Ten ways people analytics can help build an HR data culture

People analytics is essential to the future of the HR function. But how do you set about creating an HR data culture? Madeleine Graham reports on ten key takeaways from the Tucana People Analytics Forum in London.

Laurie Bassi from McBassi & Co.
Laurie Bassi from McBassi & Co. highlights how analytics can help you focus on the things that matter.
1. People analytics is key to the future of HR

Organisations are changing. With the shift away from siloed, traditional models to a business-driven, agile framework, people analytics has a key role to play, says Laurence Collins, lead partner of HR transformation and workforce analytics at Deloitte.

Analytics is being challenged by the business to answer critical questions including:

  • How do I prepare for the future of work?
  • What will my workforce look like and how will I automate?
  • Where will work happen in the future? and
  • What will my talent model and programmes look like?

While certain functions are expected to be automated, the human parts of work such as connecting with people, analysis, problem solving and decision making are expected to be more important than ever.

2. Create an HR data culture

Business needs to create an HR data culture and generate data-driven rather than gut-instinct decisions. It is easy for HR business partners to work in the way that they have always worked, so it is essential to show HR and the organisation the value that analytics can provide, notes Craig Heyrman, HR director of the EEMENA region at MSD.

Heyrman recommends that, as many different parts of the organisation have analytics functions – including sales, marketing, customer analytics – knowledge can be shared with HR.

Knowledge sharing and inviting collaboration is a great way to leverage data enthusiasm and debate, according to Heyrman. You can also spot the talents of people who are enthusiastic in this space.

Offering analytics experts within the organisation an opportunity to spend a couple of weeks with the HR team or vice versa is another way to share knowledge.

There are many examples of ways to do this. For example, Nicky Clement, VP HR at Unilever and leader of the analytics culture in the business ran an analytics global spotlight across the world at Unilever. The aim was to encourage people to try analytics if they wanted. Winning hearts and minds to get advocates of people analytics is critical.

3. Don’t just present the data, analyse it

Peter Howes, VP workforce & analytics planning, SAP SuccessFactors, underlines the importance of HR not simply publishing reports and data: this adds no value, he maintains. It’s essential to start interpreting the data – and add intellectual rigour. The “so what?” mantra. Jim Matthewman, Consulting Director at Talentspringboard stresses that HR has a leading role in digital transformation, but is coming into the field quite late.

One of the major barriers to digital change is the digital skills gap and how to up-skill the workforce. Matthewman highlights that, without the right skills in place, businesses will struggle to implement digital transformation seamlessly and reap the rewards effectively. Hiring digital expertise is not enough – you also need to upskill your current employees.

4. Don’t wait until the data is perfect

Lamin Kinteh, founder of Zyvo, highlights that companies are tempted to wait a number of months as they want to get the data correct and structured. His advice is to start with predictive analytics on a small part of the data. This message is mirrored by Laurie Bassi, CEO of McBassi & Company: look for an area that will demonstrate an immediate return on investment and get started.

5. You need leaders to sponsor people analytics

Craig Heyrman believes that organisations need leaders who strongly sponsor the use of people analytics. Nicky Clement agrees – one way to get buy-in from an unconvinced leadership is by creating a movement. If others can see the benefit and value of what can bring, there is a lot that can be done.

6. What if sponsorship doesn’t exist at HR leadership level?

If sponsorship doesn’t exist at leadership level in HR, you need to make others see the benefit and value of what analytics can bring. The space of analytics is vast, says Nicky Clement. There is going to be something that people want more of – it is about finding what organisation needs more of.

7. Cool tools are not essential

Although there is always a place for cool tools, you don’t need to have lots of complicated tools, says Nicky Clement. Looking for enthusiasts around the business and sharing tools will get the organisation a good way on the journey. At Unilever, Clement has built a community of around 60 people analytics enthusiasts across different time zones. The community shares tools and provides feedback. Running an analytics global spotlight is another way to create a people analytics movement.

XpertHR team members Winnie Amoaku and Aimee Wilkinson at the Tucana People Analytics Forum.
XpertHR team members Winnie Amoaku and Aimee Wilkinson at the Tucana People Analytics Forum.
8. Networks are important

A good indicator of an individual’s success is the reach, quality, and depth of their social capital – their personal relationships with those they do business with, according to Greg Newman of TrustSphere (the winner of both the “judges’ choice” and the “people’s choice” awards at the forum). Newman found that the average employee sustains 102 working relationships – and it would take up to nine years to replicate a high performer’s network.

9. What about the GDPR?

The message is clear from the speakers at the conference – Kim Bradford, owner of Sphere Data Protection, and Nicky Clement both agree that HR should always be asking itself the ethics questions. The most important question is “should we”, rather than “can we”. To get buy-in from employees at an organisation, tell people how you are using data and what the benefit is to them. If you ask employees to complete a survey, show them the output.

10. Any final advice on creating a data culture in HR?

Craig Heyrman reiterates the value of central experts and business partners. Partnership between the two is critical. Clement’s final takeaway to HR professionals at the forum is to be relevant, timely, and accurate. Learn from everyone around us. Learn from other people in your business doing people analytics.
Matti-Esko Seppä, head of people analytics at Tieto, stresses that creating a data culture in HR is a process, requiring ongoing communications and training.

Next steps? Don’t wait until you have months of perfect data – start with something simple that will demonstrate a return on investment to the business and get going on your people analytics journey.