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HR analytics process: Ask better questions

Every HR trend report I have read this year has a focus on analytics and data as one of the top 5 trends. Having helped this field emerge over the last 5 years this was rewarding to see. At the same time I was struck by the gap between the level of expectation about the returns from HR analytics and the current level of practice that we see. In short, to meet the expectations of business leaders in relation to HR analytics we are going to need to get very focused and very effective, quickly.

One of the ways we can bring this about is to look at the analytics process and determine how we move forward. The simplest way to look at analytics is to see it as a way to answer important questions relating to your organization. The better the questions, the better the answers.

Putting this in to practice, many HR measurement practices answer the question; “What are we doing?”  Hence they report on things such as the number of hires, absence rates, spend on HR etc. They provide the answer to the question about activity.

Changing the question, changes the process of finding the answer and can provide more useful insight. For example if we start to ask “How are we doing?” we would look at vacancy rates and absence rates relative to our competitors to determine if we are more effective in this area than others. What we learn can then either be used as a source of advantage or a goal to drive improvement. It also moves us from measuring activity to measuring outcomes. The question drives the process which then supports a more effective outcome.

The types of questions that we need to answer in HR include:

What outcomes are we driving which contribute to organizational success?”

What do we need to know and do to manage talent risks?”

What talent skills and capabilities do we need to develop to grow future organizational success?”

Answering these questions using research and data as opposed to intuition, will start to bring the types of results organizational leaders are looking for.

There are great opportunities for significant returns from a higher investment in HR analytics and better practice in this area. The trends spotters have identified 2013 as the year this field really takes off. Let’s hope they are right! At the same time we need to improve our practices to improve the results. The place to start when you are looking for better answers is with better questions.

Unfortunately, due to work obligations, this will be my last blog post for First Reference Talks. Thank you to all of you who have kept up with me and my posts.

Ian J. Cook, CHRP
HR Metrics Service

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Ian J Cook

Director, Product Management at Visier Analytics
Ian J. Cook MA, MBA, CHRP, continues to pursue a fascination for people and business. His quest to understand what it takes for organizations, and the people in them, to thrive has led to many fantastic career stages. Ian has been an entrepreneur, an operational manager and spent 10 years, consulting to some of the World’s leading companies. Read more
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