Six ways analytics will future-proof HR

Speakers at the CIPD HR Analytics Conference discuss what the profession needs to know about data

Technology is opening up a new world of opportunities for HR professionals, speakers told the CIPD HR Analytics Conference yesterday. But beyond the oft-discussed need to become more cognisant with data, what are the more profound ways HR departments can use the multitude of analytics available to them to effect real change inside their workforces? Here are six key ideas that emerged:

Get to the root of employee engagement

Analytics can help HR link employee engagement to changes in the business, according to Jonathan Ferrar, co-founder and chief executive of analytics firm Insight222. He explained that by using natural language processing to look at the actual words in freeform answers on surveys, one telecoms organisation discovered that its workers had not been equipped with rain gear.

“By providing rain gear, the company increased the value for the customer by £1.8m and saw a decrease in attrition,” said Ferrar. 

Encourage HR to build an inquisitive company culture

Colin Strong, head of behavioural science at Ipsos Mori, warned that there is a “power in data that makes it sort of unarguable”.

“We all need to manage a bit and say that data should not be the final word,” Strong said. “It’s there to guide you. It’s a way of supporting decisions. Some people will start deferring to it and forget all the judgement and values that have gone into it along the way.”

He suggested that businesses work towards a richer model of ethical decision-making by seeking out human perspectives on data. 

Enable HR to work closely with other departments

Luk Smeyers, co-founder of iNostix by Deloitte, said HR professionals would benefit from taking a leaf out of marketing colleagues’ books when dissecting data. 

Smeyers brought in marketeers to work on his HR projects and said the practice allowed HR to look at data through techniques that, while new to the function, had been used by other departments for years. However, he admitted that some practices had been difficult to push as it “goes against what a lot of HR does”. 

Boost productivity in a human way

Policing employees to boost productivity is not what HR should focus on, according to Victoria Pile, vice president and group head of HR systems at Capgemini. 

Pile said she was more interested in creating a better workplace than measuring individual employees, and would openly ask people for their input and gather anecdotal evidence. 

By presenting this data back to leaders, Pile said she can show them what they can do to create a better workplace instead of focusing on where individuals need to be more productive. 

Help HR capitalise on small victories

Glenn Campbell, head of HR services at Queen’s University Belfast, said simple but effective plans helped him improve the university’s people management processes. 

Campbell outlined his personal exploration of data across his HR career, detailing how data helped him make better decisions during recruitment, reduce advertising spend and create a new tiered recognition strategy. 

Campbell also automated the monitoring of visas for foreign nationals, tracking when visas were nearing expiration and sending out email renewal reminders. By automating this process, Campbell said the university had a ‘failsafe’ guarantee that it would be aware of visa expiration and wouldn’t pay employees who were working on an expired visa. 

Enhance storytelling

Nicky Clement, vice president of HR, organisation effectiveness and people analytics at Unilever, explained that storytelling and people analytics go hand-in-hand: “When I am meeting with a client, I think about three things: how do I want them to feel by the end of this meeting, how do I want them to think and what do I want them to do.”

By using those three things in combination with analytics, Clement explained that she is able to position what she is doing and “not waste their time”.