HR analytics and the challenges

David Farmer our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 5/9/2014 4:06 PM
If I may, I'm going to start with a somewhat base level analogy, but one that I think serves a purpose!

 
Big data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it...

HR analytics seems to be exactly the same

We started Harnham in 2006, and reflecting on our 8 years, the market and industry is almost unrecognizable from the early days of our business. The use of data is of course growing exponentially, and companies are placing more importance on using data to make intelligent decisions. The era of just following gut instinct seems to be over.

With an increase in the volume of data available, companies begin to look at new ways to use the data at their disposal, both for external and internal gain. With that in mind, I attended a conference on HR analytics recently and got a fascinating insight in to this growing sector.

Of course the term HR analytics is not new. This has been around for a long time – but I learnt that there is a real desire and a real need to use the data available in new ways, and to change the analysis that companies are performing to add additional value.  

The buzzword from attendees at the conference seemed to be "journey". Companies have spent years gathering and collating data on employees, but now seem to be at a crossroads - do you continue just compiling this data and generating excel reports on whatever metric has been asked for by a manager that week, or is there a better way to use this data? Are we at a point where we can start going further? Can we start using this data for predictive analysis?

Here is where I feel we hit three challenges.

1. ROI

There was a fascinating presentation at the conference in which a case study was shared by a major retailer. They found that in a 3 year study, they could prove a link between an engaged workforce and the profit of a store. I'm sure you'll agree that this is a great find and a useful exercise, but I wondered how many organizations would be willing to spend 3 years analyzing the relationships in their business to find out if it would have a small increase in profits at a local level. Herein lies the problem, - as the actual analysis of this data seems to be a new thing but how many management teams are willing to invest in it?

It seemed to me that the analysts and data managers that I met were confident that they were able to give amazing insights to their businesses, but did not have the time and resources to get in to the data and have a look around.  Instead they were simply required to submit excel reports to show what has happened rather than predict what this means for the future or make recommendations on what the organization to do as a result.

 

2. Data Quality

The systems where this data is stored largely seem to require input from a manager within the business, and at the point they're inputting this data it is likely that they are either just dealing with someone leaving the team or joining the team. In either of these situations, I would imagine they're busy and stressed, so will potentially not be too worried about what they're putting in to a workforce management system. 

The upshot is that the data you're then analyzing may not actually give you a true reflection of the fact. Again, it seems like the person inputting the data needs to understand the value to them of making sure that it is correct and I was not convinced any of the presenters had quite got this right in their business.

3. Skill Set

I listened to a fascinating debate at the conference about what skills would be needed to grow a team of HR analysts, and I would say the room was split almost 50/50 between the "data is data" opinion and the "HR knowledge is essential" group.

I reflected on this afterwards based on a comment made during the discussion.

It was noted that HR analytics is probably 5-10 years behind other analytics disciplines such as logistics and marketing analysis for example. I would agree with this, but rather than worrying about this fact, the teams should look at the reasons why and also how to utilize those skills.

Analysts in marketing or credit risk don't study marketing or credit risk at University. They study mathematics, physics, statistics or similar and then apply these techniques to an industry. They don't know everything about marketing strategies on their first day in the role, but they can model data to tell you with a very high degree of certainty what the propensity for something to happen is. Data is data - you just ask it the questions.

So if companies don't utilize these data skills, my concern is that they will stay behind other analytical disciplines and only be able to do a small proportion of what could be possible with the data available to them.

The Ethical Standpoint

People are more aware of their personal data now than they were 5-10 years ago, and also more willing to share it - as long as they get something in return. Therefore the data available for HR and workforce analysis now is vastly different to 5-10 years ago - you only have to look at the growth of Facebook and LinkedIn in that period to know that you have more opportunity to know more about your teams than ever before.

Here is another question then - the interests on someone's LinkedIn profile or Facebook page will give you a huge amount of insight into skills that you may not see on a day to day basis in their role, and may mean that you consider them for roles that they wouldn't normally be considered for, but is it ethically right to look at this page for the potential benefit of the candidate? Where do you draw the line?  It is potentially for their benefit, but does that make it right?

I heard of tools where members of staff could link their Facebook to a talent management tool within the business - the take up was very low. Let's be honest, you may not want your company seeing your personal photos and online conversations, even if it could mean more chance of an internal promotion!

Putting the onus on the employee seems to be the best course of action then. If they fill in their internal profile similar to how they would a Facebook or LinkedIn account, then you have all you need to be able to draw better analysis. They have a vested interest in the outcome, and as long as this is understood you should get pretty accurate data to use. However, building an internal platform to match the functionality of the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn can be costly and once again requires more data experts to analyze the new data it will generate so we are back to the ROI challenge.

