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

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.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

HR Guiding Principle No.7 – Listen more & listen to understand

There is two sides to every story, debate or indeed argument. There will always be some right and some wrong in all versions. You need to hear all sides, before you decide on your  own considered professional view and form your opinion. ‘Listen with your ears,  hear with your emotions’ is sound advice. I have used this approach a lot throughout my HR career. I always try and look at every HR action or intervention from the users point of view and in discussing the detail am open to trying to see it from anothers’ perspective. This understanding has guided me to better decision-making and better judgements. Listening is such an under developed and under utilised skill. Most people are so attached to their own beliefs and opinions, they shut out the beliefs and opinions of others. This is a great pity as good engagement flows where people with differing opinions listen to each other and build on each others input. ‘Listen to understand, not to argue’ is more sound advice. We in HR should be the practice champions in this space.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No.4 All HR decisions require & deserve proper explanation

Decision-making is a skill. It is a life skill as well as a management skill. It can be learned and should be taught.
In HR we are in decision-making mode much of the time. Decisions of all sizes, many of which impact the business and in nearly all cases impact our employees. In so doing we should be prepared to make the required decisions, but also to communicate them clearly and succinctly. Just as importantly we must be prepared to justify them and to explain them. This is best done through open employee communications. We then must be prepared for challenge. This requires an openness to constructive feedback and a willingness to making changes. Our decisions, will please some, others will be indifferent, and more will be unhappy. All affected employees deserve the opportunity to have decisions explained to them. We as HR Leaders must commit to back up and justify our decisions, share our decision-making rationale and the logic used to arrive at our decisions. In so doing we may not always be popular but we will earn respect. Explanation is a key component of any worthy decision-making process for me.

Sean Kane

HR Guiding Principle No.3 -Constant Change – Keeps an Organisation Change Capable

Constant Change – Keeps an Organisation Change Capable

Strategic Change is not easy to implement and get right. It will always meet challenge and resistance. If you can build a Company Culture where your workforce are used to ongoing change, they will become agile and proactively capable of rowing with it, rather than against it. They will even create it. That’s how I see it.

Let’s be honest. Very few of us instantly embrace change. Most of us display initial anxiety at the very least. This is natural, normal and human. Our initial concern focuses almost exclusively on ourselves. What will this change mean for me?. How will it affect me and what’s important to me?. This typical overwhelming initial response to proposed change is to assume negative impacts. Inevitably much of these negative impacts never materialise. Rarely are they as severe as we imagine. Frequently they are actually positive when embraced.

We are creatures of habit. None of us like change, especially if we didn’t choose it and it is foisted upon us. However no development or progress can occur without change.

So, how do you go about implementing a change program to maximise the likelihood of true and lasting success on the journey of change. Here’s what I’ve learned and embraced.

Firstly you must be able to answer clearly why the change proposed is necessary and why the status quo is not an option.

Secondly you must be prepared to explain the compelling need for the change, although not necessarily the detail of the change. This leaves space for those affected to have their say and have an input.

Thirdly, respect the current status quo. It most likely has served you well until now and was the right solution for its time and circumstances. Also remember the status quo no doubt started life as new change itself.

Fourthly, be vigilant towards becoming too comfortable, too attached and too secure with the status quo. Invest in systems and processes that continually challenge it and its contribution. This is continuous improvement in action. Build into your Company Culture a desire for experimentation, a passion for constant reinvention  and a dissatisfaction with remaining in the comfort zone for too long.

When people see the need to change and the imperfections in the current status quo, they will be more open to change, will embrace it and will often create it.

Building new ways of doing things regularly involves trial and error and definitely involves imperfect pathways to change. Be open to modifications along the journey. Do not seek to control all aspects of the change journey.

Finally take time to mark the change milestones and to celebrate implementations. The lifespan of the status quo is getting shorter & shorter. The change required once implemented becomes the new status quo. And the cycle starts again.

In our hectic work lives constant change is inevitable and necessary. It must become a constant. If we follow the above methodology, regular change will become normalised. The change journey will in my opinion be less difficult overtime, and should keep us away from the burning platform …… the need for drastic change.

Sean Kane

My HR Guiding Principles. No.1 ‘The Key to Organisation Capability is Talent Management’

Within Organisations there is much talk about Organisation Design, Organisation Culture and Organisation Strategy. Based on 30+ years of insight, I have concluded  that much of this can be condensed into one key topic, how successfully you actively manage your employee talent. An Organisations success depends on the talent it has on board and how well this talent is managed. This strong correlation continues throughout the Organisational life-cycle.

In my opinion if you manage your talent strategies well, your Organisation will be fully aligned and will drive your Business Goals and Objectives.

In designing talent management processes, focusing on talent from the day it joins your Organisation is a must. Seek to continuously build skillsets, competencies, knowledge and capability. Put metrics in place to continuously measure this and make these metrics the core of your Organisations HR business contribution.

In doing so focus also on potential future talent, don’t forget your potential future talent pool. They are not in your organisation yet, but your complete talent management approach should seek to engage them.

Segment your talent into talent pools. Know how you will address the needs of each pool,  for example early talent, technical talent, high-potential talent and leadership talent. Build interventions and processes specific to each talent pool. The needs of each pool will be different as will their expectations.  Do this well and your talent will remain, will grow, will exceed expectations and talent not yet hired will want to join.

That’s my take on how to focus on building sustainable organisational capability. It is just as important now as it ever was for an Organisation to get right, perhaps even more so in these times of uncertainty and change we now live in.

Sean Kane