What is HR data analytics?

Do you spend much time on internal reporting on HR activities, within your Organisation? If not, you should. HR reporting done well will help guide your HR decision-making, develop your forward-looking HR strategy and just as importantly help you assess the effectiveness of your current HR activities.
Your Organisation is likely bursting with HR data and workforce insights. This data is probably ad hoc and unstructured, coming to you via many wide and varied internal sources. It is likely to be a tangled mix of accurate useful data and inaccurate misleading data, providing limited insight.
So, let’s firstly try and understand what HR data analytics is and what it looks like.
Most experts identify three levels of Organisational HR analytics, with level 1 being what most Organisations are currently delivering and level 3 being the holy grail.
Simply put:
Level 1 – is basic descriptive data around a set topic. Examples would include, absenteeism reporting, employee turnover levels, % spend per employee of training, average time taken to hire, etc. At level 1 the data is reported in a descriptive format, with little or no analysis of the data undertaken, bar perhaps trend analysis. Typically only one data set per HR activity is reported, although that said more and more companies are building multidimensional analysis into their descriptive HR data set models. This is progressive and will provide additional useful business insights.
Level 2 – is predictive data analytics around a set topic. The focus here is on trying to predict trends based on data. HR can use these trends to complete scenario planning and/or prepare their Organisation for future potential outcomes. There is a heavy predominance of forecasting, providing data to support Leaders as they seek to drive the business forward. At this level of data analytics all data sets need to be well mined, highly accurate and HR will in all likelihood need to invest in data analytical software technology. It is fair to say that only large-scale progressive Organisations with strong data analytical modelling technology and skillsets are performing HR Data analytics at this level.
Level 3 – is prescriptive data analytics around a set topic or set of inter-related topics. It builds on insights gleaned from predictive analytical models and shapes or offers options/actions/decisions to best optimise the analysis. It is focussed on outcomes and suggested actions the predictive data is pointing towards. Again, it requires specialist technology tools to compute the suggested outcomes.
In reality this is the holy grail, but few if any Organisations have yet managed this level of sophistication regarding their HR Data.
Where does your Organisation live on the
Descriptive —————- Predictive —————– Prescriptive
HR data analytical spectrum?
Sean Kane

THE core proposition of a trusted work environment

The life blood of any Company are its employees and their ability to analyse, innovate, criticise and create. Individual employees, as a collective, generate company loyalty. A common mistake that some companies make is demanding loyalty and prescribing what it looks like. By doing this they often suppress independent thinking and its associated creativity and innovation.

The impact of this approach, can lead to employees being unable or unwilling to challenge with confidence. If and when they do, they often get penalised or often decide to leave. In the process great new ideas may get missed, continuous improvement levels are held back and business growth potentially slowed.

The corollary, where employees are supported in a creative environment and their suggestions and inputs are encouraged and listened to, employees stay loyal and engaged. This happens naturally as they feel valued and their contribution recognised.

The following simple 4 point model or plan will help managers build better and stronger trust relationships.

1) Develop and clearly communicate company policy, procedures, expectations and culture.
2) Articulate how such company policy and culture is expected to be evidenced in employee actions & behaviours.
3) Clearly define employee roles, responsibilities and what criteria are used to measure performance.
4) Avoid making promises that are unlikely to be kept, and ensure that all dialogue is conducted in an environment of openness, honesty and transparency.

Concerted management effort into these 4 steps/stages will, I believe, pay dividends and will promote and engrain, for the better, a more positive inclusive and trusted work environment.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 16 – To aptly contribute to the Business you support the better you must know and understand it.

Many HR professionals assume there is only one best practice version of Human Resources, encompassing HR systems, processes, policies & procedures. In reality this is not the case and is not what we, as HR professionals, should be striving for. All Organisations are unique as are their needs. If we want to best support these Organisations and find solutions in response to the emerging needs, we need to seek out best fit HR models. How do we do that?. In my experience there is only one way. Spend a lot of time learning and understanding the Business you are committed to supporting. The better you know your Organisation and how it functions, the more obvious the best HR approaches to take will emerge. You will be guided to specific solutions that make best, most appropriate sense for your Organisation right now.

Understanding the Business your support from a HR Perspective is a pre-requisite for consistent positive HR outcomes and your own career success.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 15 – A well designed HR Model has all its component parts fully integrated and aligned

A well designed HR Model has all its component parts fully integrated and aligned.  Otherwise it is not an effective functioning System. For example, you can’t have a Performance Management System that  rewards effort, if your variable pay system does not individualise and link pay to performance/output. You cannot Recruit for future potential if your training system does not build capability, you cannot grow or accelerate talent, if your Talent Management System does not have a career ladder component, you cannot build strong employee engagement, if you don’t conduct employee voice surveys and you cannot build teamwork, if your recognition systems do not celebrate it, etc.

