How to Start the Workforce Analytics Journey

IBM report provides detailed steps on how to dive into analytics

By Aliah D. Wright July 16, 2015

Want to figure out what makes people successful in their job or why they quit?

Use workforce analytics.

A new report from the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute, Starting the Workforce Analytics Journey: The First 100 Days, details in 10 steps how to take 100 days to set up an analytically enabled HR function.

According to research from Bersin by Deloitte, it typically takes one to two years for a company to build a talent analytics team.

And a 2014 IBM study of 342 chief human resource officers (CHROs) revealed that less than 16 percent of companies report the ability to use data to make predictions and take action on future workforce issues.

As the battle for stellar talent continues, HR departments can make use of new tech tools to help them learn more about their current employees in order to keep them from leaving. Workforce analytics, according to the IBM report, can help determine, among other things:

  • What makes employees more engaged.

  • What drives job satisfaction.

  • How performance links to the people in your organization.

    As Josh Bersin Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte wrote for HR Magazine earlier this year, “When you put a program together to collect people data all in one place, you can immediately focus on urgent business issues. How do we get a higher quality of hire? How do we improve our batting average for high-performing salespeople? What are the characteristics of our best customer service representatives? What training program is delivering the highest return on investment in leadership? Why are certain groups of employees leaving at an alarming rate? The answers could be worth millions of dollars.”

    Bersin emphasized that investing in talent analytics means “bringing together the reporting and analytics teams in recruiting, compensation, engagement, learning and leadership, and developing a plan to evaluate your workforce from a holistic perspective. Companies spend up to two-thirds of their budgets on people—yet many have not invested the money and time to clean up, rationalize and combine data about those people to help make better decisions.”

    According to the IBM report, those embarking on the analytics journey will essentially need to break the trip into three phases.

    Phase 1: Set Your Direction

    Develop a vision that incorporates the core elements of workforce analytics by adapting the vision to fit the business. Determine which aspects of analytics are important to the CHRO. Identify stakeholders and collect information concerning important metrics that drive the organization and the view of HR’s role in the business. Grasp both the legal and cultural viewpoints of privacy laws in relevant locations. Talk to a privacy attorney if necessary.

    Phase 2: Define Your Approach

    Rather than wait for perfect data, trust the subject matter experts to propose alternatives if the quality of the data is poor. “Draw on the expertise of executives and HR business partners to point out variables to be analyzed. Identify data owners and agree on procedures for ensuring accuracy and securing access,” the report states. For the sake of convenience, consider using cloud technologies to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Use technology to help make visuals to aid storytelling and for the presentation of results. Outsource when appropriate.

    Phase 3: Grow Your Capability

    Find an HR analytics leader with strong experience in operations. “Ensure the HR analytics team has a balance of skills including HR knowledge, analysis, expertise, and consulting,” the report states. Scale the size of the team depending on the project. “Set up the business case as a small consulting business—include project start dates and end dates, resource allocations and budgets. Identify analytics projects that go beyond traditional HR boundaries to impact the business and wider operating environment,” the report advises.

    Lastly, build momentum “through effective communication and influence, identifying audiences, communication channels and key messages.”

    After the first 100 days, the report states, the huge impact of workforce analytics will begin to become clear as the new function gets into its stride.

    “Most important of all, keep in mind that analytics has the potential to give HR an enhanced strategic role in helping the business grow and improve its operational effectiveness,” the report points out. “The insights can have a huge impact on the business and its workforce.”

    Tom Stachura, IBM’s vice president of skills and people analytics, added, “We usually find that as long as the data is accurate, 30 percent of the data drives 70 percent of the value. To make the data accurate, make it visible to as many people as possible, while maintaining security and privacy, as people will usually tell you if their data is wrong.”

    Bersin suggests HR “be careful not to jump at technology just because it seems like the trendy thing to do. Rather, focus on building your team, bringing people together and developing a multiyear plan to invest in this area. The payoff will likely be huge. If your competitors do it first, you may suddenly find yourself losing critical hires or great employees and not even know why.”

    Aliah D. Wright is an editor/manager for SHRM Online. Reach, follow and tag her on Twitter @1SHRMScribe and share and tag this story via



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