ahead with analytics, argues Paget Miles, IBM Worldwide Leader for People Analytics. He says dashboards and infographics can help managers to articulate their story. “Once organisations have explored their data, made some predictions or cross-referenced it with other data models, they can do the visualisation and storytelling.”

3. Where possible, break down silos

Often, the same analysis can work across organisations. At CDK Global, which makes and supports software for car dealerships, HR worked with finance to create an agreed set of people metrics, cutting the 2,000 people data points used across the global business to 120 people metrics for use in business reports. “It was important for us to work off the same set of information, rather than it being ‘HR data’ or ‘finance data’,” explains Kevin Ball, Vice President of Human Resources. “One of the elements of this exercise involved taking the result of the annual employee engagement survey and combining this with other results across the organisation to examine the link between happy staff and better business performance. We now know our employees in a way we were never able to before.”

4. Just get started

At first, implementing data decision-making can seem daunting. But waiting around could be the biggest mistake you can make, says Steven Toft, an HR consultant specialising in change management. “People hear about Walmart having a team of 70 statisticians and think ‘Help’, but in fact, a lot of companies aren’t even off first base. Or they want to run before they can walk; for example, introducing predictive analytics before they even have accurate headcount data,” explains Toft.

“Lots of organisations get stuck on striving to get a system where all their data is integrated, all-inclusive and organisation-wide, adds Greig Aitken, Head of People Strategy & Insight, RBS. “We’ll all have retired by the time that arrives. Join up the data you have and turn it into insight.”

About this author

Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and is now Director for Hays Human Resources. Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors covering everything from accountancy and finance to construction, IT education and healthcare.

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