Article: There is a need to balance data and people

Performance Management

There is a need to balance data and people

Stella Hou, HR Director at C&A China, talks about how HR's business acumen will come into play while deploying Big Data
There is a need to balance data and people

In my experience, Big Data or not, HR has always been dealing with data and HR has always been asked to and has aspired to come up with analysis, insights and solutions based on data. I don’t think it’s a new thing. For Big Data to transform into big insights, it is utterly dependent on the intellect and business understanding of the HR leader. The IT software and data processing environment also pushes the function in the right direction. But we have to acknowledge that it is the output. The input is still the pre-assumptions and data requests that the HR leadership provide.

So fundamentally, Big Data or not, it goes back to how much business understanding HR has of the business and this is not only about understanding the company’s requirements and the people but also the micro and macro political and economic environment. The world we live in is the one where they all impact how we work, one way or another, so the question of how can we deploy Big Data to make the HR function more effective starts with HR’s business acumen.

I think HR, at the end of the day, deals with people and people come before data. And there needs to be a balance between the data and the insights and people because at the end of the day, even the data and the insights are about serving the people. So let’s not over emphasise one thing just because it is a trend and forget the fundamentals.

I think there needs to be a much closer collaboration between HR and IT. In the HR operations function and HR business partner roles, the ability to use data to present the HR solution is an increasing requirement.

Mature stable organisations, in a relatively well orchestrated industry, use a lot of data for recruitment. For instance, creating a job profile with all the competency requirements and using good assessment tools really help while screening candidates and the data can be used to help spot the core essential competencies and map those. But at the same time I am always conscious about not overusing the job profiles etc because we are working in a world of changes, and you don’t want employees who will work and deliver on what’s on the paper, and not over deliver above and beyond the brief. You want those employees who will over deliver and exceed the job profile and perform at their best.

Whatever the HR initiative, it has to serve the business need and the top leadership agenda. So at the end of the day it’s still the CEO and the CEO’s team that will define the change agenda and improvement agenda of the company. And it is in these change moments that HR has the opportunity to offer innovation and influence through data-driven solutions.

Sometimes innovation is good, but productivity doesn’t mean innovation all the time. Improvements on the day-to-day scorecard, very routine measurements and optimising those parameters through data is also a very valuable way of looking at productivity. I think in emerging markets like India and China where people job hop all the time, where knowledge and competencies change and evolve because of the ins-and-outs, it is destabilising the organisation, so we must retain the fundamental business building blocks and business processes and focus on optimising those because if you have 40%-50% turnover, it is these processes that will anchor the organisation. Improving those should be the focus.

Data should be one of the inputs, one of the considerations for solutions but there are other variables that should influence as well. Over relying on data to provide you with a projection of the future based on the presumption that everything will remain stable and as-is is not realistic and is risky if taken in isolation as a solution. You cannot expect data to provide you with a pat solution to complex business problems.

As told to Avanija Sundaramurti

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Topics: Performance Management, Technology, Culture

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