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Are you ready for the #HRdata revolution?

Posted on from Frazer Jones

Caroline Gentles, associate director, HRIS & HR analytics at Frazer Jones speaks with Sky's director of people, Ralph Tribe. They discuss how HR has evolved – and why data continues to play a vital role.

As HR data and technology evolves, we are seeing more and more of our clients investing in their HR insight and information systems infrastructure.

Practically, this not only helps to improve their collection and analysis of data around their employees, but also ensures they are able to diagnose and interpret talent trends within their business and drive top performance from their people.

One of the globally recognised market leaders in this space is Ralph Tribe, and we were lucky enough to catch up with him recently and get his views:

How has HR evolved over the last decade?

Over the past 14 years there has been a lot of excitement around the Ulrich model (business partnering, centres of excellence etc.), but I get the sense this has run its course and you’re starting to get new macro-influences coming into play and these in turn start to disrupt existing HR models.

One of these disrupting factors is the emergence of big data – as both an idea and a reality – and we’re starting to see this have a major impact on HR.

Why are HR data and insights so important to a business?

HR data is being used to turn human behaviour into a more quantifiable science. In the same way that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. offer new opportunities for businesses to understand how human beings think and act as consumers, new HR tools and applications present new opportunities – through the data and analytics they provide – for HR and business professionals trying to better understand how the people in their organisations think and act as employees. And that is obviously really useful if you’re trying to develop an HR strategy.

When thinking about HR data analytics and how best to create value from it I tend to break it down into three components of a process. The What? The Why? and The Action!

The What being the MI reporting (the facts), The Why being the analytics of why the facts are as they are, and The Action being what you’re going to do about it. For example; an increase in turnover is The What, the reasons for it are The Why, the plan to address the issues is The Action.

All of this is fairly obvious, and this process is hardly rocket science, but it’s surprising how many organisations are still stuck on simply collecting data around The What. If you look at the time most HR functions are spending on this, while the balance of time should be being spent on The Why and The Action most of it is still devoted to the What; simply gathering the facts. But that creates little value on its own.

One way out of this dilemma is to forget all the facts you have today and start again. HR Professionals should start by simply working out, say, five pressing people issues in their organisation. Then gather the facts (data) in relation to them, but then devote the majority of their effort on establishing why the facts are as they are and what could be done to improve on the situation; where do we have the best/worst retention levels and why? What are engagement levels like in this underperforming area of the business and why etc.

That’s a good start but what technology is also making increasingly possible is the idea of ‘predictive’ people analytics. Getting ahead of a problem or opportunity before it has actually occurred. For example, using new survey and analytics tools it’s now possible to build an engagement profile for people most likely to leave the organisation, identify high potential employees with that profile, and then (hypothetically) act on their concerns before they actually resign. This is so valuable, and it’s increasingly possible to organisations who invest wisely in a good HRIS platform, good tools, and their MI analytics function.

What advice would you give to other HR directors on HR analytics?

  • Start small. Start with the questions you want answered and work out what data you need to answer them
  • Collect a smaller amount of relevant data rather than drowning your thinking in too much data
  • Invest in some (warehouse-like) tools that allows you to pull data and from disparate sources, then analyse it
  • Experiment – appreciate that not every enquiry you make is going to result in an obvious solution. Have some patience and some faith
  • When answers do become evident, as they will to many lines of enquiry, then make sure you act upon them before asking a whole load more questions!

What do you look for in your top HR analysts?

  • Structured analytical mind – mathematical and data orientated
  • Strong problem solver and ability to map trends
  • Strong communication and presentation skills – data isn’t terribly useful unless it can be presented in an easily understood and compelling way
  • Relationship ability/team-player – even well presented data isn’t terribly useful unless you can work with people to understand it better and act upon it

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