Effective data collection, storage, and analysis is critical to future businessÂ success.
By Simon Kent
As the pandemic took hold of workplaces across EMEA,Â organisations found it necessary to shift every aspect ofÂ their business online. HR was among the departmentsÂ where data had to be digitised, ensuring peopleÂ information was accessible to all who needed it. TheÂ move to digital has emphasised two connected learningÂ points for businesses:
- the importance of having good data; and
- the importance of leveraging that data to make evenÂ better decisions.
In fact, Mercerâs Global Talent Trends 2020-2021 studyÂ reports that HR has moved data up the value chain,Â quadrupling its use of predictive analytics from 10% inÂ 2016 to 39% in 2020. Additionally, 61% of executivesÂ say using talent analytics to inform decisions is the topÂ HR trend that has delivered the biggest impact on theirÂ business.
âHR data is more critical now than ever before,â saysÂ Peter Ryding, founder of the HRD PathFinder ClubÂ and VICyourcoach.com. âMany CEOs were shocked atÂ how poor the people data was in the first lockdown, andÂ whilst some HRDs have responded, many havenât.â
Ryding emphasises that HR should take advantage ofÂ the technology shift occurring around them. âAheadÂ of moving processes online, HR directors should noteÂ that moving online is not just automating what you have,Â itâs about improving and integrating at the same time,âÂ he says.
Marine Fournier, HR manager at Powell Software, wasÂ one HR leader who took the bull by the horns and madeÂ the online environment work for her business. Taking onÂ this challenge was not easy.
âIn a fast-growth environment, it is usual for theÂ verbal way to be one of the most efficient ways toÂ communicate,â she says. âThis was our pre-pandemicÂ culture. The pandemic, however, pushed HR andÂ other business departments to switch from a verbalÂ communication to a written one.â
With businesses across the EMEA region being impactedÂ in different ways due to the varying spread of theÂ pandemic, HR information needed to be available inÂ many languages and time zones so it was always readyÂ to serve the organisation. Fournier says having an onlineÂ portal was key to providing employees the informationÂ they needed when they needed it.
Powellâs HR team built an intranet that delivered easyÂ access to everything HR: guides on managing employeeÂ relations and onboarding, recruiting, and interviewingÂ virtually, and advice on the latest employmentÂ regulations and legislation.
âWe then asked each department within Powell SoftwareÂ to do the sameâto share information that is relevant toÂ their department and teams,â she says.
According to Fournier, the main challenge was ensuringÂ the business selected the right tool for storing andÂ presenting each kind of information whilst also ensuringÂ their workers knew the resources were placed there.
âNo one will accept the change if they do not see theÂ benefit of it,â she notes. âTo ensure a fast change, weÂ needed to mix the information flow and engage withÂ employees.â This was done through surveys, employeeÂ advocacy programmes, and gamification apps.
According to Andrew Drake, client development directorÂ at HR and benefits consulting firm Buck, taking HR dataÂ online has called for companies to collate vast amounts ofÂ employee dataâan âintense and dauntingâ experienceÂ for many.
âIt was especially hard for companies that didnât haveÂ a data system in place before,â he says. âThey requiredÂ significant data cleanses to remove inaccurate andÂ irrelevant data that had built up over yearsâevenÂ decadesâbefore they could even begin the process.â
Drake explains this change has been ongoing, withÂ businesses addressing the way they manage their dataÂ and introducing new best practices, such as regularlyÂ updating data to reflect changes in the company.
However, Antoinette Weibel, professor for HRÂ management and organisation transformation at theÂ Institute for Work and Employment Research at theÂ University of St. Gallen, highlights another aspect ofÂ people management that needs addressing if HR data isÂ to be usable: employee consent.
A survey carried out by her department in the SummerÂ 2020 found that 63% of their Switzerland-basedÂ respondents were using at least one technology-basedÂ application to help with retention and transitionÂ management. They found the use of these applicationsÂ to be in their infancy, although inroads were being madeÂ to make use of that data through people managementÂ dashboards.
âOur main premise is that HR will only be able to useÂ the data if it is good data,â explains Weibel. âThis, inÂ our view, mainly applies if employees are willing toÂ share their insights or have themselves observed andÂ interpreted by their employer, which is dependent onÂ employee trust in their employer.â
Pulling together HR data in one place has far-reachingÂ benefits for every organisation. John Faucher, seniorÂ director of business solutions at HR and business dataÂ platform SplashBI, says the use of people analytics hasÂ been a major factor in the progression of HR.
âIt is crucial that data-driven decisions are observedÂ and implemented rather than made on assumptionsÂ in order to strive towards success,â he says. âAnalyticsÂ support numerous day-to-day tasks facing businesses inÂ many different variations, from face-to-face to quarterlyÂ reviews and beyond. Itâs imperative that we understandÂ the data around us to aid growth, especially if businessesÂ are questioning if they should reopen the office or not.â
Faucher also recommends that people analytics and HRÂ teams collaborate with other departments, includingÂ finance and strategy, to take a deep dive into todayâsÂ pressing questions around how many employees are notÂ currently working because of the pandemic and howÂ many workers can be successful working remotely.
HR leaders who leverage the insights gathered fromÂ people analytics will always be in a stronger positionÂ when planning for the future. âTheyâll also be aheadÂ of other organisations in addressing the near-termÂ challenges that the pandemic has raised in analytics itself,Â ready to take the next leap forward,â Faucher notes.
As a new normal emerges in the next yearâoneÂ that blends workplace location, employee skills, andÂ organisational riskâhaving the right data will beÂ of increased importance for HR. With efficient dataÂ collection, storage, and analysis, HR leaders will continueÂ to be able to inform the businesses it serves of the rightÂ way ahead.