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HRD Roundtable Report: Using HR Data to Inform Organisational Decision Making

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Historically, HR hasn’t been as effective as it could be in sharing and communicating data with wider teams. It’s paramount that we remove the self-inflicting barriers within the function, to question, challenge, and measure all HR activities. With the end goal being a dream HR data strategy, many are left asking which data points they […]

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Historically, HR hasn’t been as effective as it could be in sharing and communicating data with wider teams. It’s paramount that we remove the self-inflicting barriers within the function, to question, challenge, and measure all HR activities. With the end goal being a dream HR data strategy, many are left asking which data points they should be using? How do you start an impactful people analytics function? And ultimately, how do you build a data-driven decision-making culture?

On Wednesday 13th April 2022, HRD Connect hosted a group of senior HR and people leaders to discuss these questions in a virtual roundtable that was led by Kinsey Li, Assistant Director, HR Analytics at EY and supported by Teri Atif, Divisional Head of GTM Marketing, Access Group.

The group shared how HR data insights, if fully utilised, can influence the agility of the wider business, giving an organisation the capabilities to deliver on its key values and objectives. The session was conducted under Chatham House Rules so while this write-up will include key discussion points and takeaways, all participants are anonymised.

What data points are HR leaders currently using?

The key data points roundtable participants shared that they prioritised were headcount, recruitment (cost per hire, and time to hire), and productivity (absentee rate, revenue per employee). Employee engagement and well-being, for many, used to be a ‘nice to have’, but are now the metrics that are front and centre for the majority of HR leaders.

HR Data Challenges

The group highlighted that regardless of what data you’re collecting, it’s only good if it’s accurate. The biggest challenge sits in the time and resources needed to cleanse data to ensure there are no errors, requiring more emphasis to be placed on the planning phase.

A clear data ownership process from the offset will negate the need to cleanse data. One participant highlighted, HR can at times overlook the importance of the processes behind the data, specifically in terms of how systems are set up. If your processes are slick, and people are trained to understand the data, how it’s used, and its purpose that is when its true power is realised.

Another participant shared that they’d been struggling to get their budgets to align with their recruitment data, causing a huge burden on time and resources to reach the level of confidence necessary. As a result, their finance and HR functions spent 6 months working with a business analyst team to fundamentally shift their budget process so they could access information that was live fuelling transparency for business and hiring managers.

For others, the interpretation of data proves the most challenging. Measuring it simply isn’t enough, HR needs to be able to draw insights and correlations from the data they have. Others divulged that their struggle is effective benchmarking outside of their organisations, notably, whether the challenges they’re facing with data are unique to them.

Starting a people analytics function

For those who have started exploring or even building a people analytics function, one unanswered question persists; which function does this new team best sit in? The group discussed that the function can sit in multiple places, and its home is often defined by the skills and resources your organisation holds. For instance, some will leverage the benefits of it sitting alongside data science if a company holds a strong team internally. Company maturity and how well you’re using data across the business also play a key role.

One roundtable participant, who was further along their journey to establishing a people analytics function noted that once this function is built, it opens up the door for other teams to request to see your data. It’s important to sit back and ask why they need it; do they understand the data? If they don’t then the insight they take from it simply won’t align with the story you see the data telling.

Highlighting the value of people analytics

The group moved on to discuss what pieces of information they’ve taken to their leadership team to highlight the value of a people analytics team. One participant shared that the metric they’ve focused on here is ‘time to fill’, notably, how to hire fast and hire right. The focus for this individual and their company goes further to include retention and performance which they shared gave an interesting insight into the capabilities of internal vs external candidates. This has allowed them to streamline the hiring process so they’re at a stage where they have full transparency on their pockets of good and bad. Another participant shared that the metric they’ve focused most heavily on is length of service and, thus experience. Having flipped the metric slightly, they used this to look at potential risks to the business and where they would be most vulnerable to individuals leaving with key skills.

As an outcome of the pandemic, the group agreed that they all focus much more heavily on employee experience than ever before. Previously, most would only conduct one employee satisfaction survey a year, whereas, this is now reported almost weekly. It can go as far as changing the DNA of a company’s culture as employees have an appetite to complete these surveys and see results in real-time. The premise of such surveys is now so broad, that it’s often a key objective for every board member and holds a space on their monthly agendas.

Creating a data driven decision making culture

When it comes to the sophistication of data reporting in HR, in terms of what and why we’re measuring certain analytics, it can often not be as thorough as required. HR can struggle with securing the necessary skillsets, with many lacking the confidence in interpreting data. This can lead to a lack of credibility if the data isn’t delivering the intended impact, the group agreed.

One participant highlighted that to truly drive a data-driven culture, a people analytics team needs to be seamlessly joined up with the rest of the HR function with a clear strategy on what KPIs your analytics is supporting you on. This is incremental as if the KPIs aren’t being hit, it’s then possible to strategise in terms of capabilities, and skill gaps to meet said performance targets.

The group’s closing remarks touched on the marketing function, and how we can learn a lot from their reporting processes as they audit almost every line of their activity. Human behaviour is at the center of both marketing and HR’s success. Data has had a transformational impact on marketing allowing organisations to understand and predict people’s needs and behaviours. HR can mirror this by putting more science into its decision-making around talent, people and performance. That means seizing the opportunity presented by big data to get better evidence for HR strategy.

As a function, HR isn’t lacking data, but they are in terms of the systems and capabilities needed to extract insight. Investing in the right HR technology, will not only answer the majority of your burning questions, but also take the burden off.


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