February 19, 2020 Continuous Improvement, HR Analytics, Human Resources

Part 2: What is Analytics and How is it Changing the Future of HR?

In Part 1 of “What is Analytics and How is it Changing the Future of HR?”, we learned how analytics is different from data, how cloud HCM software has the capability to employ analytics and how to decipher what pieces of information are most valuable. Now, you might be wondering how analytics applies to your role as an HR manager. Here, the Wise team continues the discussion about the immeasurable potential of HR analytics, and dispels any myths or general unease around analytics, with Eamon Mulholland, Senior Innovation Consultant with Wise Consulting.

What is My Role as an HR Business Partner?

HR professionals wear a lot of different hats. Mulholland believes that one of the biggest hats is supporting the human capital needs of business leaders. “Human capital needs run the gamut of the entire employee life cycle: recruiting, onboarding, development, payroll, and offboarding. So, it’s not uncommon for a business leader to come to their HR business partner with a problem that occurs at any point of the employee life cycle. When someone comes with a problem, you need to propose or find the solution most likely to solve the problem. It’s your job to make sure you understand what is at the heart of that problem. What you don’t want to do is make a rash decision that could have downstream impacts that make a problem worse. That would hurt your credibility. Going back to the scenario about a business leader making the decision to give raises to reduce turnover, if you give everyone raises and turnover does not improve, that decision could cost the company hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars based on size, scope and scale of the staff. That is why a thorough examination of different data points instead of just one is so valuable. If you had been able to make the determination that it was actually leadership working to improve employee engagement that would reduce the rate of turnover, then that would be an incredible add. When you can use data to support your instincts, that is powerful.”

Is it Possible to Rely Too Much on Analytics?

Mulholland is clear on this point. “No, and the reason I say no is because analytics should be used to validate things. You are making data-driven decisions. It would be hard to overuse analytics, but it can be used irresponsibly. If you are solely making decisions based on one data point, or not digging through the layers of data to see the full picture, you’re in trouble. But if you are validating multiple points of data, it goes back to measurement. You must go back and measure whether the decision you made based on your data discoveries had the desired impact. It’s ongoing, not a one and done thing. You must be consistent and commit to looking at the same things on a regular basis because you want to understand how they are changing over time. The question always must be, even as goals shift and nimble pivots are required, are the decisions you are making having the impact you wanted and that matter most to your organization. Analytics helps you answer that question.”

Is Analytics Helping to Make Employees Happier?

Feedback that is unique to your company’s employees and gives insight into what matters most to them even as those markers change over time is like gold. Having the ability to look at employee satisfaction by segments sliced any way you want to view them, by age, by gender, by level of education, date of hire, business area, or any other factor can instruct how to keep employee engagement and satisfaction high. It can let you know what employees value most and which new tools will most directly impact their on-the-job happiness.  “Analytics doesn’t just affect senior leaders, it can ultimately drive the employee experience.” Mulholland says. “Again though, it’s about making sure you are digging in to get the whole picture. If you do a survey about onboarding, and it tells you that 90% of employees think the process is good, it would be easy to congratulate yourself and move on. There’s the chance though, that it’s kind of a false positive and there is hidden information in that 10% that might impact future hiring success. What if the 10% who think the onboarding process is terrible are all new hires. That picture is very different.”

Making changes to the onboarding process based on what you’ve discovered alienated recent new hires, you might reasonably assume the new people who come on after that will be happier with the process. But wouldn’t it be better if you could prove it by conducting another survey down the line that measured employee satisfaction with onboarding? Looking at the same information with new input from people who came onboard after the changes were made would be revealing. Either the changes worked, or they didn’t. You don’t have to guess or go by gut-instinct. You have solid evidence.

Consistency at looking at data points over time as well as knowing how to thoroughly read the data you capture are keys to utilizing analytics to improve employee satisfaction.

This Sounds like a lot of Work – Are Analytics Going to Suck up a Ton of my Time?

Managing company analytics could definitely be a full-time job. But as Mulholland points out, that’s not an option for most companies. Many organizations opt to start small and measure the value analytics brings before committing more resources. “You can go as shallow or deep into analytics as you want to or is required by the problem and your goal. The deeper you go, the more likely you are to make an accurate determination of what your challenges are on any given issue.” However deep you choose to wade in, Mulholland cautions that you follow best practices:

  • Be focused about what you want to achieve so you can gather good data.
  • Be consistent in what you are measuring, and how you are tracking and managing the data.
  • Be strategic about which data capture you add on over time – it should tie onto organizational goals.
  • Dig through the layers of data to get the full picture and review post-change data to see if the desired results were obtained.

When it Comes to Analytics, Wise Consulting Has Your Back

“If you want to do it right, you’re playing the long game. The data you collect and analyze depends on what problems you are trying to solve. Is it going to take 3 months, 6 months or years to really discover what impact is being made? If you keep changing your questions, goals, and points of data you are tracking, you can’t play the long game. You can add to data but not fundamentally change it. Because if data is a moving target, you can’t tell if things are getting worse or better.”

Mulholland believes that, by investing in analytics, HR is fundamentally re-aligning their function within an organization. “By moving the HR role toward being a business partner, you are adding a lot more strategic value to the organization.”

Click here to read Part 1 of our two-part series, “What is Analytics and How is it Changing the HR Game?” If you have questions about analytics or how to optimize the analytics tools you already have available through your HCM system, Wise Consulting can help.

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