Bringing HR Analytics to Life

ACEimageThe ability to work with data is now a core part of the HR practitioner’s skill set. “I work in HR, so don’t do spreadsheets” is no longer acceptable. But why is this the case, and why is a fluency in using data now so important?

This is my second blog post from the #CIPD15 conference and follows a session sponsored by Oracle on HR Analytics. Of course there was something of a focus on Oracle based examples, it would be naïve to have thought there wouldn’t be, but the discussion that followed the demonstrations was a really interesting update on where current expectations are in the level of data analysis we should be able to access and how to make the business case.

The Oracle session was three hours in total so I’m not going to attempt to capture all of what was covered. Instead, I’m going to share my own ‘bullets’ on the key messages I took from the session for the benefit of other delegates who, through an inability to be in two places at the same time, may have missed it.

  • We’ve got past confusing HR Analytics with HR Reporting. Static, structured reports, can inform the HR Analytics process but they are a small part of it. The analytics process is the consideration of the data in the reports, commentary on trends in the data and a narrative specifically designed to inform debate.
  • Although there is huge potential, we do ourselves a disservice by overselling HR Analytics. Introducing this capability will neither double our profits nor halve our costs. Instead, it will provide an evidence base for our business discussions and subsequent decision making. It will also potentially give us insights that we didn’t previously have allowing us to consider options in a more holistic way.
  • HR Analytics is a fluid way of working. This means that one discussion will raise questions that will require further data analysis and consideration. This means that instead of a standard HR report, a leadership team may never receive the same report twice – or certainly not in an identical format. The relevance of particular pieces of analysis will change over time. There is also a health warning here about HR analytics ‘systems’ which include pre-designed fixed reports. That’s great until you need something bespoke…
  • When moving into HR Analytics act small and quickly. An 18 month roll out of a project will never work as, once you are 12 months into it, the needs of the organisation will have changed. Small, tangible, but fast pieces of analysis will have much more impact.
  • For leaders who have not had an analytics capability before it can be difficult for them to imagine what it will feel like. We can help them with that by either piloting an approach or else simply presenting some manual data analysis which informs a discussion that they find useful. We don’t need to produce something revolutionary, we just need them in the first instance to become familiar and comfortable with what data driven people management discussions feel like.

The session leader from Oracle talked about the power of unstructured as well as structured data too. This is essentially another way of talking about quantitative and qualitative data. As I have said before on this blog, HR are uniquely well placed to lead on building analytics capabilities that are based on qualitative data and storytelling and it was great to hear a big company like Oracle embracing this too.

I will be blogging from #CIPD15 again tomorrow.

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