Overcoming the Challenges of Understanding HR Data

Human resources professionals have been slow to get on the HR data train. Have you noticed that too? Is it a lack of forward thinking? Is it the huge challenges of finding the right technology and then implementing HR analytics? Maybe you don’t have the support you need to make it happen. What reasons have you found hesitancy to venture into HR data?

In discussions around data and analytics with HR professionals, we’ve found that there are different levels of intimidation based on HR experience. We’ll focus on three:

  1. New HR professionals or small teams are just starting to dip their toes into data. In fact, most HR leaders are tracking reports and metrics in spreadsheets. They aren’t sure what should be measured, how to calculate data, or even what to do with data. That’s intimidating when leadership is asking for reports or managers need to know trends of their team in order to plan for future staffing.
  2. Business professionals just coming into the HR field have a lot of data-driven business background, but it’s primarily for sales, marketing, or operations. They don’t have an HR background. It can intimidate when there’s a wealth of knowledge from other departments, but you’re not sure how that translates to how HR data is tracked, measured, reported, and acted upon.
  3. Seasoned HR professionals know what metrics to track and how to analyze and act on the data, but they are just too busy to deal with manual processes. This scenario is probably more about frustration, but intimidation can creep in when leadership or managers need key data for decision-making, and it is not quickly available at your fingertips.

Do you see yourself fitting into one of these three levels of intimidation? Don’t worry! It’s okay to be intimidated at first. Read on to learn about key HR metrics you should track and why, what the calculations mean for those metrics, and what you should do with that data to make positive changes in your organization’s workforce.

How to Rectify Lack of Knowledge

If you are an HR professional who is intimidated by data, you can rectify that lack of knowledge. Here are a few tips to help you:

  • Learn the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your organization. If words like revenue, cash flow, and headcount cause you to cringe, ‌consider taking a class on financial analysis. You’ll gain much more confidence when you can speak with knowledge in these areas.
  • Ask someone in your organization who you know is good at financial analysis to be your mentor. Don’t be embarrassed to admit you don’t know everything you should – they will probably be happy to assist you.
  • View Finance/Accounting team members as your friends. They can help you figure out which HR metrics would be useful for your department, and they may even train you in their use.
  • Remember, it is your responsibility to understand the HR data your team gathers, and it’s critical that you can analyze it and present it with authority. Don’t delegate that task of understanding.

Good decisions are driven by good data. And data can tell you where programs and initiatives have gone off course so you can make incremental course corrections along the way, rather than deal with a catastrophe down the road.

HR Data Goldmine

As an HR professional, more likely than not you are sitting on a data goldmine. Some of those include recruitment data, career advancement data, professional development data, absenteeism data, performance review data, and staff satisfaction rates data. This is not the entire list of HR data that you could gather, but it’s a great start.

These types of data can be incredibly valuable to not only your HR team, but across your entire organization. Why? Because it provides critical insights for workforce decision-making, learning how to make your employees happier, and optimizing processes and policies. And with analytics, this data can further improve predictions when employees might leave, where to recruit candidates from and with what best tactics, how to identify and attract the best-fit candidates, and even how to keep them happy once you’ve hired them.

So‌ this means that your HR data is more valuable than you ever thought. But are you currently measuring, monitoring, and gathering data?

Challenges to Using HR Data

Over the years, we’ve interviewed many HR professionals to determine their challenges and help them find the right solutions. Many of them have access to this wealth of HR data, but too many of them are wrapped up in administrative tasks, performance issues, day-to-day recruitment and workforce management, manually reviewing employee satisfaction surveys, and much more, to even dig deeper into data. And the worst part is that many simply don’t know what next steps to take with their data. May I ‌say that HR is traditionally viewed as people-oriented, not numbers - or data-oriented?

Even if HR data plays a role in your organization, is it being analyzed and used in a way to help the business reach its goals? Sure, you most likely measure the standard KPIs like the ones listed above. But are you aware of the various metrics such as diversity, turnover, employee engagement, headcount, and employee recognition you can use to deliver business-critical insights that would have a significant impact on your business’s performance?

Let’s Look at an Example

As an HR professional, you manage employee data across various disconnected HR systems. So, when it’s time to pull all that data together to analyze and share with management, you get buried in tedious manual spreadsheets for hours. You’d rather put your time and effort into building a thriving workforce environment, not spreadsheets. There is a way to get on top of it.

Data can help drive your entire HR workforce program from performance management to productivity. However, the skill sets of HR professionals are sometimes limited in handling and implementing new technology in the workplace. Many HR professionals aren’t trained in the tools needed to capture employee data, thoroughly analyze it, and then implement change across the organization.

It's important to consider having your staff learn to use and understand new HR technologies, or even hire an HR Data Analyst that is trained in and has experience using analytics. HR teams should be open to including data analytics in their daily processes and encouraging team members to work with the information available to them.

Employee Cycle can help you pull together all this disparate information into one centralized people dashboard. Real-time analytics such as turnover, recruiting, diversity, engagement and more are provided to help you identify workforce problems, justify budget requests, and align your HR efforts to business goals. Workforce questions shouldn’t be painful to answer.

Benefits of HR Data & Analytics

Did you know that HR data analytics can be linked to driving the value of your business? When you can measure high performance across the business – and areas that aren’t performing well – you can start digging into the core reasons and start implementing positive changes. You could use data analytics to streamline your recruitment process. And, more quickly, identify the most suited candidates for your job openings through data and analytics to assess the candidate pool.

Wrapping It Up

As I’m sure you’re aware, there is a clear and growing need to use HR data and analytics to support your organization’s decisions. Your leadership wants to make data-driven decisions, backed up with logic and good reasoning. Employee Cycle can help you gather your HR data, analyze it, and leverage that power with all of your metrics in one place with real-time actionable data.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: