Data-savvy HR

Change. In HR, we’re often experts in it, helping guide the workforce through the ups and downs of team restructures, competence frameworks or new technology. But like the proverbial barefoot cobbler’s children, or the electrician’s family who daren’t plug in the kettle, our own house may not always benefit from our skills.

That situation can be especially acute when the change in question is a change in those skills. But the HR skillset is constantly evolving (or should be) to keep pace with the world. Witness the latest CIPD Profession Map, with its fresh emphasis on knowledge and skills around analytics and people data.

Why data skills?

Because these days, data is all-powerful. According to the press, it’s even being used to influence democracy, so there should be uses for it in the easier-to-manage confines of a business, no? And as more and more organisations use some kind of HR software, the possibilities inherent in the stored data grow. Increasingly sophisticated HR systems are managing recruitment, onboarding, performance management, learning and development, succession planning and talent management. Go on to consider the potential for integrating and sharing info with other business systems (Payroll is the obvious one but also CRM, ERP, accounts…) and this means an enormous amount of data stored, giving rise to a new core skill for HR: data-analysis.

What can be done with all this data?

HR predictive analytics software can sift, parse and combine data to provide new and deeper insights, giving HR a fresh strategic offering at the top table that is also of practical help operationally. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Predicting turnover – extrapolating from historical data, you can identify high turnover by role, team, skillset, etc and therefore target your retention actions.
  • Predicting absence – day-to-day absence management tends to focus on individuals but at  a more macro level, the wider patterns can be analysed in relation to employee variables to identify the zones of likely high absence in the organisation.

However, this is just the potential that lies in your people data, a tempting dream of better workforce management, recruiting the best people, and of course, enhancing the reputation of HR along the way. But for it to be of any use, you need to apply it,, analyse it, dissect it, exploring how that data might be viewed in order to benefit your business goals and workforce.

One strategy is  to take a two-pronged approach.

First, recruit and/or develop in-house analytical skills within the HR team. Which skills exactly? The CIPD has a four-level competence framework titled, Analytics and creating value as part of Profession Map, here.

Second, look for data-based opportunities to collaborate. As mentioned, combining people data with other sources, such as finances and payroll can allow deeper and more accurate insights. However, a recent report from software vendors Oracle found that 60% of the 1,500 HR, finance and business professionals surveyed said “ingrained cultural habits were a barrier to data collaboration”. Silo thinking. A similar number saw a lack of talent and mismatched skillsets in HR, naming data and analytics, quantitative analysis and reasoning skills are core areas for development.

So. Time to change? Certainly, it’s time to evolve. And positively, the Oracle research found that 95% of respondents had “data-driven collaboration between HR and Finance” as a top priority for this year.

Categories: HR

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