Article: Does your data talk sense, asks Michael Salvino

Strategic HR

Does your data talk sense, asks Michael Salvino

Workforce analytics allows a more fact-based approach to talent management
Does your data talk sense, asks Michael Salvino

Determine what resources are avilable to deliver the analytics agenda


Leveraging workforce analytics privides organisations with an improved decision making mechanism


With the economic recovery, some enterprises are finding it a challenge to figure out how best to grow their organizations. They need to move out of the cost cutting mindset and yet, when going to the HR team for help with these workplace insights, they often find that HR was just as much a victim of the recent downsizing activities as anyone else.

Additionally, while HR management systems contain a wealth of data, many organizations are faced with poor data quality. An under investment in the HR IT infrastructure over the years has resulted in data that is incomplete and inconsistent, due to numerous sources of information from manual processes. Finally, organizations often have limited access to analytic skills and resources internally.

Thus, outsourcing providers are perfectly poised to address these challenges and help organizations add value with analytics. Often sitting on a gold mine of data, outsourcing providers can help move from information to insight in a journey that can enable better business outcomes.

Getting started

To start on this workforce analytics journey, organizations must take note of a few initial needs.

Identify the end goal. Is it on-demand HR reporting; end-to-end business analytics; or somewhere in between? In tandem, it is important to determine what questions and challenges need to be addressed; for example, information/data about the organization; is it looking for a root cause? Understanding what the organization wants to achieve will ensure more than just mere data.

Determine what resources are available to deliver against the analytics agenda. Does the HR team have the skills and capacity due to recent right sizing activities? Is the data complete and accurate? Is there a common definition across the HR function, geographies and business units? Is there access to analytics resources to connect with key business threads? If the answer to any of these questions is no, an outsourcer may be able to help.

Assessing a provider

Once the need for an analytics partner is determined, potential providers should be evaluated, based on their depth and breadth of experience and expertise, which should extend beyond the traditional HR borders to ensure thoughtful and actionable insights.

Complimentary capabilities in technology and consulting will help not only in creating a roadmap, but also in executing a variety of solutions. Compliance with local security and privacy requirements is also critical. And last, but certainly not the least, is the importance of relevant industry and regional experience.

The chosen provider should be able to:

• Perform a gap analysis to determine where the organization is today versus where it should be based on its goals and business performance objectives;

• Bring together data from disparate sources, creating a central repository, normalizing the data, and making sure there is a common definition across the entire workforce;

• Apply deep industry and functional insights to report and analyze trends and patterns. A great deal of the value derived from analytics is based on aggregating data that might otherwise be analyzed independently and drawing conclusions about relationships;

• Present the analysis in multiple formats, for example by geography, business unit, hiring manager, cost center, workforce type, etc. so that each group can get a view of the data they need in order to make decisions;

• Outline corrective actions and provide help implementing them, while forecasting the impact of continued trends or changes.

Very often, the difference between success and failure comes down to an outsourcing provider who can bring experience and expertise across industries and geographies; a continuum of strategic to operational experience; working knowledge of technologies and data; and shared accountability for corrective actions.

The analytics advantage

Leveraging workforce analytics provides organizations with improved decision-making. It affords the ability to monitor the progress and effectiveness of HR programs to ensure they are optimizing resources and building the right workforce capabilities. It also offers greater visibility for helping control costs, increase employee productivity, manage compensation, improve retention and reduce voluntary turnover.

Workforce analytics allows companies to take a more fact-based approach to manage their workforce. It enables them to become more efficient and effective by providing the tools and insights that drive workforce performance, and keep talent and overall corporate strategies in-step with the company’s business goals.

Many enterprises have a good handle on how to be a leaner and meaner HR organization that delivers against administrative priorities. However, they appreciate a collaborative approach with an outsourcing provider when it comes to broadening their knowledge to include workforce analytics. This is where the business can quickly get to the nuts and bolts of their data, to discover trends and insights. It is this marrying of data around productivity that can help the organization directly and indisputably link business outcomes with workforce effort.

How can analytics help?

For one national consumer goods company, the difference between the performances of its sales regions was a head scratcher to the executive team. They saw a consistent and significant gap between the productivity metrics across the four sales regions, particularly between its highest and lowest performers, in the West and Northeast, respectively, and needed to know why.

To determine the reasons for the disparity and to design a plan to remedy the situation, the company turned to its outsourcing provider. While on the surface the workforces in both regions appeared to have the right skill sets for the job and the sales leadership teams were meeting objectives, the service provider leveraged workforce analytics capabilities to dig deeper.

Drilling into the data on performance ratings revealed that approximately 25 percent of the managers in the Northeast region fell below or significantly below expectations – far more than in the West. Furthermore, it was found that for a high percentage of managers in the Northeast, exceptions had been made in the hiring process and many lacked the required level of education. The outsourcing provider next looked at the perception of the support that the sales workforce in the two regions received from their managers; it showed a huge discrepancy, specifically in the areas of communication, executive presence and industry acumen. Extrapolating this information led the outsourcing provider to make the relevant recommendations that included assessment of the Northeast region’s leadership to ensure their skills match the role; update the enterprise’s recruiting/job profile to match characteristics of higher performing sales personnel in the West; allow fewer exceptions to hiring criteria; and consider a rotational assignment to infuse skills and model behaviors within the Northeast.

This example illustrates how analytics can help an organization make the workforce changes needed to impact the bottom line.

Michael (Mike) Salvino is Group Chief Executive of the Accenture Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) growth platform



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Topics: Strategic HR, Technology, #HRMetrics

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