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Workforce analytics – Five reasons why HR should take the leap

Author’s note: This post is an excerpt from the eBook: Workforce Analytics for Human Resources

Over the past couple of years there has been a growing emphasis on the need for HR to get serious about workforce analytics. This is often presented to HR Leaders as a fait accompli—that is, data and analytics are the new wave and HR simply needs to get on board. While this is true, it’s helpful to look at why this is important.

Here are five compelling reasons HR Leaders really should take the leap to workforce analytics.

1. Executives are demanding ROI

Like other business lines, HR is being asked for the ROI of its activities. Investments in HR technology, programs and people development have increased and HR Leaders need to answer the question—are these investments paying off? There is a real need to reliably track spend and demonstrate the value it brings to the organization. This is a great opportunity to showcase the organizational impact of HR and insert (and assert) yourself in discussions based on ROI and business outcomes.

Analytics applied to the workforce can help you demonstrate the connections between the activities of HR and business outcomes. It is a powerful and quick way to bring together all aspects of people data in a way that makes it easy to understand and communicate. When you can make connections across the activities of HR and people performance, you are able to see areas where investments are reaping rewards and identify those in need of optimization.

2. The success of your company depends on HR

Let’s not beat around the bush, people power the business. And in HR, it’s your job to ensure that the right people are placed in the right positions at the right time. Not only that but you are responsible for ensuring the right conditions exist for these people to achieve (and exceed) personal and organizational goals. HR groups that do this successfully are rewarded with better performance and outcomes for the business. To do your job most effectively you need access to the people data—and not just the data at your fingertips now or housed in those silos and spreadsheets. You need connections and integration across all the people data—demographics, learning, turnover, recruitment, engagement, performance, Quality of Hire, compensation, and so on. This brings holistic understanding of the people side of the business.

3. Data rich but insight poor

There’s no question HR is data rich. However, if you’re like the majority, the reality is, despite all the data, you’re insight poor. And that’s not good enough. Other groups in the business like marketing, sales, and finance are light years ahead—they come to the table with meaningful metrics and analytics that stimulate conversation and drive action.

Why are so many in HR still stuck in operational reporting and summarized metrics of the efficiency of HR processes—things like headcount, count of hires, turnover, average salary, etc.? There are lots of valid reasons why some are stuck here (and in a future blog, we’ll talk about how to get un-stuck) but it’s no longer an acceptable place to be—these summarized metrics have limited value to Executives. They want outcome metrics and they want results that matter to the business.

There is more HR data being collected than ever before. Recruiting, HRIS, Performance, and Learning systems have an abundance of data, social media measures are increasing in sophistication and volume, and there are additional sources of data including referrals, surveys and business results that live outside HR. The bad news is these data sets live in separate systems or in complex spreadsheets. The good news is analytics can bring together all this data and start connecting the dots for rich insight. Once the data is connected there is virtually no limit to the insight you can gain.

4. HR leaders – Yes, you!

Another reason you should get involved in workforce analytics is… you! We’re willing to bet you didn’t get into HR to focus on transactions and process, and to talk about static numbers in a report. We’re willing to bet you’re interested in more. HR analytics is one way you can elevate your game and have some fun while doing it. You don’t have to be an analytics guru yourself either, you can leave that to experts in the field. If you think about it, leveraging analytics in HR gives you a fantastic opportunity to elevate your thinking and your doing within the organization. Analytics integrates detail, analysis, creativity, business acumen and communication all in one activity—it engages both right and left brain. Rather than focusing on numbers and transactions, you can start telling the compelling people story rich in context and evidence-based. Doesn’t that sound more fun and a great way to make HR strategic?

5. All the cool kids are doing it

It goes against everything our parents taught us and everything we tell our kids, but in this case it may just be worth following the leaders off that cliff, roof or bridge. If you check out who you’re following before you leap, you’ll realize pretty quickly it’s an action worth taking. In fact, as you take that first step off, look down and you’ll see the likes of industry leaders from Harvard Business Review, Bersin by Deloitte, SHRM in the Wall Street Journal, and Aberdeen Group are already part way along. Look around some more and you’ll see a number of progressive leaders in HR from companies such as JOEY Restaurant Group, LoyaltyOne, QuickPlay Media, and the National Gallery of Canada. Every single one of these leaders will tell you it’s worth the leap.


So there you have it… five reasons to get started with workforce analytics NOW. Not just because Big Data is all the rage but because workforce analytics is the foundation for deep understanding, evidence-based decision making, greater influence and a more dynamic and proactive HR.

It’s your workforce data. You should use it.

Lynne Russell
VP Research & Insights, PeopleInsight

Lynne is a corporate anthropologist—and, over the past 15 years, has had some pretty cool gigs in the consumer and employee space. With PeopleInsight clients, Lynne spends her time conducting focus groups, interviews, online immersions and ethnography. Through qualitative research with employees, Lynne unearths the experiences, beliefs and behaviours that, when combined with the numbers, tell a rich and full story. Read more about PeopleInsight below.

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PeopleInsight Workforce Analytics

Workforce Analytics at PeopleInsight
John Pensom is CEO of PeopleInsight with 20 years’ experience in the "people" business and gained deep knowledge in how technology, information and analytics drives business and culture change. PeopleInsight is a Canadian company delivering cloud-based workforce and business analytics; it connects and unlocks traditionally disparate HR, talent, engagement, business results and external market data to deliver rich insight through analytics in clear, visually appealing and actionable ways. Read more
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