3rd May 2020

Six ways workforce analytics are vital for organisational growth

Technology can aid better workforce decision-making through improved data availability, more effective analysis and more transparent sharing with key stakeholders

Artificial intelligence (AI) and data are two of the fastest growing talent trends with real-time workforce analytics and, according to Julie Chell, Chief People Officer at Civica, the access to data, “is now expected rather than a nice to have.” She adds: “I always view an HR system as a critical business system that holds people data rather than a system for the HR function. This helps leaders to make informed business decisions by having the right data easily and readily available.”

Efficient management of data can transform relationships between leaders and employees, leading to improved engagement and, crucially, can free up time and resources for HR professionals to focus on transformational activities.

But there are challenges for the industry too. The CIPD’s 2018 global research report, People Analytics, showed that 77% of global HR professionals said they had the confidence to use data at a basic level such as calculating means and modes, averages and distributions. But that figure dropped sharply to 41% when it came to the more predictive use of analytics.

“That gulf is a real challenge,” says Edward Houghton, Head of Research and Thought Leadership at the CIPD. “But through our new profession map we’ve developed new resources to improve HR professionals’ confidence and capability.”

Integration supports transformation

Organisations are looking for far more data integration across all their operations with systems that can talk to one another. 

At St Faith’s independent school in Cambridge, bursar Richard Brent uses Civica HR & Payroll to link to his own organisation’s Management Information System (MIS) which aids his quest for, “a single version of the truth”. Connecting business systems not only eliminates the inefficiencies and inaccuracies associated with double-entering data, but enables improved data insight to drive more effective strategies.

For Sue Elliott, HR Director at the Bristol-based Trust in Learning Academies (TILA), the cost savings from integrating HR and payroll with the organisation’s MIS were significant. “Total savings in the first year were £145,000 across our schools,” she said. “In addition, the schools’ business managers have more time to focus on more strategic improvements to teaching and learning, which are vital to our transformation agenda.”

How to create a more open dialogue

The availability of real-time data can increase transparency and clarity and help create a more open dialogue between business leaders and employees. 

People Analytics reported that 75% of HR professionals said they were using data to tackle low levels of performance or productivity. 

For Elliott and her multi-academy trust, real-time information about employee absences allows her to bring in the right supply teachers to cover lessons. She can also report on the actual hourly cost of staff absence.

Brent believes this type of information “changes mindsets” as employees can often under-estimate their own number of absences. 

It’s all about the people

Any data-driven culture needs to keep people at its heart and businesses must ask themselves how their employees can benefit at the start of every people analytics project. 

A fully integrated, transparent HR and payroll platform provides business leaders with access to ad-hoc, ‘self-service’ reporting, , supporting engagement and improved business decisions. “As well as increasing trust and transparency across the organisation, this helps everyone to feel like part of TILA, no matter which school they work at,” says Elliott.

Access and compliance

The focus is on better access and management of data, making the capture and reporting of data as easy as possible. It’s important to create environments where big data can be stored. An efficient HR database can assist with GDPR compliance by, for example, automatically deleting records of job applicants at the correct time rather than risk human error causing a compliance issue.

According to People Analytics, 74% of HR professionals said they used data to look at basic workforce operations.

Schools are required by Ofsted or, in the case of St Faith’s, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, to have a ‘single central record of appointments’ which is fundamental to safeguarding. “It can’t have any gaps,” explains Brent, adding that, in the past, this would have been a laboriously updated spreadsheet. 

Retention and recruitment

Advancing technologies will play an increasing role in the HR function as it becomes more data driven. This will include initial recruitment practices and onboarding, through to development and progress, all as a way of attracting and retaining the top talent. Access to third-party data sources – salary benchmarking, eRecruitment, LinkedIn, Indeed – will be key. 

For Brent, being able to present a Total Benefits/Rewards Statement can also play a key role in recruitment, helping to entice the great people his organisation wants. “A company is only as successful as its people,” he adds. “If you've got great people, then you're hopefully onto something. To attract great people, you've got to look professional from the outset because great people are not going to work for an average company. When they come for an interview, they're looking at you as much as you're looking at them.”

The holy grail of the holistic approach

The ultimate goal, according to Houghton, is for people analytics to be business focused. He explains: “It’s important HR uses business issues when it’s conducting analytics projects because that’s one way to build the reputation of the function. 

“We need to become more accustomed to using data in our decision making and improve our reputation among other professions. If we can do that, we’ll be able to influence senior decision-making much more effectively because we’ll be seen as a trusted source of insights.”

This article was first published by People Management.