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Is Data Analytics Key to Getting HR a Seat at the Boardroom Table?

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Long perceived as a soft-skills domain, HR has suffered from a lack of business credibility in the past but many HR leaders are still trying to find their place at the boardroom table.

HR measurement is a huge opportunity for the industry. As technology and agility disrupt business expectations, the ability to incorporate people analytics into daily HR processes and decision-making opens the door to valuable HR leadership.

Based on a study of a range of industries, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that companies using a portfolio of HR-analytics solutions could realize an average increase of 275 basis points in profit margins by 2025. These increases will likely come through productivity gains among front- and middle-office workers, and through savings in recruiting, interviewing time, training, onboarding, and attrition costs.

Yet McKinsey research also indicates that typical HR departments still spend close to 60 percent of their time and resources on transactional and operational activities.

Here are some of the ways the HR function can move beyond current perceptions and demonstrate its value in the workplace.

Step out of the traditional silo

In many organizations, HR reports to another functional space such as the chief financial or operations officer. These relationships present a great opportunity - take stock of how these business leaders make decisions and ask yourself:

  • What processes have they streamlined to improve efficiencies?
  • What data measurements do they use?
  • How often are they looking at these measurements?

Our blog Digital Transformation: What Can HR Learn From Finance? goes into detail about the questions HR professionals should be asking their finance counterparts as they embark on a digital transformation that will not only streamline processes but also provide better, more accurate and more timely reporting.

Measure what matters most

HR people analytics is about far more than collecting mounds of statistics. It’s about delivering data-driven insights that connect people strategy with business strategy.

Take a closer look at turnover metrics, the costs associated with recruitment, selection, onboarding and time to reach full productivity. What about absenteeism or trends shared by top performers: where do they credit their successes? Then consider how these findings can be applied to the broader employee population. Where are there geographic or length of service differences and what, if any, impact does this have on the business?

Described as a “hire authority” and “certified prophet of workforce trends” Ira S. Wolfe observes, in his book, Recruiting in the Age of Googlization, that within the HR field:

  • 74% do not track cost per hire
  • 60% do not measure time-to-fill
  • Nearly two-thirds do not measure quality of hire

To stand out, you need to become data and analytics-minded in relation to business goals.

There’s huge competition for talent, but it’s now changing more rapidly; you need people who can flex and adapt to different demands in the workplace. Build a business case and understand how this need fits into corporate strategies and goals. Know what the trends are, source relevant statistics and provide data analytics to market and sell internally to your leaders using business language. If you only speak people language, HR’s seat at the boardroom table will go unfilled.

Adopt a more agile approach

Over the past several years companies have been encouraged to conduct annual employee engagement surveys. It’s not uncommon for months to pass before data is collated and analyzed, reports tabled to HR, and then filtered down through the ranks. By the time it gets into the hands of leaders and managers are observations still relevant? How are employees, productivity, or service output impacted by these changes? When employees are consulted once a year, insights are missed and they're left to wonder if their feedback disappeared into a corporate abyss.

Focus on technology and the things that individuals and managers can do more easily themselves. Introduce simpler processes and take an active role in sourcing HR platforms and tools that give direct access to information online. Look for solutions that improve efficiencies and deliver meaningful, easily understood, actionable information, ideally in real-time.

Consider the motivation and the driver

Your real business value sticks when HR hooks into something the company sees as a competitive advantage. Unless you’re able to connect to company values, strategies, an employer brand proposition, or competitive landscape it will be difficult to persuade leaders to take the action you're suggesting, even if you know it’s the right thing to do. For HR to reach its potential as a valued strategic voice, you must quantify the business reason; and do so convincingly – with data.

As William Edwards Deming, American statistician, professor and management consultant asserted;“Without data, you’re just a person with an opinion.”

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