Tapping into talent: how can people analytics aid performance management and workforce planning?

Speakers at a CIPD conference talked about how understanding business strategy and adapting to external factors can help HR professionals predicting skills in demand

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Experts at the CIPD’s HR Analytics Conference emphasised the significance of skills data, performance development and workforce planning – as well as why skills data is useful for performance development.

At a session called Tapping into Talent last week (12 October), Katie Nightingale, director of people consulting at Grant Thornton, spoke about analysing the business model and pipeline of work to determine the skills needed for development and disruption.

She said there was always a cost involved with skills data and often training budgets were one of the first things cut. She said professionals should be mindful of capturing the right data to understand where the skills gaps are, what we are trying to achieve as a business and what skills are needed in the future. "Where are the critical skills and where are the gaps? By understanding that and having that data we can make much more informed decisions around the right development programmes," she said.

She also said that it was crucial to know the different funding routes, such as the apprenticeship levy, which would enable HR to talk to the business about what investment might be required and what return the investment would make. 

Michael Cox, Europe Nestle's head of people analytics, said the areas of the future of work and future skills were “super interesting”.

He said his starting point was looking at some of the research from the World Economic Forum, which has predicted that 45 per cent of the skills employees need to perform their roles will have changed by 2025, and nine in 10 workers will need some form of reskilling or upskilling: "What we will see everywhere is that there will not be enough of the critical skills to cover all of the roles that will exist from all of the different organisations.”

As a result, he said this was “quite a scary picture” of where we are going to “embark on the largest upskilling or reskilling we have seen in at least a generation or maybe longer than that”.

He added that the skills shortage would be particularly noticeable in areas such as AI and the impact of technology. 

Cox said that if these things were not considered ahead of time, there would be "big consequences" in the not-too-distant future. 

He also advocated for the use of strategic workforce planning and getting a real sense of what the gaps are because "reskilling our existing population" through learning and development and building capabilities takes time to do efficiently. “The sooner you get a handle on that insight, the sooner you can start generating those conversations and advocating for that redevelopment," Cox said.

According to Jaclyn Lee, chief HR officer at Certis Group, because skills are changing so quickly, it was "impossible" to keep up with and predict what will happen today and next year.

She added that, if employers did not take ownership and have a lifelong learnership mentality or mindset, companies would not be able to "equip you with everything you need", as it was really a "mindset" of lifelong learning and skills would be refreshed all of the time. 

On this, Nightingale underlined the significance of understanding the business model – namely what services and projects you are providing and what that will look like in the next few years. "Are we moving into new markets? Are you going to be creating new projects?" she asked, adding: "What does that mean for the skills required?”

She also mentioned that employers needed to understand their business models and the pipeline of work coming in, but returning to what the firm is aiming to achieve should provide enough knowledge to alter and focus where necessary. 

"Understanding what the business objectives are is the most important thing," said David Duewel, BT Group's people reporting and analytics director, adding that "we are very reactive in the skills space because it is the frontier at the moment".