Analytics Advice from People Who've Been There

Get started using data to refine your talent strategy.

By Carole Fleck Jun 1, 2016

A people analytics approach is no substitute for engaging with employees or recruits, but it can help HR professionals make more-strategic decisions about their workforces. If you’re interested in using data as part of your talent strategy, start by talking with others in your organization who would benefit from the data to determine the best approach.

Some businesses bring together partners from various departments to share data, establish baseline measures for key data points and build their own assessments. Others choose cloud-based vendors that provide ready-to-use analytics tools and software. Some use a mix of internal and external programs.

Karen KocherWhatever you choose, it’s important to evaluate the validity of the data to determine whether the results are driving business strategy. Consider these tips from practitioners with experience in this relatively new approach.

Karen Kocher, Cigna: "Set reasonable objectives. What are you trying to know or do quantitatively? Then begin early work in concert with others. Everybody can learn and come along together. Include people in your organization who have more expertise with data analytics. This helped us understand what we were doing in the early days.

"We started with a small pilot to understand what the data looked like, what it would tell us, when to do things in aggregate. We’re trying to do [analytics] in a phased kind of way. Put in place a plan or process to get you from where you are to where you want to be in a reasonable time frame."

Abby LudensAbby Ludens, Mattress Firm: "Make sure the hiring managers and teams are all in. [In recruiting], if the [candidate] assessment is an afterthought, it’s not really going to guide you to make decisions. You have to launch the assessment and use it to make hiring decisions. It’s a waste of money if you don’t.

"It takes time for people to understand how the assessment works—to hire enough people and then have the data behind their performance. If we had just tried it for a few months, we may not have seen the value of it. In an organization like ours, it takes time for someone to ramp up. We wanted an assessment … to benchmark and highlight against our top performers. We can see we’re hiring people closer to our benchmark."

Andrew BigaAndrew Biga, JetBlue: "Challenge your assumptions. If you’re in the service industry, are you delivering the best service possible? Back that up with data. Make sure you hire a consulting firm or get someone on staff with a background and education in analytics so you can develop assessments appropriately. The more strict you get with your cutoff scores, [the more] you may miss out on great people."

William WolfWilliam Wolf, Credit Suisse: "If you want to study a phenomenon, you have to invest time upfront to structure the analysis and scrub the data to make it accurate. This is about bringing facts and quantitative rigor to HR decisions. You need to build a capability and not just buy software.

"We’re in a conservative business that likes to take a pilot approach. It has to be gradual. And it takes time to absorb what you learn. We have a modest analytical agenda because we’re doing analysis and putting insights into policy and practices. That takes time."

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