In conclusion

I agree that HR analytics could and should have a direct impact on business profit, but just in the way that all new concepts need to; HR teams need to harness the skills of other analytical disciplines to achieve all that is possible to prevent falling further and further behind. It is also going to take companies being brave and setting the trends for the use of this data to show what is possible before others will follow.

As someone put it when discussing how companies improve the potential and usage of analysis in HR and workforce planning - we should talk about it a lot in conferences and meetings to share as much as we can to make sure that we all learn as much as possible from each other, but we don't want to share too much so that nobody can do it better than us…!

At the end of the day, being better at anything within the sphere of analytics and data gives you competitive advantage and you don’t want to lose that.
 

Related blog & news

With over 10 years experience working solely in the Data & Analytics sector our consultants are able to offer detailed insights into the industry.

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Weekly News Digest: 12th - 16th April 2021

This is Harnham’s weekly news digest, the place to come for a quick breakdown of the week’s top news stories from the world of Data & Analytics.      Express Pharma: The five biggest data challenges for life sciences Life Sciences has grown exponentially over the past 12 months. As the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world, Life Science companies were in a race against time to create a life-changing vaccine and help us all back on the road to recovery.  In 2019, the Life Science market was valued at around $7.5bn. After this year’s influx of activity, the market is estimated to grow by over double in the next decade, reaching $18bn by 2030.  However, despite the positive growth the industry has had, this doesn’t mean Life Sciences will be free of challenges. In fact, with such a spike in the amount of data held by so many Life Science companies as they tried to work on a vaccine, data storage is now one of the main concerns for anyone working within the field.  In this article by Express Pharma, Vimal Venkatram, Country Manager for Snowflake India, highlights the five key data hurdles Life Sciences will continue to have to overcome in the following decade. These include data performance, data exchange and collaboration, data quality, data management and scaling, and regulatory compliance.  Read the full story here.  Harnham: How can organisations tap into the huge pool of neurodiverse data talent? For many companies, the past year has led to an increased focus on diversity and inclusion within businesses – a fantastic step forward. However, when we think of diversity, we usually assume people are talking about gender, ethnicity, sexuality and perhaps even physical disability. One area that is regularly missed from discussion is that of neurodiversity.  An umbrella term coined by sociologist, Judy Singer, neurodiversity can cover a wide range of neurological conditions such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD, ADD and dyspraxia. Our head of internal recruitment, Charlie Waterman, explores why neurodiverse talent shouldn’t be overlooked, and how Data & Analytics specifically can do more to tap into and harness this incredible pool of talent.` Exploring how employers can create a smooth recruitment process, successful onboarding programmes and retention schemes, this article highlights how all of this can be tailored to be accessible for anyone with an invisible disability. To read more on this topic, click here. Computer Weekly: What has a year of homeworking meant for the DPO? Employers in a significant number of industries across the world have had to uproot from the office to working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of these employers, it appears that remote working, or a hybrid model of working, will become the norm post-pandemic.  But what has this sudden shift meant for the likes of Data Protection Officers (DPOs)? Most of these professionals have had to get to grips with managing and handling sensitive data from the comfort of their own living room. According to data from IBM, 70 per cent of DPOs believe that the shift to remote working will increase the likelihood of data breaches. So how can DPOs enjoy the benefits and perks of working from home, without the stress of poorly managed or breached data? In this article by Computer Weekly, steps are outlined on how DPOs can work closely with IT teams to minimise any data risk that could happen. This includes: Not allowing DPOs access to everything if it’s not necessaryDiscouraging local storage of dataRegularly reviewing security standards To read the full article, visit the website here.  Solutions Review: The three best Data Engineering books on our reading lists There’s no better feeling than getting stuck into a really good book. Not only can it be a great way to escape the stresses of everyday life, but by continuously absorbing new information, your knowledge on a specific subject can grow immensely.  Any branch of Data & Analytics, but especially Data Engineering, requires employees to always be thinking one step ahead, staying on top of new trends and keeping up to date with specific coding languages. While everyone learns in very different ways, reading is a brilliant education tool. Whether you’re a visual learner, an auditory learner or a reading learner, books and audiobooks could be the key to expanding your knowledge.  Solutions Review provides Data Engineers with three of the best books on the market at the moment to help you keep on top of your professional development. Data Driven Science and Engineering by Brunton and KutzData Engineering with Python by Crickard An introduction to agile Data Engineering by using data vault 2.0 by Graziano To read more about each of these books, click here.  We've loved seeing all the news from Data & Analytics in the past week, it’s a market full of exciting and dynamic opportunities. To learn more about our work in this space, get in touch with us at  info@harnham.com.    

