How One Company's Foray into Predictive Analytics Aids Retention

By Aliah D. Wright Oct 21, 2016
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​When a top employee at the Anderson Center for Autism, a private school in Staatsburg, N.Y., handed in her resignation, the school's HR department was expecting her.

The HR staff had been using a predictive analytics program to help them gauge retention.

"The software is so good that we were developing a retention plan for her as she was preparing to resign," said Gregg Paulk, director of information technologies for the 92-year-old nonprofit organization.

After HR staff spoke with her, "she actually rescinded her resignation," he added.

Paulk, who spoke at Human Resource Executive's HR Technology Conference and Exposition in Chicago recently, is among many business leaders who have found value in using predictive analytics to improve business processes and staff retention.

In the 2016-2017 Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey, released earlier this month by the Delaware-based IT services company, researchers discovered that companies that leverage HR analytics for hiring and retention were more successful than those that did not. And Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm, concurs. Its research reveals that organizations that leverage predictive analytics in their business will increase profitability by at least 20 percent.

Yet, many companies aren't using analytics. Some cite "lack of bandwidth, technical and talent shortcomings, and lack of good data," said Adam Rogers, chief technology officer for Ultimate Software, which partnered with the Anderson Center.

"What we hear a lot is we don't have the right data to build models and create … analytics," he said, however, "with the smallest piece of data you can start to build [those models] over time."

For the Anderson Center, the need for analytics was massive.

"Turnover is still one of our biggest problems," Paulk said.  The staff, which serves autistic children and adults, requires "very specific training … and we have very limited resources."

In 2001, the school undertook a new technology initiative spurred and funded by the No Child Left Behind legislation. Using Ultimate Software's UltiPro, Paulk said the company "grew … and kept head count flat, reduced paper [processes] by 95 percent, and increased the time spent on employee development by 30 percent. The software also allows staff to manage time and attendance from anywhere [and yields] improved reporting and compliance.

"The software also helped us avoid the loss of key talent with predictive tools. It's really powerful, and it's astonishing the results we've seen," Paulk said. "[The tools] helped us understand our challenges and put the puzzle pieces together."

Within a week of activating predictive analytics tools, HR leaders at the organization were able to identify essential employees at risk of leaving and take action, Rogers said. "Anderson is now using these tools to take proactive measures to keep its best talent and to determine whether the retention process in place is actually working," he added.

"We started to look at the data we've been collecting all these years that was sitting in our HRIS [human resource information system]. Predictive analytics helps us figure out what makes our staff tick, who is at risk of leaving and what actions we need to take to try to retain the staff," Paulk said.

The software compiles data in four areas, Paulk said, and can forecast an employee's likelihood of remaining with the organization for the next 12 months, identify the current top performers in the company, identify the likelihood of an employee becoming a higher performer in the organization, and determine a worker's level of engagement. Using the data provided by analytics has reduced turnover by 15 percent, Paulk said.

"One of the most important [factors] is engagement. The more engaged the employees are with us, the more likely they are to stay," he said, noting that the organization has noticed a correlation between engagement and improved performance. "We can see who in our staff has the potential to become high-performers. [And] reducing turnover is critical to optimizing the lives of the people we serve."

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