Workforce Planning and HR Analytics

June 2, 2017
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There’s been quite a lot of buzz regarding workforce analytics and its benefit to companies of every kind. The real challenge lies in converting disparate types of “people data” into strategies your company can actually utilize.

What is workforce planning?

HR initiatives can take many forms, such as streamlining recruitment or managing compensation, but it doesn’t magically provide solutions to every problem. Many analysts are very intelligent and skilled people, but rarely accountants. Transforming workforce planning and analytics into dollar value takes a cooperative effort from business managers who know what to look for. Given the number of analytic initiatives that fail to deliver, we can at least come up with a list of things to avoid.

Not defining purpose

There are more workforce planning tools appearing, but not all will be the right fit. It’s much better to know specifically what you want to accomplish and include only data that’s relevant. The concept of data analytics has become an essential business tool, but HR managers who analyze just for the sake of crunching numbers and discovering statistical facts may not be contributing anything of value. Workforce analytics requires you to be familiar with your specific subject, what questions you’re asking, how to organize the data, and how knowing the answer would directly improve workforce management and provide advantages to the company.

Liability

When sifting through employee data, or collecting more, there can be a fine line between value and employees looking up personal injury solicitors. While facts about age, gender, religion, and so forth could divulge valuable information, using them the wrong way could be considered discrimination. Sharing sensitive data could be considered a violation of law. Likewise, adjustments to wages should involve consultation with a compensation lawyer. The wrong plan could lead to civil suits, bad press, and a loss of company image that causes more problems than it solves. Check with legal advisors before the analysis even begins.

Limited teams

An HR manager who understands using big data, or a data scientist who understands HR, is a rarity. To convince stakeholders that you have an important contribution to make requires a team with a wider set of perspectives and business knowledge. For instance, running mathematical models on employee retention should involve IT, senior managers, and employees themselves, either via collected feedback or interviews. No matter how keen your insight is, validating and supporting business changes will require a broader perspective.

Failure to think outside of HR

For inspired HR professionals, the discoveries to be made from using big data can increase productivity and decrease work-related stress. But for the rest of the organization, HR needs may be neither a priority nor a concern. Time and resources are generally limited to the innovations that have the biggest potential impact. When it comes to analytics, you need to develop a clear proposal that provides clear value to the company, not just HR.

Exaggerated expectations

Analytics is a powerful tool that grown from financial forecasts to virtually every aspect of doing business, including IT, logistics, creating healthy, safe and fair workplaces. It’s not reasonable to expect that your workforce suggestions will be saving or earning the company millions of dollars. Nor will other aspects of the business readily accept that as an HR professional you have a good grasp of data science. Pick an important subject like preventing workplace injury or decrease stress condition caused by work. If you champion your first small project to success, the next will be easier.

What are the real benefits of workforce planning? The best use of these tools are not looking for the next big money-saving idea, but steadily improving the responsibilities HR is entrusted with. More efficient hiring and training and more engaged and productive employees will improve the company’s bottom line and it’s culture. Don’t lose sight of the fact that using big data can validate ideas and measure progress just as well as create change.