Finding the Human Component amidst HR's Business Intelligence Technology

By Mikey McPhail, Director Business Intelligence ManpowerGroup Solutions

Across our industry,there seems to be a constant focus onbuzz words like AI, robotics and machine learning along with big data, data lakes and other types of data aggregation – While relevant to the evolution of HR technology, these things will not affect impactful change to our industry in the same way that it does most other industries. What these technological advancements do have an impact on, is the types of skills that are needed to advance organizations in a more technology driven direction.

People now generally understand the need for analytics, and it seems as though every piece of software on the market now has incorporated some sort of dashboard for ‘analytics’. However, tracking and reporting data is not the same as analysis. This potential and value of ‘People Analytics’ is being diminished as organizations mistakenly rely on data reports that lack detailed analysis.While this may work for some industries, within HR, we are dealing with people, and unlike the inventories or products being tracked by others, the subject of our data has the right to change their mind, which makes reporting on what has occurred less valuable for forecasting and strategic planning unless integrated with additional data and insight from the market itself.

Is it helpful to have a report showing increased turnover in certain markets, without the added insight of economic or competitive factors that are driving that turnover? How can a report that quantifies the difficulty in sourcing IT candidates drive effective strategy without the market insight that the higher education requirement attached to the job requisitions effectively eliminate manyavailable candidates from consideration?

At the moment, our reliance on HR data reports is perpetuating the habit of managing to noise, or extinguishing fires as they arise. But if we truly want to leverage the potential of the Business Intelligence tools at our disposal, we need to transform our data into actionable insights. Our People Analytics should include visualization, pattern recognition, and the actionable articulation, incubation, and assimilation of workforce insights.Fortunately, there are several incredible technology solutions that support this, when the right resources and data science is utilized by an employer to drive the data management and analytics themselves.

Taking a proactive stance on management of both brand culture and employee engagement starts long before an employee grievance. Managing all areas of an employee’s life may sound like overstepping, however, offering employees the means to balance health and wellness with career goals and continued education is exactly what most employees need to feel productive, purposeful and fulfilled by their work while forming a connection, loyalty and ultimately fostering positive employee engagement.

This may seem daunting, but it can be achieved by applying a different logic to exiting data points – for instance, analysis of PTO utilization, patterns of tardiness orpatterns of absence could proactively yield insight into a revised work schedule, flexible schedule options, or remote work possibilities that could boost engagement, retention, and productivity. While this is just an example of one way to promote engagement, there are many possible metrics to track and draw meaningful conclusions from data analysis.

For these things to all work together to form a well-oiled machine of employee engagement, brand culture and communication are pivotal. Communication is a two-way process whereby the employment organization does not only broadcast messages, but it gives employees a way to communicate back to managers and executives the information they need to analyses initiatives aimed at engagement, incentives and ultimately retention.

Sustainable, meaningful work. This goal should be at the heart of every HR initiative.We tend to hear a lot of conversations that only cover the elimination of jobs due to technology, but while some jobs may be eliminated, similar to other technological revolutions many new jobs are being added that did not exist before. These jobs will focus on the support and maintenance of the technology, as opposed to performing the tasks that the new technology accomplishes. Like a dishwasher repair person and a dishwasher operator replacing the job of a person or a few people who manually washed dishes.

Investment in HR Technology and Big Data are only as meaningful and valuable as the Data Scientists and Business Analysts that are managing organizations data analytics. Too often, big data is used to generate reports that support existing assumptions or strategies as opposed to being leveraged to identify new initiatives and direction. While, unbiased data management and analysis is the only way that we can truly achieve people analytics. How you structure that team and where they sit within your organization will have a tremendous impact on their level of influence and value. Think about your business today – does your analytics team retrieve reports upon request or do they drive the cadence and direction of insight based on the data?

There are many answers to these questions, but I am confident that most, if not all, can be found within our HR analytics if we make the right investments into the employment and empowerment of Data Scientists ad Analysts who can establish the right data structure to then identify and cultivate the insights we need to determine our path forward.

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