Can your HR function impact your organization’s bottom line? And more importantly, can you prove it? The ability to correlate business outcomes (cost savings, revenue growth, return to shareholders, etc.) to HR initiatives remains one of the greatest challengers to HR leaders today.
This topic was addressed at length at the recent People Analytics World conference which I attended on the 11th/12th April. At its core, workforce analytics allows organisations to have an evidenced-based view of the effectiveness of people processes. Too often, organisations run on gut feel at the leadership level and make assumptions around people management processes such as progression, retention and engagement. Workforce analytics marks a new chapter of human capital decisions backed up by data insights.
It wasn’t a surprise that the majority of talks across the two days centered on finding the true business value in people analytics. Connecting the dots between workforce data collection and the strategic vision of leadership, company mission, values and goals is no easy task.
It starts with asking the right questions. Go back to the most basic meaning derivation techniques you’ve been taught: the Five Whys. Keep asking why until you get to the fundamental reason. Common problem statements might encompass low productivity, low engagement, or lack of innovation. But are these fundamental business reasons to embark on people analytics? Go one step further – ask yourself what business outcomes you’re trying to impact. Revenue growth? Future value? And then ask why again... increased return to shareholders? Preparing your workforce for a strategic shift to digital? Through repeatedly asking why, workforce analytics no longer solves people problems but starts to address tangible business outcomes.
Once the right questions have been identified it’s vital to cut through any noise surrounding the problem. Our own Carol Cohen from Cognizant spoke about tackling the gender imbalance at senior levels within Cognizant through workforce analytics. She started by breaking down assumptions that were floating around the company – debunking the myths that had arisen from gut feel. Once these were proven false through data analysis, it is far easier to focus on finding the true cause of the issue. This ultimately ensures that your solution, at the end of the day, will have the desired impact. It also engrains an evidence-based mind-set into company culture.
Finally: speak the language of the business. Unilever’s Nicky Clement spoke about storytelling – how to translate insight into action. A very clear message was addressed over and over: data with no analysis is meaningless. Insights with no action are meaningless. Through effective storytelling, data can turn into action. One nugget of advice prevailed above all else: speak the language of the business. Once again, address business values. Be relevant.
Workforce analytics not only has the power to transform people processes, but drive real value for the whole business. Deriving meaning from employee data does not limit the results to the individual employee experience alone. But with this at its core, there will inevitably be concerns around data collection and privacy. The final message from last week, in the wise words of Rumi:
“Move, but don’t move the way fear makes you move”
Whilst there were nods to data privacy and one fantastic talk from Ben Waber of Humanyze on the subject, overall I was pleased to be part of a room that wasn’t tripping over the fear that data privacy issues are causing. It really says something that the leading thinkers, academics and businesses applying people analytics successfully are not letting themselves get caught in the data privacy storm. They’re looking forward at the potential, the benefits that can be realised – not just for the individual, but for the entire organisation. The focus is not convincing people to allow data collection, but proving that the future success of an organisation relies on data and analytics in the workplace. Workforce analytics is moving beyond HR.