SHRM Live 2016 Digs into Predictive Analytics, Performance Management

Experts clear up confusion about how HR can use data to make informed business decisions

By Kathy Gurchiek Dec 15, 2016
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​Using workforce analytics can seem daunting, but it's simply recognizing patterns in data and applying that information to make informed decisions, said Greta Roberts, CEO and co-founder of Talent Analytics in Cambridge, Mass.

Roberts was one of several speakers during "SHRM Live 2016: Making the 21st Century Workplace Work," in Washington, D.C., on December 14.

Jeanne Morris, director of educational programs at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), moderated the live-streamed event discussions of workforce analytics and performance management. Polls, tweets, a robust chat room and live questions added to the buzz during the event.

[SHRM members-only resource: Using Workforce Analytics for Competitive Advantage]

Predictive analysis is a strategy, Roberts said, that requires:

  • Understanding what the data is telling you.
  • Being able to describe what the data means.
  • Knowing what you don't know and finding someone who can support you in the work of predictive analysis, such as a statistician.

Though HR professionals tend to apply analytics to HR issues, these professionals can widen their influence by using analytics to address line-of-business challenges in their organizations.

"Line-of-business [colleagues] want to know what action they can take that directly leads to better business results," such as lower accident rates for truck drivers or improved efficiency and productivity for call center representatives, Roberts noted. 

A workforce analytics project starts with a conversation.

"Get comfortable talking to your line-of-business managers about their business and [their] challenges," she said.

Your colleagues will support you if you are transparent about findings and take action to solve a business problem using analytics, she said. Analytics may point to the need for more, earlier or different employee training, for example.

Roberts advised HR professionals to learn to read charts and graphs, and suggested having a workshop on analytics for the HR team. Additionally, an organization's vendors should be able to provide data going back several years that can be used in analysis, she added.

Panelist Candace Osunsade, SHRM-SCP, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, discussed how she used predictive analytics at her organization. Using talent data led to the discovery that front-line service providers at the aquarium have the greatest impact on visitors.

"They are the reason why our guests come back to the aquarium," but they are the lowest paid, she said. The predictive analysis led to an increased investment in those employees.

She cautioned, though, that data is just one part of a predictive analysis project.

"The data cannot be the answer to the question [you're facing]. It is very important that it is used as one piece of information to put together a bigger, deeper story."
Talent analytics has to be a team effort, she emphasized, and she urged HR professionals to "embrace the new HR professionals: mathematicians. Help them understand what we see through our filters and competencies to tell the story that will result in [business] action."

Analytics does not have to fall solely on HR professionals' shoulders, she noted. Look for internal partners or external ones such as vendors. Osunsade also advised getting support from the management team by asking them to view the predictive analytics project as theirs—not as an HR project.

"You will see commitment over time" and, with it, financial investment.

Performance Management

Anna Tavis, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of leadership and human capital management at New York University, and an editor of the SHRM affiliate HR People + Strategy's People & Strategy journal, led a panel discussion on the latest trends in performance management.

"All of us have to think through the change management process that will be required ... to redesign what we currently have," which is a performance management process that was designed for the industrial age. Today's workforce, she said, is expected to be creative, innovative and collaborative yet able to operate autonomously.

Performance management needs to be redesigned, she said, "to accommodate this new type of talent" and to help employees improve their skills. Employers can accomplish this by:

  • Redefining the purpose of performance management at your organization.
  • Accelerating the cycle so conversations about performance occur frequently.
  • Focusing on managers to help them develop coaching skills.
  • Separating performance management conversations from compensation conversations.

There is a wide spectrum of options for how performance management is conducted, she said. Consider what is best for the business, what is best for the employees, and what supports the kind of culture you want to have.

Timeliness of performance management conversations and agreed-upon standards of performance that are clear, measureable and aligned with the organization's strategic plan are important components as well, said Bettina A. Deynes, SHRM-SCP, vice president of HR and diversity at SHRM. Conversations should include identifying training opportunities and succession planning.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Larson, SHRM-SCP, chair-elect for the SHRM Foundation board of directors, echoed the importance of performance conversations and said managers must be held accountable for having those conversations.

"The evaluation component must be done regularly—at least quarterly," she said. She offered the following tips for conducting those conversations:

  • Focus on timeliness. The more frequently expectations are discussed, the better.
  • Align the supervisor's and employee's performance expectations.
  • Embrace measurement in all forms of performance criteria.
The program will be available on demand from Dec. 16 until Jan. 15, 2017. Visit this link at the SHRMStore to access the archived program.

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