EIU/SHRM Foundation Report: Use of Workforce Analytics Increases

Growth of ‘big data’ in the workplace will require adaptation  by HR professionals and business leaders

Jun 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — The use and influence of workforce analytics, also known as “big data” is experiencing a transformative revolution. Its growing impact on the future composition of the workforce, HR and talent management, and overall business strategy will be inevitable during the next five to 10 years. 

New research from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by the SHRM Foundation and IBM, identifies key trends affecting the global workforce and work culture, along with challenges facing senior business leaders and HR management professionals.

Press briefing: Beth McFarland, director of the SHRM Foundation, will be available for questions about the report via conference call at 10 a.m. ET today, Tuesday, June 21. For dial-in instructions, contact SHRM Media Relations at Sundra.Hominik@shrm.org or Kate.Kennedy@shrm.org.

The report, Use of Workforce Analytics for Competitive Advantage, was released today at the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition being held in Washington, D.C. Key findings include:

  • Investment in workforce analytics is on the rise. Research conducted by the EIU suggests that the overwhelming majority of organizations will either begin using or increase their use of big data in HR over the coming years.
  • The HR function is adapting to a more data-driven world, leading to the establishment of specialist teams and the recruitment of data-oriented personnel. HR professionals of the future will need to possess a combination of two skills — a head for analytics and the ability to present findings in a manner convincing to senior executives. 
  • Companies including 3M, Lowe’s, Google, Sysco and Nordstrom have remained competitive because of their ability to use data and analytics to better understand their workforce, maximize productivity and improve overall business performance.
  • The sphere of predictive analytics (using data to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical information) will likely attract increasing attention over the coming years. Two areas in particular where predictive analytics are being leveraged are employee retention and recruitment.
  • From identifying workforce skills shortages to ethics and data privacy issues, many challenges still loom around the successful use and implementation of workforce analytics. The move to data-based decision-making might result in leadership obstacles, with some executives seeing the increased use of evidence as a direct contradiction to their personal judgment.

“Workforce analytics is transforming human capital strategy,” said Mark Schmit, executive director of the SHRM Foundation. “This new report can help HR and business leaders prepare for the future and leverage the power of analytics to generate important business insights.” 

Organizations seeking to effectively use workforce analytics will certainly encounter some obstacles. Recommendations for overcoming these obstacles include:

  • Improving the analytical skills of the HR function.
  • Ensuring that data are clean, organized and ready for analysis.
  • Keeping projects focused on solving key business problems.
  • Maintaining rigor (don’t confuse correlation and causation).
  • Striking a balance (perfectionism is a drawback).
  • Seeking small wins at first (they will lead to bigger ones).
  • Establishing cross-functional cooperation for data gathering, storage and analysis.
  • Reassuring staff that analytics is an aid to human decision-making, not a replacement.
  • Understanding the legal and ethical complexities of employee monitoring.

The report is part of a three-year research series including validation reports, articles, videos and infographics that identify emerging trends on workforce issues.

For the full research report, videos and infographics, visit http://futurehrtrends.eiu.com.

Media: To request an interview or to receive dial-in instructions for the press briefing, contact Sundra Hominik of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6273 and Sundra.Hominik@shrm.org or Kate Kennedy at 703-535-6260 and Kate.Kennedy@shrm.org.

About The Economist Intelligence Unit
The Economist Intelligence Unit is the world leader in global business intelligence. It is the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, which publishes The Economist newspaper. As the world’s leading provider of country intelligence, The Economist Intelligence Unit helps executives make better business decisions by providing timely, reliable and impartial analysis on worldwide market trends and business strategies. More information about The Economist Intelligence Unit can be found at www.eiu.com or follow us on Twitter @theeiu.

About the SHRM Foundation
The SHRM Foundation was founded in 1966 as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The SHRM Foundation advances global HR knowledge and practice by providing thought leadership and educational support, and by sponsoring, funding and driving the adoption of cutting-edge, actionable and evidence-based research. Visit www.shrm.org/Foundation and follow us on Twitter @SHRMFoundation.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Post a Job


The SHRM Member Discounts program provides member-only access to discounts on products and services you can apply to your life and career, and share with your company.



Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect