Tenet #8: People Analytics

by | Apr 13, 2017

Data and analytics has become the Holy Grail among conference titles and trade publications.   Whether in the form of genome sequencing or much smaller (the type found in tracking attrition rates for a department), the potential for uncovering valuable information has many professionals hunting for digital tools – especially those in HR.

According to Josh Bersin in Predictions for 2016 – A Bold New World of Talent, Learning, Leadership, and HR Technology Ahead (Deloitte 2016) “Companies are hiring heads of people analytics, building teams, and replacing HR platforms with the singular goal of creating a meaningful and useful database of information about their people.” The surge underway is no small wave, as expressed in the following statistic…

7 out of 10 Surveyed Want Integrated Data and Analytics

Technological advances make gathering and interpreting information more doable.  Creating a knowledge repository about the people that work with you, their experiences, career trajectories, and even their opinions, creates a treasure trove for any organization.  In other words, the analytics of people becomes an asset which can be used for solving business problems that can span the spectrum from identification of a leader pipeline to better allocation of people resources across projects.

In effect, decision making can now move from best guesses and probability matrices to what some have referred to as “choice architecture”—to take the information gleaned through data capturing and give employees options of what to do – choices that are designed to lead to better outcomes. As Bersin writes “Rather than letting people jump from job to job, for example, we can give people two or three next job options for each position, proven to be effective through data. We can teach people how to better spend their time by giving them the option to ‘skip meetings’ and other techniques, all based on analytics models.”

While people analytics is on the rise, there is no minimizing the heft associated with the undertaking. Besides finding the right HR system, the endeavor demands a dedicated team, a strong champion, and buy-in across functions and disciplines. It also requires making the business case compelling when looking for data.  Before embarking on the analytics crusade, there must be justification in the results being sought, and how findings can bring significant benefit, or course correction. In other words, collecting analytics for the sake of gathering data on people is a no-go in any one’s book.

There is, however, other rationale which may prompt your internal debate about the merits of gathering and analyzing data.  By way of example, a company can:

  • Track roles and responsibilities of project teams when assessing resource allocation across departments to generate smarter assignments.
  • Prove that high potential staff are consistently rated in key behaviors making it easier to identify better professional development and succession planning programs.
  • Demonstrate that by focusing on engineering candidates with certain characteristics in their LinkedIn profiles, the ability to accurately recruit top people is more likely.
  • Analyze ratings and commentary in feedback surveys in order to coach managers on specific techniques with the aim of driving higher levels of performance.

The majority of the large ERP vendors now feature analytics tools.  And, many of the standalone analytics vendors are offering modeling and analysis tools touted for ease-of-use. Even cloud-based analytics vendors are offering “retention prediction” tools and “sentiment* analysis” tools that can pinpoint trouble spots, bottle necks or less than lackluster performance. At the end of the day, these digital tools can deliver real data (and in real-time) which can take some of the squishiness out of the important decisions associated with hiring, managing, coaching and rewarding people.

Bottom Line? Don’t underestimate the value of data and analytics. It is a topic that will have increasing significance in all aspects of your organization, including those in HR. You may want to think about asking your ERP vendor about their analytic tools, or look for an easy to navigate stand-alone that gets you the metrics desired. In either case, it is a worthy consideration for building out your digital toolbox.

*Sentiment analysis is the process of computationally identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text, especially in order to determine whether the writer’s attitude towards a particular topic, product, etc., is positive, negative, or neutral.

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Victoria Tucker

Co-Founder / CEO, ZBglobal, Inc.

Victoria Tucker is the Chief Dreamer at ZBglobal, where she lends her 30+ years of experience on pivotal topics like workforce collaboration, engagement, mentoring and project management. She also plays ukulele…but not very well. Reach out to her!