Big Data Inside Out

HR analytics and big data have become a top conversation in HR circles – and indeed between us and our clients. 2011 was the first time that we, as in those outside of HR tech circles, started talking about HR analytics in the form we now understand it. Since then, a wealth of materials has helped us to get to grips with what we need to do – for a starter guide, Capita’s Barry Shannon has some great practical tips.

As someone who actively promotes listening to the pulse of the external market, I wonder whether we are sometimes navel gazing when it comes to HR analytics? Recent research by Capita highlights data-overload, a lack of systems and lack of reliability of data as key challenges so I can understand a lack of enthusiasm about looking at yet more data!

So instead, why don’t we look at HR analytics inside out – what do we need to know and how do we find that information? Rather than starting with that impenetrable mountain of excel spreadsheets, what if we start with a completely blank sheet of paper and an open mind about where key information lies?

Navel Gazing: excessive contemplation of a single issue, at the expense of a wider view

What’s your business challenge? Your challenge can be anything; it doesn’t need to be restricted to what you think you can find in your internal data. It doesn’t need to be a hypothesis that requires a pattern or correlation. It could be ‘Should we launch our new products in APAC?’

What data do we need to inform our decision? In our example that might be competitor insight, the structure of similar businesses in the region, the availability of the niche talent we require in APAC. You can pair this with internal data on current operations in APAC to present the full internal and external picture. You might not feel like you want to gather even more data! But the best data will be real-time and will come from a variety of primary and secondary resources and complement your existing data.

Be picky about the metrics: Define the metrics you need to help you make the decision – internally it could be quality of hire, brand perception amongst employees, language capability and alumni. Externally it could include talent availability, sector and market growth projections for example. Too often, people start with what they have – employee turnover, absence, time to hire and try to make it fit the question.

Insight from analysis: As a colleague recently said to me, you can’t expect HR data to give you answers, only more questions! And it will – but insight gathered from internal and external sources, primary and secondary research will give you the confidence to make data-based recommendations at the most senior level.

If you’re currently wondering how to approach HR analytics in your organisation, I hope this gives you some food for thought about turning your approach inside-out and starting with the big questions. As HR is increasingly expected to deliver at the strategic level, there’s a wealth of data out there that can help you answer those questions – you just need to know where to look for it.

For more information about Write Research visit our website. Follow the author, Alison Ettridge @aettridgeWR

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