One Size Does Not Fit All
As some of you may know, my approach to solving HR problems is customized. I do not guide customers into standardized templates and software. When I attend conferences, I am almost always asked which software I selected for an analytics or workforce planning solution when I led the effort for a global Fortune 100 company. My answer is, “none.” I thought I would take this opportunity to provide some insight into my reasoning.
While analytics and workforce planning applications are making progress, I found none that would convince me that the cost of the software would be less than the value I could derive from performing customized and targeted studies. The latter yields higher value. None of the applications had capabilities anywhere near what I could perform on my own. Yes, I admit it… my high value and strategic work was performed with Excel, Access and a data visualization package. There’s nothing wrong with that. Every single workforce planning model I have ever built has been different. I build these models to provide insight into the specific issues related to a particular company’s issues. Even within the same company, the issues vary by job role, geography etc., so the models are constructed to look at the workforce data in different ways. Large software applications lock you into viewing information in the same way as your competitor. Where is the strategic advantage in purchasing expensive software which aims to make you the same as your competitor? Competitive advantage comes from being different.
Now, if you find that your data systems are a mess and highly dispersed, then some of these applications may serve as a good, centralized source of information and will give you basic trending. That’s a good start but the value in HR analytics is in delving deeper to determine the root cause of the trending you see.
If you are blessed with fairly good data systems like I was previously, it wasn’t all that painful to pull information from multiple systems across global regions and use a program like Microsoft Access to construct the data source needed for a specific analysis. Additionally, for trend analyses in HR, it is unlikely that you need your data to be real time. You are more likely to be studying how things are changing in your workforce over months or years rather than days. For workforce planning, it is about planning the workforce you need within, say, the next three to five years, not tomorrow. Also, workforce planning generally hones in on specific job roles instead of taking an in-depth look at all employees.
As admitted by one software vendor on a webcast I attended, these vendors are struggling with their customers being able to find value in their product. I think you will find that the ones that found value were likely extracting information from the system and performing customized analyses with the data. Those that aren’t finding value probably thought that implementing an HR analytics or workforce planning solution would magically reveal deep insights into their workforce.
It takes effort to find these insights and that effort requires customized studies.
Tracey is the author of “HR Analytics: The What, Why and How” and "Strategic Workforce Planning: Guidance & Back-up Plans." She holds degrees in Mathematics, Engineering and Business from universities in Canada and the U.S. and has over 20 years of experience in the areas of Human Resources, Supply Chain and Engineering. She was born in the U.K. and has worked in both Canada and the U.S.
Tracey is an independent consultant and her company, Numerical Insights LLC, helps clients in the areas of HR Analytics, Workforce Planning, and HR Process Improvement.
You can find Tracey on the web at:
Web Site: www.numericalinsights.com
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