For many HR professionals the world of people data can seem a daunting place. Monthly reports, endless Excel spreadsheets of numbers, and complex and often ambiguous demands from business colleagues can be the cause of much stress and anxiety. On top of that, the common perception of HR is a function under pressure from the business to ‘join the data revolution’ and start to use people data. If they don’t, the profession risks being left behind.
Business trend analyses and technology thought-pieces all point to people data becoming the norm for HR. But is this the case in businesses today? Can people data be used by HR to make a human, more engaging workplace? And just how prepared is HR for the new world of data-driven decision-making?
The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development [CIPD] investigated the uptake of people analytics in the HR profession through a global survey of HR and other professionals, to explore how people analytics is evolving in the HR profession. Our report People analytics: driving business performance with people data in association with Workday, explored how the UK compared to other regions globally in key areas of people analytics practice. The survey found key differences between the UK and other regions, and also illustrated how HR and finance professionals have different views on the impact of people data.
Our survey of over 1,500 business professionals in the UK found that almost six in 10 (57%) have access to workforce data, but 21% use it only once a month. When we investigated what finance professionals thought of their HR function’s analytics capability, only 19% agreed that HR in their organisation had demonstrable numerical and statistical skills and only 20% thought their HR team were experts at using people data. Our findings show that HR’s reputation for using people data is very low, and although use is fairly high, there are clear barriers to making the most of people data.
An important driver of people analytics are the skills and capabilities of the HR function. Our survey found that just over four in 10 (41%) of UK HR professionals always or often conduct basic data analytics (e.g. calculate mean, mode and median), and around three-quarters (76%) are confident at doing this. However, for more advanced people analytics (such as structural equation modelling and predictive analytics), confidence levels are far lower; only one fifth (21%) say they are confident in their ability, compared to the global average of 41%. HR in the UK appears to be lagging far behind in confidence from their global counterparts.
To improve confidence and capability there are clear things businesses can do. HR functions should look to build internal capability by investing in numeracy and statistics skills. This can also include encouraging professionals with data-science skills into their teams. HR leaders also have a key role to play in building capability; they must communicate the value of people data and support the roll-out of people analytics capability by investing in and developing the function. Connecting HR to other data-driven functions is an additional way through which leaders can enhance capability.
People analytics has considerable potential to help organisations improve job quality for individuals and drive overall organisation performance. If HR can improve their capability, people data can shine a light on key business issues. For example, as the population ages and more employees take on additional caring responsibilities, data on the uptake of policies and practices and the use of remote working technologies become powerful indicators for HR. This data can help to inform the development of new policies and improve the experience of employees.
New technologies now offer the opportunity for organisations to take a deeper look at the quality of work in their organisations. Wellbeing, productivity and even social connectedness are all now quantifiable and can be reported. If HR can up its skills and confidence, what was once immeasurable and hard to utilise could become a powerful tool for helping to improve the experience of employees and help build a more human world of work.