Only half of organisations using people data to make business decisions, CIPD report finds

Experts warn more specialist training needed to harness the power of analytics

Experts are calling for specialist data training after CIPD research today revealed that just half (52 per cent) of organisations were actively using people data to tackle business issues.

The study, which investigated HR departments’ attitudes towards, and experiences with, analytics across the globe, also found that two-fifths (39 per cent) of the 3,852 business professionals surveyed had no access to people data for decision-making purposes. 

Meanwhile, just a third (35 per cent) of non-HR professionals felt their company’s HR team were ‘experts’ in people analytics. 

The research, which was carried out in association with software provider Workday, also identified a link between the use of people analytics and business performance. Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents working in strong people analytics cultures felt their business performed better than their less data-driven competitors.

Edward Houghton, human capital and governance adviser for the CIPD, said that although it was encouraging to see people analytics leading to positive outcomes, HR teams still faced challenges in building confidence and capabilities.  

“We need to see greater investment in the skills needed to understand people data and we need to encourage the use of people analytics across different functions in organisations, and in finance in particular,” Houghton added. “HR must lead the development of cultures that share a ‘common language’ when it comes to people data and a shared understanding and appreciation of the positive impact people data can have on business outcomes.”

The CIPD’s report recommended that businesses build analytical skills and confidence in the HR profession, encourage cross-function relations and make better use of people data when assessing business risks. 

Helen Payne, principal at Aon, said access to reliable people data and tools that allowed real-time analysis were a “relatively new concept” for HR. 

“Unlike other business areas such as finance, where the majority of decisions have always been data-driven, UK HR teams are traditionally more people and issue-focused,” she said. For this reason, more training is needed to make sure new systems and tools are used effectively, she added.

Gonzalo Benedit, president of EMEA and APJ at Workday, said: “People analytics should be available in real-time, and on-demand so that that they can be quickly used to make effective decisions. While the business case for people analytics may be clear, the data must be accessible and used, as only then will businesses have the confidence to use it most effectively."

Payne said some HR professionals may perceive themselves as “protectors of employees’ personal information”, particularly following the introduction of the GDPR last month, and may not believe that data analytics is within their remit or skillset. 

Maria Semykoz, workplace analytics architect at Gallup, described people analytics as an “essential strategy” for UK businesses that was disrupting old mindsets to create “people-centric, strength-based and team-focused” workplace design.

However, Colin Strong, global head of behavioural science at Ipsos Mori, told People Management that he was “not convinced” that the case was made for people analytics as a driver of business success. 

“Workplace metrics are important but they are only part of the story,” he said. “There’s more to people management than can be reflected in a set of data.”

Last month, an NGA Human Resources survey revealed that HR professionals were failing to gather the appropriate data to influence business decisions at board level. 

And, earlier this month, speakers including Jonathan Ferrar, co-founder and chief executive of analytics firm Insight222, Luk Smeyers, co-founder of iNostix by Deloitte, and Victoria Pile, vice president and group head of HR systems at Capgemini, discussed the role of analytics within HR at the CIPD HR Analytics Conference.