Using data has become more and more important to HR teams where they are recruiting, managing or retaining employees. This has been particularly true during the last two years, as remote working became the norm, and many of the standard recruitment practices were simply not possible. As we move beyond the pandemic, it seems a good moment to look at how we can expect HR analytics to shape the modern employment experience.
Here are my key takeaways from a recent #SASChat we did in 2021 on this very subject.
1. Remote working important driver of HR analytics
One of the most recent key issues in HR management has been the rise of remote working. Organisations have had to assess and interact with employees "at a distance." The increased use of collaboration tools and software during remote working has also led to stronger digital footprints – and therefore more data that may be useful for assessing workload, time management and productivity.
2. Employee well-being and mental health increasingly important
Employers are becoming much more alert to the importance of employee well-being and mental health. This is partly the result of the pandemic, but also simply a growing understanding of mental health. Unfortunately, remote working means that it is harder to assess these issues – however, it is even more important to do so. HR analytics could play an important role in this area in the future.
3. HR analytics essential for workforce planning
Sometimes it is the simplest issues that can benefit most from some analytical input. Workforce planning is very much a matter of using patterns from the past and applying them to make predictions about the future – almost the definition of a good use case for analytics. As we have more data, the analytics behind workforce planning can therefore become more sophisticated. Forecasting the future workforce and understanding the skills that will be required is essential for growth.
4. Many different use cases for HR analytics
The most obvious use is perhaps recruitment. Comparing applicant profiles with successful employees will help with any hiring of staff – although it is paramount that care is needed to avoid bias. Other possible uses of analytics include better matching of people to posts to improve productivity or identifying causes of attrition. These new insights will enable organisations to take action to address problems both today and in the future.
5. HR analytics can link ‘people policies’ to financial and other outcomes
HR analytics is not just about assessing the workforce. It can also be used to assess and measure HR policies. Analysis can show which policies are actively contributing to desired outcomes, such as recruiting and retaining the right people. Ultimately, HR analytics can even be used to show HR’s contribution to the organisation’s bottom line.
6. Both internal and external data is useful
Much of the focus in HR analytics is likely to be on internal data, including data from employee surveys. However, reliable external data may also be helpful, particularly information from social media and Glassdoor reviews. The crucial aspect is to ensure that data is accessible and not held in silos. Organisations should also consider forms of analytics that may offer new insights, such as the use of text analytics on unstructured data collated from many mediums.
7. Motivation is crucial – but so is communication
Good employers will use analytics to ensure that they have and keep the right people in the right posts, supporting workforce planning. Everyone who works in talent acquisition and recruitment is aware of the cost of employing and onboarding new talent. In the current "Great Resignation" it is key that HR looks at the available data to understand the workforce. Is there enough training in place? What is the career path? Are the benefits right, fair and competitive? Retaining staff is as important as hiring.
Poorer employers may be tempted to use analytics to measure productivity in a very rigid way, with associated punishments for poor performance. Monitoring employee activity like this will not be popular. It may also turn out to have legal ramifications via data privacy laws. So it may be best to have a conscious focus on using HR analytics to empower employees while also informing the organisation. It's also important to communicate with employees – and get their agreement – on what data the organisation is collecting and why.
8. Getting started with analytics may require big changes – and time
Moving to a culture of data-driven decisions is hard. Organisations will need to find data scientists to build models and develop skills among HR teams to create and empower a citizen data scientist approach. Initially, this may mean drawing on outside expertise. Some HR teams will also start from a very low base and may need help simply to develop data literacy. However, the most important aspect is simply to get started.
For more on how SAS is working with government on workforce issues, search "SAS UK Gov" or visit sas.com/uk/workforce.