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How can analytics help employee engagement?

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Changeboard's roundtable in association with IBM put analytics and employee engagement under the spotlight.

While organisations have a grasp of employee engagement, they are eager to look beyond the annual engagement survey and measure employee views more frequently. But do businesses have the right capabilities within HR to analyse the data from employee feedback and translate this into strategic action? This was the theme of the latest roundtable discussion for HR leaders, held under Chatham House rule, in association with IBM.

For Patrick Gilbert, organisational research and advanced analytics consultant at IBM, organisations that are doing a great job with big data are rare because they are not hiring data scientists or
analysts. “Businesses need to hire people who can interpret data that management can accept and take action on,” he told the group.

For Gilbert, an essential requirement of the HR director is talking the language of the finance director. “With advanced analytics, it is easier for you to link organisational performance and subsequently establish ROI,” he said.

But most organisations are at the beginning of their analytics journey. The group agreed that HR teams can often be siloed in terms of skillsets, with teams unsure which questions to ask. “We have increased engagement but it’s difficult to see how that has affected the rest of the business,” said one delegate, adding that embarking on a successful analytics journey involves a mindset change, away from seeing HR as a cost centre towards seeing it as a profit centre.

“You can throw technology at it but if you don’t have the skills in the team, it can be problematic,” added another attendee. “Do organisations trust HR to manage this sort of data?” Gilbert emphasised the importance of the human element in data and analytics. He acknowledged that data is not there to replace human interaction, but rather to tell stories – by predicting behaviour such as staff turnover, for example. “Any of us can ask questions but unless they help us solve a problem, they are useless. But numbers give leadership an effective way of discussing the issues,” he added.

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