In March 2022, I gave a presentation to the CIPD Fellows and Senior People Professionals network in London. This article contains the slides from the talk and a summary of my thoughts.
A video from the presentation will be available soon.
What is People Analytics?
A common thread of the HR teams that we work with (in organisations of all sizes) is that they don't feel confident working with data. What makes them all similar is that they want to do more with the employee data and help their leaders make informed decisions. HR teams need new skills and technology to help them answer the questions they're asked and to help them lead conversations with their stakeholders.
There are many ways to describe People Analytics. We find that our conversations tend to fall into two areas.
Management reports don't always feel like an exciting part of People Analytics, but they are the backbone of HR data reporting. Most organisations have opportunities to improve how they create and communicate their existing reports. Creating these reports is often a manual process and can be time-consuming and cumbersome - particularly if they are required every month or even every week.
Most organisations can improve the creation and delivery of reports to reduce the effort required from the HR team, improve accuracy and deliver the reports more frequently.
Analysis & insight
People Analytics can help your organisation's decision-makers move from making decisions based on gut feeling to ones based on information and evidence.
- Combining data from multiple sources.
- Uncovering hidden insight such as trends in data.
- Segmenting data, for example, by location or role seniority.
- Looking for patterns in your data.
Management reports and more advanced Analysis are closely related. Improvements in one area will deliver benefits to both. Automating your management report processes will support your insights; better insights will help you enhance your management reports.
Uses for People Analytics
All functional areas of HR can benefit from People Analytics. The skills and technology required to support People Analytics can feel complex and scary, but the fundamental question is a simple one - what problems are you trying to solve?
- What HR data can I provide that someone will find useful?
- How can you ensure the processes to create reports don't become all-consuming?
Every functional area of HR can benefit from improved data, analytics and reporting. Improved reporting can help performance management by informing your leadership development plans; risks mitigated around disciplinaries and grievances; recruitment costs can be better managed and controlled.
For example, how does your time to hire vary across the organisation or by seniority level? Are your recruitment processes supporting successful decision making? Looking at failed hire levels, trends and comparisons can provide this insight.
Major transformation projects such as Redundancy Programmes, High-volume Recruitment Initiatives and Mergers/Acquisitions often require People Analytics.
People Analytics can help define the programme requirements, identify the options for delivery (and their impacts) and track the implementation.
When looking for ways in which People Analytics can help your organisation, considering the fundamental objectives for the business can provide direction inspiration.
What is your organisation looking to achieve in the medium-term? What are the goals communicated by the leadership team?
An example we frequently see is an organisation's desire to improve diversity. People Analytics can provide the detail behind the headline figures and help support improvement programmes.
We often hear that HR people want to be more strategic, or that they want their "seat at the table". People Analytics provides a way for HR Business Partners to lead the conversations with their department heads. Senior HR leaders can have more informed conversations with the leadership team. Move from making recommendations based on instinct towards advice guided by empirical data.
Delivering bad news becomes more straightforward when you have data to support your opinions and proposed strategies.
Delivering a People Analytics project
The delivery of any successful project relies on people, technology and process.
A common concern we hear is that HR teams don't have the right skills to deliver a people analytics project. In reality, many existing skills are fundamental to successful people analytics.
Stakeholder management, for example, is where HR teams commonly excel. Understanding the possibilities of what people analytics can deliver is an opportunity to improve for many HR teams.
Consider what skills are needed within your permanent team, and what skills can be made available to you when required from external suppliers such as ourselves. For example, complex analysis and data management skills are often better managed by external specialists rather than within the HR team.
Communicating the story is an essential skill for HR team members working with data. Knowing how to present information to convey the data's message is critical.
The technical aspects of people analytics can feel overwhelming to HR teams. Technology discussions can be simplified into three elements: data acquisition, analysis and presentation.
It can be helpful to automate the processes for acquiring the data from one or more systems into a place where the data can be analysed. This also provides the foundation for automating any early processing or data-cleansing that is usually required. Keep in mind security considerations and teams you should work with (such as IT or InfoSec).
Various tools exist to help present data to your audience to communicate your stories effectively. Creating charts in Excel and exporting them to PowerPoint slide decks is straightforward but can become time-consuming. An alternative strategy that we often use is to use tools such as Power BI that allow managers and leaders to interact with the reports you create to make them relevant to their needs.
Successfully delivering complex and technical projects is challenging for many reasons. The delivery of software projects has valuable lessons for HR project delivery.
An agile delivery model of delivering early and delivering often can help mitigate the risks of complexity and uncertain requirements. This approach encourages feedback and open communication. Discussions are much easier when there's something tangible to review.
Consider the full-project lifecycle, from idea to testing, delivery and ongoing maintenance (when change requests are received). Many valuable tools and techniques from the software development world exist to help.
An early proof of concept can be invaluable for demonstrating value and developing the business case.
Wherever you are on the journey, you should feel positive about what you have done and the opportunities to do more. Focus on what you can improve on, and what more you can do.
People ask us how to get executive buy-in (or business case approval) for a People Analytics project. Think about what you’re delivering; what are the business benefits (rather than selling People Analytics on its own merit).
Team skills are a common concern. Think about what you want permanently in your team and what you can out-source. HR teams tend to be very strong at knowing their business. If they understand the possibilities of PA, they can deliver the most value.
To deliver a successful project, think about how you’re managing data at scale and complexity. And how you will make it repeatable when someone falls in love with what you provide. An agile approach can help: deliver in bite-sized chunks and invite early stakeholder feedback.
We help organisations of all sizes plan and implement people analytics.
Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss how we can help you.
Helen Ramsey is responsible for strategy and operations at viewpointbi.com. Her focus is data and technology within HR. She writes regular articles on people data and analytics.