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How can HR make better decisions? The answer lies in the data

27 Apr 2020 By Advertising feature

Data is HR’s greatest asset, but not all HR professionals know how to use it – so it’s time to invest in skills training for HR, says CIPHR’s Claire Williams

With the UK spending £1.5bn per annum on closing the skills gap, HR teams are busy making sure their people have the skills they need to perform. But what happens when HR teams need new skills as well? 

Today, HR professionals not only need to understand how to choose, implement and use technology such as people management systems and applicant tracking systems (ATS), but also realise the value of the data such software holds – and how to analyse and interpret it. 

According to a survey carried out last year, HR and recruitment has made the least progress – when compared to other business functions – in using data to optimise and measure performance. At a time where employers expect their workforce to be analytically minded and to turn data into actionable insights, HR teams do not have all of the skills they need. 

The good news is that HR professionals appear to be cognisant of their data deficiencies. The same survey found that half (50%) of HR and recruitment professionals believe that better use of data could help them address half of all skills gaps within their organisation. A further 45% also believe that data and insight could allow them to predict future skills gaps before they become problematic. 

While it’s great that some HR teams are ready to take an evidence-based approach to decision-making, more need to be working on their ability to understand and interpret data and data trends, and their ability to share these stories with stakeholders and managers. To address and close this skills gap, and to create a data-savvy HR department, technical training on how to understand and interrogate data is crucial.

The question is where responsibility lies for this training: with individual HR professionals, or with HR leaders and organisations? I’d like to see organisations take more of a lead when it comes to equipping HR practitioners with the skills they need to succeed in the data-driven future of work.  

One obvious place to start is by taking advantage of the skills that are already in your organisation – and not just in your HR team. Colleagues in your marketing and finance teams, for example, should be adept at extracting and analysing data from their systems, so why not ask them to run a short ‘introduction to data’ session for your HR team? It could, after all, spark the emergence of a wider knowledge-sharing culture – which is great news for any organisation. 

If you’re already using HR systems to collect and store people data, make sure you know how to use them – and, crucially, how to extra data from these systems. It’s likely that they’ll have predefined reports already set up, or your vendor’s experts should be able to help you find and report on the data that you need. You wouldn’t expect employees in other parts of your organisation to suffer the same fate – so be sure to offer the same support to your HR practitioners, too. It’s also crucial that the need for data accuracy is integral to HR teams’ ways of working, and that safeguarding steps and auditing processes are built into this, otherwise there is a risk that you could make misleading decisions based on inaccurate information.

Technology changes rapidly, and systems could have moved on significantly in just 6 to 12 months – let alone in three or five years. Don’t run the risk of your people being left behind. 

Claire Williams is director of people and services at CIPHR, a UK provider of people management systems. She has more than 10 years’ experience leading in-house HR teams

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