People Analytics as a Strategic Partner to the Business
What is the purpose of people analytics? Is it getting HR a seat at the executive table? Potentially. Is it to integrate and analyze people data? Sometimes. Impress the CHRO with your new data visualizations and dashboard? Maybe.
People analytics means different things to different organizations. However there is one through line of purpose for every people analytics practice: to inform and influence business decisions in support of organizational strategy. In other words, it’s about helping your organization get where it’s going a little faster, cheaper, or better than it would have otherwise. Full stop.
There are many ways to partner with the business, but we must always ask the question: how does this advance our strategy? And how strategically important is it compared to everything else we’re working on? In many organizations, there are a variety of top of mind issues where people analytics could have a significant, positive impact on business strategy.
Navigate the return to work.
Many organizations are grappling with decisions regarding how to reopen or adjust capacity to bring certain segments of their workforce back, either in person or online. The decision is hardly an easy one and your organization must balance a variety of factors including the risk of COVID-19 and how to adjust operations effectively. These decisions will not only be impacted by infection risk in the communities where your offices or facilities are located, but you will also have to factor in the infection risk in the communities in which your employees live. If leaders are weighing these options right now, your people analytics team ought to be in the room asking the right questions and sharing relevant data.
Engage (and retain) your workers from afar.
Recent events are taking a major toll on your people, and your organization’s ability to address this issue is limited by the nature of the crisis. Health and safety. Anxiety. Social isolation. School closings. Social unrest. All these burdens and more are weighing on your people, and your primary methods of checking up on them are entirely electronic. You want to actively address engagement issues, but at a time when most managers are physically separated from their people it’s hard to even have a sense of where the highest risks of burnout and disengagement are.
Picture this: A well-equipped people analytics team collects real-time engagement data in a weekly pulse survey and then integrates it with a variety of data sources from inside and outside HR to create an employee “flight risk” dashboard that identifies teams or individuals who are disengaged and in danger of leaving the organization. This kind of real-time, relevant people analytics work can be invaluable to your leaders at a time when they can least afford to lose good people to a competitor.
Build a culture of diversity and belonging.
While they’ve been a growing priority for a while, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts have taken on even greater significance in recent months. Once again, people analytics has a role to play. Not only can your people analytics team support these efforts by giving leaders accurate, relevant baseline information about the current makeup of your workforce, you can also provide decision support by analyzing the effectiveness of current belonging and diversity initiatives and propose changes grounded in data. The right data models and metrics can give your leadership a better sense of whether your organization promotes these values of diversity and belonging at all levels. Given the sensitive nature of this area, data security is an essential building block to promote trust with your people.
Plan your workforce with compassion.
People analytics is an increasingly important input for any organization’s workforce planning process, and most of us are doing a LOT of workforce planning these days. The economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced many organizations to make difficult choices about how to reduce costs while still retaining enough staff to function.
In previous crises, your company might have resorted to layoffs reflexively to avoid financial disaster. Today, with the right data, tools and people in place your people analytics team can help leaders consider a variety of initiatives that can help guide your organization forward through uncertainty and change, without the widespread and lasting impacts of mass layoffs.
How do I get there from here?
Recent HCI research suggests that, while the majority of organizations have made people analytics a major priority in recent years, at least 40% report they currently lack the resources necessary to build their people analytics capabilities.
This challenge largely breaks down into two categories: skills and tools. Regarding skills, you need people who know how to collect, integrate, clean, analyze and present data. And those people need the right tools and technology to get that work done effectively and quickly.
Cultivate the necessary skills.
While organizations are using a variety of methods to access the analytics skills they need, HCI research suggests that building needed capabilities and skills internally is far and away the favored method with 50% reporting they do it.
Invest in the right tools.
While a skilled people analytics team is essential, there is only so much they can achieve without enabling tools and technologies. Survey respondents indicate that inadequate technology, a lack of data integration within HR and with other business functions are top challenges to building people analytics capabilities in their organizations.
There are also an abundance of data and analytics tools in the market today. Having an understanding of landscape, how these systems protect your data and consume your HR transactions, how you interact with the tools, and what level of data preparation is required will be key to understanding whether or not your team will actually adopt and use the tool. Your core systems should have basic reporting and analytics capabilities to quickly and easily make sense of your data, and perhaps help you identify reporting gaps. BI tools can enrich reporting by ingesting external data sources to put alongside your core HR data, and providing more visualization capabilities. Augmented analytics technology leverages machine learning to surface insights and trends that might have gone unnoticed, in some cases providing those insights in natural language versus having to interpret numbers from reports and charts.
Honest analysis of the maturity of both your teams’ skills, and the tools you use today will allow you to make judicious, thoughtful investments in these areas, take your people analytics organization to the next level, and position you to take on the role of strategic business partner.
If you’re interested in learning more on this topic, click here to download this HCI/Workday research brief on how organizations like yours are developing their people analytics functions to take on the challenges of today and tomorrow.