How Can Organisations Tap Into The Huge Pool Of Neurodiverse Data Talent?

Ensuring that our workplaces are thriving with a diverse range of talent is, rightly, a topic that many organisations are focussing on. Yet, for the most part, this dialogue is centred around gender, ethnicity, sexuality and perhaps even physical disability. It is fairly uncommon therefore to see close attention given to exploring the challenges surrounding neurodiversity in organisations around the globe. Generally speaking, the term neurodiversity encompasses autism, attention deficit disorders, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and other neurological conditions. To hear a range of diverse viewpoints and perspectives is to contribute to an inclusive society and organisation. Leaving neurodiversity aside is no longer acceptable. Our research in the US highlights how 26 per cent of US adults have some form of disability, yet disabled individuals only account for 3.5 per cent of those working in Data & Analytics. As the global skills shortage worsens, it stands to reason that businesses will want to access this previously untapped talent pool. We know that in the UK, 56 per cent of organisations continue to experience skills shortages and in the US, two-thirds of employers hiring for full-time, permanent employees say they can’t find qualified talent to fill open jobs. An often-overlooked area of diversity is the impact a disability can have on an individual’s professional career. It’s no secret that all organisations would like to construct the best team – but are you doing enough to consider underrepresented talent? Creating a smooth recruitment and interview process One of the first barriers that neurodiverse candidates may encounter when seeking to enter an organisation is the recruitment and interview process. For these individuals, undergoing testing in this way puts pressure on communication skills, a tool that often allows us to better understand, connect and empathise with one another. When it comes to the recruitment process, the traditional in-person interview process — which assesses communication skills and personality fit — can be difficult to negotiate for neurodiverse candidates. In fact, this can be said to have been heightened by the pandemic too. The switch to virtual interviewing has added a new challenge to how neurodiverse candidates are able to participate in the process as miscommunication and interruptions come into the picture. For employers, tapping into the pool of data professionals with these invisible disabilities requires them to take the stress out of the interview and assessment process. It is critical to consider someone’s potential ability to do the job and the core skills that they have linking directly to the role on offer. Onboard a successful neurodiverse candidate efficiently Regardless of the size of an organisation, from global corporation to growing SME, they all share the same need to onboard new hires successfully and with limited disruption. It is this process that begins the relationship between an employee and an employer and although there will have been interactions through the recruitment process, it is the initial welcome into the organisation that will set the tone for the relationship moving forward. For neurodiverse employees this can be a daunting prospect; meeting new people while also familiarising themselves with a new environment and routine requires ongoing support and help from the employer. There are a number of ways that organisations can make this easier, from in-person or virtual meetings with smaller groups of the team to scheduled one-to-one chats with colleagues, the first few steps can be made more comfortable by promoting an inclusive culture. However, as there are such wide-ranging differences between neurodiverse conditions and individual requirements, employers need to implement policies that are tailored and highly individualised. Creating such policies and programmes can be complex and time-consuming, but it is critical to include your team in this. Ultimately it will boost your bottom line and the array of perspectives and views that are shared within the organisation. Retaining neurodiverse employees Neurodiverse candidates are capable, intelligent and have creative-thinking minds. To ensure their tenure within an organisation is lengthy and successful, we need to support these professionals and equip them with the tools and support they need to thrive. A standardised approach will not satisfy every need, and so it is important that every person in your organisation is accommodated as far as possible. The importance of this could not be clearer, as the BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report details how neurodivergent employees are more likely to be impacted by poor mental health (84 per cent against 49 per cent for neurotypical workers). This suggests that beyond attracting neurodiverse talent into the organisation, employers need to focus on the quality of the experience within the team. For example, take the time to book in regular meetings between the employee and their line manager. This will ensure that projects run smoothly, and any concerns or questions can be raised in a controlled environment. Listen to your team and their lived experiences to make informed and accurate plans to facilitate their growth within the team. After all, each employee brings a set of unique skills to a company. As more organisations realise the benefits of hiring neurodivergent candidates into their teams, employers have to act quickly to make routes into the business as accessible as possible. Ultimately, hiring neurodiverse people makes complete business sense. We know that diverse teams perform better, so now is the time to step up and tap into the huge pool of neurodiverse data talent. If you’re in the world of Data & Analytics and looking to take a step up or find the next member of your team, we can help. Take a look at our latest opportunities or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to find out more.

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