The concept of utilising people data to drive organisational efficiency, future strategy and business success is now widely accepted within HR circles. However, despite a rapid increase in recognition of the benefits of workforce analytics, it seems that the majority of practitioners still struggle to know how to analyse and derive insights from data, assuming they’re able to consistently capture and normalise it in the first place.

According to Deloitte’s latest Human Capital Trends report, while 71% of companies see people data as a high priority, only 22% are currently applying analytics in HR. What’s more, recent figures from LinkedIn show that just 8% of organisations believe they have ‘usable data’, while only 9% say they have a ‘good understanding’ of which talent dimension drives performance in their organisation.  

Our experience has shown us that quite often our clients either don’t have  enough data, or the information they’re capturing doesn’t give them the information they need to obtain any real insights.  In order derive the insights that will allow them to make evidence based decisions on strategy, HR strategists need to be tactical, and ensure that the systems capture the right data whether structured or unstructured as AI enabled analytics tools can help automate analytics on both.

There are some fascinating examples of organisations which are really pushing the boundaries when it comes to finding new and innovative ways to collect and utilise people data. Wearable technology, for example, is now being used to help detect, manage and mitigate fatigue risk in heavy construction through providing employees with an ‘alertness score’. A recent article in Harvard Business Review, meanwhile, outlines how sensor technology is being deployed to monitor and track how employees across all levels of seniority interact and collaborate to identify gender bias by supplying hundreds of staff with special ID badges at a large multinational firm, researchers were able to determine that women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership, and they allocated their time similarly to males in the same role. It was subsequently found that arguments about changing women’s behaviour — to “lean-in,” for example — might miss the bigger picture: gender inequality, in this particular business, was due to bias, not differences in behaviour.

While monitoring workers in this way can, of course, deliver a unique perspective on what’s happening on the ground, these are extreme examples of using data to inform talent strategy. But through comparing and contrasting metrics already available within the business, all HR leaders can begin to unlock the potential of people analytics by combining the data at their fingertips to drive better insights.

Perhaps there is a correlation between staff shift patterns and retail sales, or poor candidate experience and consumer brand perception, or sickness-absence and customer footfall. In these cases, HR only has half the data it needs to unearth and apply analytics to answer critical talent questions. The rest is often stuck in front office.

According to the Global Recruiting Trends report, nearly 70% of HR professionals think data could elevate their roles in the business, while 42% say that poor data quality is the biggest barrier. The reality is that legacy platforms are often just not joined up with wider business data, and while some technology providers talk a great game, the solutions they offer rarely deliver on the sales hype..

In order to overcome this barrier, the HR function must take the initiative and more often than not, the right expertise is required to help practitioners pinpoint the right data sets and sources to make impactful correlations between business behaviour and trends in HR information. Once viable sources are identified, the automation the aggregation of this data through a data warehouse, analytics tool combined with – Robotics & AI – can improve what you can learn from the data at your fingertips exponentially. 

As a paper which was recently published in the Harvard Business Review points out, it’s important to keep in mind that no algorithm or data set, no matter how complete or advanced, will be able to capture the entire complexity of work. However, if people throughout the business are using platforms correctly, the insight provided can be incredibly rich – even game changing.  

There can be no doubt that HR and talent acquisition leaders need to have the courage to take bolder steps to influence change within their function to ensure their organisation remains competitive. At Alexander Mann Solutions we are not alone in this view. In fact, in its recent Workforce of the Future report, PwC challenges business leaders to “make a bigger leap.” None of us can afford to stand still and for HR leaders striving to bring in the right technologies that will help their firm make more informed workforce decisions, tenacity and resilience is critical.

According to the most recent data from LinkedIn, 19% of companies in the UK have now adopted HR analytics, and 12% have dedicated HR analytics roles. What’s more, Bersin by Deloitte’s 2017 High-Impact People Analytics research found that 69% of organisations with 10,000 employees or more now have a people analytics team and there has been a 61% year-on-year increase in the number of professionals in EMEA with ‘HR Analytics’ listed as a skill on their profile.

It is clear that we are on the cusp of change, and in order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses must explore how they can harness people data to plan and manage future-fit workforces in an increasingly competitive environment.

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