Get Started Using Data for HR Decisions

Ask these questions to collect, analyze the right numbers

By JoAnn Corley Jan 19, 2016

Effectively working with data and technology is a skill HR professionals need to have to bring significant value as internal advisors. The practitioners who focus seriously on developing this skill will be much more relevant than their peers going forward.

There is great power in having information, numbers and technology as your key allies in being a relevant strategic partner. Numbers tell a story. Numbers amplify needs. Numbers can help us see truth. Numbers can give voice to the human experience when perhaps no one will listen. When used appropriately, they are a uniquely expressive and descriptive partner to the business story we desire to tell.

Analyzing data can reveal insights that perhaps could not be reached any other way. This is a huge and significant benefit and motivator in collecting and analyzing data. Better insights will produce better decisions, even to the point of predicting the future.

Predictive analytics answers questions such as “What is possible in the future based on what’s happening today?” or “Based on what’s happening today, what should we do differently to create a different or better outcome in the next few months or years?”

Companies that are not using data are, in many ways, operating blindly. You cannot manage what you do not know and cannot see. And if we as human resource professionals are not boldly embracing these capabilities, then we are undermining the potential of our companies.

So what’s workforce data? Simply put, it is relevant information converted into numbers, like “How many employees do we have and at which age groups?” And those numbers can be translated into other meaningful data to help with decision-making, such as, “What percentage of our workforce will be retiring in the next five years?”

Herein lies the sweet marriage between technology and data. We need technology to help us efficiently and effectively gather the data and to analyze it so that we can improve our decision-making, even to the point of predictive decision-making.

It’s Time to Get Started

For those of you who wish to develop the ability to work effectively with technology and data, I have great news—you’ve probably already started and don’t even know it. Any data you’ve collected in any form so far counts. Simple HR information systems software carries at least basic information that can be quantified and perhaps has the capacity to collect additional information.

Leo Brajkovich, a Smarter Workforce Executive consultant with IBM, based in San Francisco, shared these practical, actionable tips:

  • Get started sooner rather than later. Competence in using technology and data soon will no longer be an option.
  • Don’t worry about your math skills. The math can be done by software. Determining and collecting the information is your part. You can do that and probably already are.
  • Start learning as much as you can. There are lots of free resources to begin building a knowledge base, from simple articles to webinars. Find out who has already embarked on this journey to shorten your learning curve.
  • Look at what software you’re using and see what data/information is currently being collected. Then see what else it’s capable of collecting that you’re not utilizing. If you’re not using any software right now, get advice or recommendations from others in your industry on where or how to get started.
  • Begin asking yourself, along with your leaders, “What is it that we need to or want to know about our workforce that can help us run the business better—now and in the future?” That “future” piece is critical. It will guide what information you choose to collect today to serve what you need to know later.

JoAnn Corley is founder and CEO of The Human Sphere, a holistic talent management consultancy. She has been named to several top 100 lists of HR and management experts to follow on social media.

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