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Workforce Analytics: What Can They Do for Your Organization?

May 06, 2015
Photo of Katherine Symonds

Katherine Symonds
Senior Research Associate
Leadership and Human Resources Research

More and more HR professionals and executives are hearing about new techniques and approaches in human resources, including workforce analytics. But what exactly are workforce analytics? And what do they allow HR to do?

Recently, we spoke to John Pensom, co-founder and CEO of PeopleInsight, to gain some insights into some of the questions we’ve been thinking about when it comes to workforce management and analytics. Here is what John had to say about unlocking the potential of workforce analytics:

Q. What kind of workforce data do you need for workforce analytics?

A. I see workforce analytics as connecting people and business-outcomes data to make better people and business decisions. You need any combination of core HR data (e.g., employee data, movements, compensation), talent and performance data, and recruitment data. There are, of course, many other HR data sources that you could also leverage, such as time and leave, health and safety, and learning.

All of that HR data, when connected, can tell you lots of great things. But it gets really interesting when you combine your HR and talent data with business outcomes data, like your financials (costs/revenue), customer satisfaction, or some other relevant measures of productivity.

By doing this, you get to articulate the people-side of business outcomes and gain insight into who (roles, organizational units, managers, sub-segments of your business) creates the most value.

Then you can ask the question, Why do they create more value? And how can we replicate that?

Q. How can workforce analytics help HR to make more strategic decisions?

A. There’s a massive amount of value in understanding the “people side” of business outcomes, and every organization, at any given time, will have a unique set of business issues it needs to address. This is where workforce analytics comes in—to help these organizations understand, drive dialogue, and, ultimately, make decisions. 

Some organizations may be in a rapid growth stage. Others might be in a hot talent market, with competitors wooing their key performers; while other organizations might have a CEO who wants to know whether last year’s leadership development program made a difference.

In a nutshell, workforce analytics are all about articulating the ROI of people investments, where “people investments” is a very broad catchall for everything from labour spend, to recruitment channel fees, to employee referral bonuses, to sales manager training.

Q. I’m an HR professional. How do I get my organization on board?

A. First things first: You need to focus on a juicy business issue—one that is a hot topic for the current executive team. And you need to articulate and quantify the people side of that business issue.

Some additional tips: Start small, with simple spreadsheets. Iterate (i.e., hypothesize, test, get more data, segment, etc.). Meet with your Finance team and ask for some cost/revenue/utilization/productivity data and map relevant HR data to it.

Don’t get derailed or disheartened because someone tells you the data are no good. If it’s juicy, it’s juicy. A $10‑million business opportunity (at +/– 50 per cent accuracy) is still material for many organizations and will get the organization’s attention. And by shining a light on these opportunities, it’s amazing how extra attention gets placed on these areas and data cleansing and process management efforts can be targeted at the right places.


Related Conference

To hear more from John and learn more about HR technology trends and developments, including workforce analytics, join us May 21 in Toronto for our Technology-Enabled HR Conference.


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