A Data-Driven Approach To HR

We interviewed Dave Millner about people analytics and data-driven HR. Dave states that across HR, the advent of people analytics has started with large and medium corporates seeing the opportunity that data can bring in terms of new or different insights. He points towards that one of the critical reasons why organisations adopt people analytics is to help drive a high performing organisation. Let yourself be inspired by Dave and the benefits of people analytics by continue reading the article.

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In 2018 you left IBM to create your own company HR Curator, what made you take that step?  

The concept of HR Curator had been created in 2013 when Kenexa was acquired by IBM and one of the Twitter accounts that I managed was no longer required despite having 4,000 HR followers. Having connected with those followers I asked them for a new name and the response was that “you share and curate great content about the world of HR so how about HRCurator” and that was when the brand was created. Now with over 26,000 followers, my consulting capabilities and experience over 30 years and a desire to support and help HR functions to make the commercial changes needed to be a real ‘value add’ function, leaving IBM has enabled me to focus on activities that I want to do rather than be immersed in the corporate world. That has meant that I have been able to connect with a range of vendors and other practitioners who have the same mindset and interest areas.

What were your main thoughts behind your book “Introducing People Analytics: A Practical Guide to Data-Driven HR”? 

I have never wanted to write a book but the opportunity emerged out of nowhere with a connection of mine Nadeem Khan.  Across HR, the advent of people analytics has started with large and medium corporates seeing the opportunity that data can bring in terms of new or different insights.  However my concerns are that the obsession with statistics, data science etc. has scared the ‘messenger’, namely the HR community who are a vital cog in any people analytics process.  Against that backdrop, the book is aimed at the HR, HR Business Partner and Learning and Development practitioners across the globe. 

However my concerns are that the obsession with statistics, data science etc. has scared the ‘messenger’, namely the HR community who are a vital cog in any people analytics process.

The book is not full of complex equations and terminology that only an advanced statistician would understand but the aim is to take the practitioners on a journey that encourages everyone in the function to adopt more of a commercial mindset allied to a willingness to use data, that will enable HR to see people and business issues in a different light. From feedback we’ve received, data scientists and analytics experts will also find some learnings in terms of understanding the context and challenges that HR have to operate within because whatever we may think numerical expertise can’t do without HR and vice versa. 

What are the benefits of people analytics?  

The benefits revolve around:

1. Improved Decision Making: People analytics helps HR and business leaders to make better choices based both on historical data as well as making predictions based upon data-based trends and themes. 

2. Talent Scarcity: Data-driven recruiting strategies provide the insight needed to cast a more accurate net to ultimately build a larger pipeline. With the help of people analytics, it is easier to know who to target for a particular position when a requirement arises in an organisation. It is easier to understand the type of person required, the knowledge required along with other aspects that might be missed in a regular talent acquisition process. The talent is there, but finding them can be quite challenging. 

The talent is there, but finding them can be quite challenging.

3. Process Improvement: Once enough quality and relevant data is available, that enables organisations to produce accurate statistics and patterns, to make process improvements and efficiencies across various talent practices such as recruiting, onboarding, pay and compensation strategies, learning and training etc. as well as enabling business processes such as productivity to be enhanced based on data insights rather than leader’s intuition. 

4. Identifying Relevant Insights:  With talent and organisation high on business executive’s agenda, using metrics and dashboards produced by people analytics insights enables HR leaders and their teams to be more responsive to the needs of the organisation by responding in a more commercial and focused way that utilises business not HR speak.  Data and evidence not only provide more tangible insights about the workforce but also helps to shape the people and talent strategies that can ultimately boost employee morale, retention, and engagement.

And in relation to that how autonomous should they be?

One of the critical reasons why organisations adopt people analytics is to help drive a high performing organisation and therefore whilst people analytics activity tends to be driven by a series of focused projects, there needs to be an overarching strategy that aligns your people analytics strategy with your business and people strategies, encourages a culture of data based decision-making across the organisation and ensure that people is at the centre of all people analytics based activity.

When implementing new HR technology within an organization, what should you be aware of?  

I believe that these four tips should help to effectively implement HR technology and help to ensure that the benefits of the investment are maximised.

Involve Stakeholders and Employees: When you are planning to implement HR technology, you need to inform stakeholders and employees of your plans before you act. This will prepare them for the changes ahead. If you don’t give them any prior notice, they may be caught off guard and this can influence their attitude towards the changes. If they are unwilling to adopt the new technology, no amount of training will compensate for a negative attitude. Essentially, the key here is to address their mindset.  Also, if you communicate your intentions clearly, the relevant members of the workforce can also pose any questions that arise, and finding answers to their queries will help you to improve the implementation process. You should also consider how the HR technology will simplify processes for your employees and what benefits it can add to the company.  Involvement is crucial at al levels!

HR Practitioners Feedback: HR technology is a crucial part of ensuring that organisations can develop more effective HR strategies. If you have decided to implement a new HR technology, it would be wise to speak to other HR practitioners or organisations who have already implemented technology as a part of their change journey. This will ensure that you understand whether the new technology is really effective or just a waste of time and money. You will also get advice on the best steps to take for putting the technology system into effective use. Taking help from someone from the same industry can also help in obtaining a broader perspective of the new system and what it can achieve. They may also suggest the changes you need to make in your organisation before integrating the new system.

HR technology is a crucial part of ensuring that organisations can develop more effective HR strategies.

Train Your Employees: Though HR professionals in your company are technologically capable, they may not be particularly tech-savvy, and they may have some limitations when it comes to using certain new technology applications. Therefore, training your HR employees up on the new system will also be essential.

Once the new system has been installed, schedule training and ensure that the technology vendor dedicates an appropriate amount of time to training, so that the whole workforce can start using the new system immediately. Remember that just one training session won’t be sufficient — you’ll need to schedule another training session after a few days to ensure that everyone is proficient.

When you are investing in new HR technology, spending time on training your employees is essential, and selecting a vendor or technology provider that will help to train your employees is a huge unique selling point.

Implement HR Technology in Phases: Not every investment in new HR technology is a success. There are many instances when organisations have struggled to introduce technological changes. To avoid these challenges, it is better to implement a new system in phases; this will give your HR team sufficient time to familiarize themselves with it, to understand its purpose and get used to its features. A key part of this process is explaining the advantages of shifting to the new technology. If they understand the positive impact the change will have, they are more likely to take an active role in the implementation of the HR technology and to use it efficiently.

Adopting new advances in technology is a requirement of the times we live in and taking the wrong approach or failing to consider all aspects of the change can make the process costly, or in the worst-case scenario make it necessary to return to the old system.

Dave Millner is Founder and Consulting Partner at HR Curator Ltd. His consulting capabilities and experience has made it possible for him to follow his desire which is to support and help HR functions to make the commercial changes needed in order to be a real ‘value add’ function.

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