People analytics means the sky’s the limit for HR

People Analytics

In the past using data to drive decision-making was purely the remit of the finance and marketing departments, but the rise and rise of big data technology has seen it explode into the world of HR.

People analytics is a rapidly growing area of business intelligence that uses people-related information to optimize business outcomes and solve business problems, and is fast becoming as important as business analytics or data science.  As workforces become more geographically dispersed, transient and diverse than ever, so gaining insight and visibility to inform workforce planning, resource distribution, and an employee experience that will keep staff engaged and retained, is vital.

Without the view of a company’s health and its people strategies that analytics provides, business leaders will be unable to develop effective workforce management plans that are aligned with company objectives, and will struggle to engage staff, leading to greater churn and decreased productivity. HR leaders who are in themselves strategic and can help the business ‘fly on instruments’ using data and analytics to understand the workforce – and more importantly be in a position to create predictive and prescriptive information – have the ability to really shape business strategy.

As former red arrows pilot Justin Hughes explained this week, having a mix of great data and great analytics is key – whether in the air or in the office. “The aim is to use technology to optimize the support of the decision-making process…the perfect combination of human, technology and performance outcome”.

However, a survey carried out by Sage People last year revealed that despite the increasing importance and recognition of analytics to drive workforce decisions and business growth, HR teams are still struggling with a lack of tools, skills and understanding. Clearly, the market is still quite nascent.

Most companies appear to be struggling with analytics because their people data is fragmented across multiple systems: core HR, different payrolls, benefit carriers, talent management, financials. Furthermore, many companies are only using reporting, dashboards and analytics in an administrative and operational capacity; the bigger opportunity is to start to use analytics to help support decision making, strategic planning, scenario planning, and for business transformation.

For those that do, the rewards are considerable; among Sage People’s own customers, improvements in HR productivity have ranged from 25-80% and have happened in parallel with rapidly growing numbers of employees. Other customers are gaining new actionable insights into workforce demographics, retention issues, performance, talent development, recruitment and planning. Innovative new types of analytics are also constantly emerging – for instance, experience analytics are now becoming available which are likely to prove critical in improving employee engagement, productivity, retention, and companies being recognized as great places to work.

As the nature of work changes, with the rise of the contingent workforce, the gig economy and robotics, there will be a need to tap into talent pools, networks and ecosystems, to be able to foster the necessary skills for business success. This change is happening fast, and HR teams will need to be adaptive, agile and responsive to fast moving markets. Quite simply, analytics that help management ‘fly on instruments’ in making data-driven decisions are vital. Without analytics, your HR will struggle to get off the ground; with them, the sky’s the limit.

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