When changing or upgrading any aspect of your HR Model, spend time assessing its impact on all other aspects of the model and lookout for disconnects. They are clues your HR approach is sub optimised. All best practice HR Models are a series of sub HR component systems, which should all feed into each other and build upon each other to ensure effective support for best business outcomes, while simultaneously facilitating and enabling employees to grow & flourish.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 14 – ‘Conduct Regular Systematic Organisational Alignment Reviews’

I’m a fan of regular Organisational alignment reviews. What do I mean by this. As an Organisation grows and evolves the needs of the Organisation change. The design of the Organisation should also adapt to reflect this. It is best practice HR to check in regularly and conduct Organisational realignment reviews. The reviews themselves should be focussed primarily on Organisation Development & Structure. Reporting lines, role clarity, spans of control, flat or layered Organisational levels, centralised versus decentralised decision-making, teams versus individual contributor models, multi-skilled or expert skill accumulation, etc. will need to be critiqued (and perhaps modified) as part of each review. The goal is to ensure an ongoing fit for purpose Organisational Design. Another key focus of these reviews must be Talent Development, always aiming to allow strong talent the runway it needs to fully display its potential as the Organisation moves through its lifecycle. I recommend undertaking these strategic reviews at 2 yearly intervals. Done correctly they will generate change and required actions. Such actions will ensure continual strong alignment to business goals and will help avoid Organisational inefficiencies creeping in. Done methodically and consistently the changes themselves are likely to only require Organisational fine tuning.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 13 Simplicity and ease of communication should be core design tenets of all HR Systems & Processes

We need to always design our HR processes with end users in mind. They do not need to always be focussed on best practice or designed from a HR textbook perspective. They do however need to be designed to support the Organisation that will be asked to use and adhere to them. They must be easy to understand and follow, otherwise they will be ignored. The best way to ensure this is to seek to make the systems practicable, simple and clearly logical. To do this is not easy. It takes great effort and creativity to develop a simple solution. Putting simplicity as one of your key cornerstones and top design principles ensures that you are much more likely to build an effective bespoke HR solution for your Organisation ……. in my experience.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 12 – KNOWLEDGE exists at all levels within all Organisations

Knowledge exists at all levels within all Organisations. It exists both vertically and horizontally across all levels and this repository of knowledge is an often overlooked, unharnessed prized Organisational asset.
HR professionals should be seeking to address and harness this. It is more important now than ever, given the knowledge economy we live in where often what differentiates modern Organisations is their ability to systemize and use this knowledge productively and purposefully.
As I see it, the challenge to us is threefold:
1)     Develop Organisation Cultures that facilitate and reward knowledge sharing and knowledge collaboration. This is a largely unexplored activity. It will not happen naturally and will need focus and leadership to flesh out how best to do this. Organisations that crack this will flourish and have a unique asset in their armoury. It is a clear competitive advantage.
2)     Build out Knowledge Inventories and Organisational Knowledge Hubs.
3)     Code advanced data analytics to ensure that insights contained within are available to all Organisation team members, are fully understood and fully usable.
An added complexity is that much of the key knowledge that exists across an Organisation is Tacit Knowledge. Much of an Organisation’s expert knowledge base is in employee heads and not in an existing Organisational Database. New, creatively designed, databases are required.
Put simply I would empower HR professionals to seek to build knowledge Inventories within their Organisations. This will involve development of bespoke systems to capture this and advanced data analytics to retrieve this knowledge effortlessly, speedily, in a useable way.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 11 -The key to buy-in happens when actions taken match policy guidelines

Building real sustainable and inclusive team engagement is not easy. It requires effort, focus, commitment and action.
The blind-spot with some of these programs is frequently in the application. All the effort goes into fleshing out the required company policies & guidelines, while little goes into ensuring the behaviours and actions demonstrated right across the Organisation match these. Company/HR policies are well developed, detailed and often based on best practice. This is a great start, but only a start. The key to the true application of these policies is what happens on a day to day basis within the Organisation, after roll-out. If the day to day actions are not matching the clearly outlined policy detail, then employees will not buy-in to the policy or commit to its principles. Disconnects if they exist will become visible, inevitably leading to confusion, rendering articulated company policy redundant , ineffective and in all probability counter-productive. Where policy exists it must be matched with recognisable, reinforcing actions and behaviours and strong supportive leadership, leading by example.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No. 10 – Momentum outpaces the search for Perfection every time

As referred to in earlier posts, I firmly believe that there are numerous solutions for each and every HR Challenge. Many are good and workable solutions. The trap to be avoided is searching for the ideal best case or best practice solution. Delaying progress during this search through over analysis, lack of complete data, conflicting inputs or consideration of each and every stakeholder view, can lead to procrastination and lack of progress. I have been very guilty of this habit in the past. However since starting my own business I have become more aware of the power of momentum. Seeking continual progress, often in small (or even sideway) steps, builds momentum and more often than not solution pathways present themselves. If a HR challenge exists, don’t delay the tackling of it by waiting for the silver bullet. It may be too late by the time you find it. Be open to finding it as you move forward with action. Otherwise we as HR professionals can rightly risk being accused of procrastination, indecisiveness, inaction. These are habits that can and must be changed. For me forward momentum is the key to changing them.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No.8 Good Data drives better decision-making

This principle is as true for the HR function as it is for any other business function. Often in HR we see ourselves as more right brain focussed (intuitive, creative) and less analytical , logical or rational driven (left brain focussed). We should be using both brain hemispheres for maximum effectiveness.

Data exists in numerous repositories within the HR Function. Often the data is poorly codified, regularly inaccurate or outdated and in many unconnected (often unspecified) locations. It is also true to say that often as HR Professionals we are not aware of the incredible amount of data we have at our finger tips.

Crisp, clear accurate data, when interrogated properly, always points to and drives enhanced logical next steps or action plans. HR professionals need to get serious and business like about the data we generate. We need to build one secure data warehouse for all this data. We need to organise it logically and wash it up for use. Then when we are called upon to input to business challenges, we can offer our intuitive HR expertise coupled with hard supporting and ideally compelling data. Now we truly are playing an important Business Partnership role on an equal footing with our Leadership colleagues.

Business decision-makers demand supporting data. The reality is we have mountains of it at our disposal. We just don’t use it effectively in my experience. We can change that anytime.

Sean Kane