Data continues to be one of the prominent storytellers for a future-ready workforce. While data-driven insights will state the fundamental issues, the heart of every organization is its people. Even in the face of hard data, decision makers must recognize how the decision-making might get eclipsed in process of blind reliance on people analytics.
People analytics and the future of work
HR is the most critical entity of an organization. To gain a competitive edge organizations must have a good connect with their people and develop an understanding of human resources. Nishikant Tayade, General Manager, Human Resources, Banswara Syntex, believes that we are in the early stages of people analytics, so growing and learning how it can be effective is essential to reap its benefits and to curate effective business solutions. Ranjan Kumar Varanasi, Digital Transformation Advocate, AKRIVIA HCM, iterates that HR needs to face the pace of change to be able to help workforces and leaders respond to the needs of business and marketplace, and also to foresee the fast growing changes in relation to technology. “With a data culture informing our decisions and strategies, we can understand why and where people leave, why they stay with us etc,” he shares. Human intuition requires the help of tech to make these decisions based on data.
Challenges in people analytics
“Data can only give output as per the input you give.” While data capturing is important, sorting and validating the data is a critical first step. “Collate data, correlate the data with problems and see the trigger points for root cause analysis as a continuous process”, recommends Nishikant. Data coming through certain filters must be quality data so that HR can connect the correlative data with cost and revenue and put it in front of management for support and sponsorship. Arnab K Ganguly Director, Business Transformation, Adecco India further stresses the importance of being aware that data sets which we use for predictive analytics need to be unbiased. Ranjan recommends starting with putting all data sources in one place, to create a proactive strategic HR approach.
But mere data capability is not enough. According to Arnab, we must use common sense and not be totally blind to what data is saying. Nishikant too agrees, “100% data cannot be captured, it has to be complemented with experiences such that feeling, figures, and facts to arrive at business solutions”. “People analytics is the connecting bridge between machines and humans today”, agrees Ranjan.
How to make people analytics work?
Consistent and sustainable manpower can help gain edge over competition. “To give a contemporary consumeristic experience to employees we need to understand business problems from a sustenance standpoint”, shares Nishikant.
- Recruitment: To optimize the effort in large-scale hiring, Arnab suggests analysing the demographic parameters and focus recruiter efforts where it matters most. For example, an analysis of a person’s facial expressions and gestures from a video interview recording can help gauge if he or she is keen on joining. Ranjan agrees that data gives objective visibility into the effectiveness of recruitment activities, helps actively nurture possible future hires, and thereby creates a robust talent pool.
- Talent identification: At Banswara Syntex, data is used to identify high potential people, identify gaps, develop a competency matrix, and give them an environment with clear career growth paths, with a 3-5 years horizon. “We work with people to develop the talent pipeline and make them feel they are key to business”, says Nishikant.
- Career pathing, succession planning and mobility: Succession plans can help continuity of talent feeds and therein, continuity of business. “Nowadays manpower mobilization is fast, so leaders need to know the trigger points i.e. who should be moving where and when”, says Nishikant.
- Engagement and Communication: AI-ML based chatbots help improve the employee experience by giving people first-hand information transparently and resolving grievances in real-time. Arnab mentions how they conduct quarterly surveys with targeted questionnaires and statistical analysis (including text analysis using NLP) to gauge peoples’ moods and engagement levels. This has benefited Adecco’s attrition levels.
- HR Operations: Tracking absenteeism, compliance, overtime, habitual behavioural patterns, time-to-hire, cost-per-hire, early-turnover, time-since-last-promotion, revenue per employee, performance-potential matrix, excessive overworking etc. are essential for continued talent availability. However, the effective HR of today goes beyond hygiene factors, it is one which can use this people analytics and put them before management to have an edge over the competition, says Nishi. Ranjan agrees that HR shall impact every single area with ongoing automation, augmentation and amplification. And data such as performance, financials, demographics, employee movements, training histories, etc. will help the HR team transition from an annual strategic workforce model to ongoing agile workforce planning methods.
There are two sides to HR analytics i.e. people side and analytics side, and we need to look at larger solutions. The question is, “What needs to change to get this moving?”
Upskilling people in data skills and make managers responsible for this is the first step. “Basic skills like understanding a graph, need not require an expert”, says Ranjan. Secondly, building a single, authentic source of truth will encourage people to refer a central single source of truth and to curate a data culture. Nishikant emphasizes the ethical aspect, “We are dealing with peoples’ careers, sensitivity is critical, it can harm as well as benefit the organization and people”. Since people analytics is a relatively new topic for HR professionals, awareness and knowledge webinars can help initiate interest and help HR get well-versed before going for management buy-in. For sustained leadership interest and investment, measure the impact starting with small matrices and course-correct, develop dashboards to showcase the impact and then develop models for the large scale. HR leaders must connect the analytics with business outputs while optimizing the utilization of right people at the right time, and giving people scope and recognition. Ranjan points out that when starting the people analytics journey, it is upon the leadership to analyse the available platforms and tools in the market and to see which fits their business goals in the coming five years. He advises not to bank upon a piece-meal approach, but to opt for a comprehensive treatment focusing on entire experience of employee and business alignment.