Human Resources Teams are charged with helping their companies build the strongest teams they can. This requires a complex web of skills to help find the best candidates, court them, onboard them, and keep them happy. Helping employees grow and have fulfilling careers has always been an important HR function, but in today’s tight employment market, this is especially true. These teams have a unique opportunity to affect the long-term health and success of their companies and teams by not only focusing on hiring and firing but by keeping their fingers on the pulse of the company as a whole. But they can’t do this alone.

Even though human resources is, and will remain, a human-centric field, we live in a world of Big Data and no field can survive without adopting and adapting to metrics and analysis to help them with their core functions. HR teams need to embrace HR analytics and take charge of the wide array of data coming from recruitment platforms, company surveys, benefits data, and many other sources to take a proactive role within their companies. By building a comprehensive metrics and analytics system, they’ll not only help build better teams and stronger companies, but be able to help keep their companies stronger, be active in the growth and wellbeing of employees, and demonstrate value to executives.

Drowning in data

I sat down with Kristina Karcic, Sisense People Director, and Paulina Cortes, Sisense People Operations Specialist, to talk about HR Analytics and how HR professionals can use this burgeoning field to increase their already-vital contributions to building better companies. One of the first things that came up was the sheer volume of HR data that these professionals deal with!

“We want to look at growth, attrition, sales performance in our sales organization, we’re looking at diversity by ethnicity and gender and ensuring that our practices are attracting a diverse talent pool…employee and leadership engagement (through CultureAmp), and in addition, when people leave the organization, why are they leaving?

Whatever is happening in the HR department, there’s a system and a metric to track it. The next step is turning tracking into analysis into action.

“We use people analytics to monitor our performance and more importantly, to provide insight into organizational performance and engagement.”

High-tech hiring

The HR space is filled with tech companies looking to make the hiring process simpler (Greenhouse, Comeet) and sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor also have their own application systems that funnel information through to HR teams. One important way that HR analytics can help teams take control of hiring is by giving them a holistic look at who their applicants are: Is the HR team hitting diversity goals? Do you have the representation you want across generational lines? They also tell you where your recruiting efforts are having the most impact. HR business partners want to source new talent from a variety of avenues: direct applicants (coming from job search sites or via the company’s own “Careers” page, etc.), professional recruiters (especially helpful for higher-ranking roles like VPs), and employee referrals.

“HR analytics can ensure that you’re hiring at the right time, in the right mix, with the right skillset. That mix can mean different generations, but also between referrals, recruiter recommendations, and direct hires. Monitoring that mix is vital.”

The right analytics can show the HR team that they are spending too much money on recruiters relative to the number of applicants that are offered jobs. This could also be a cue to talk to the recruiting company and fine-tune the criteria they’re using to find prospects or the internal team may need to take a harder line during the resume- or phone-screen stages. How much is the company spending on job ads on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor? If there’s a lot of money going out and not many applications coming in, analytics can highlight this. Analytics can also tell you if one team member is responsible for a disproportionate number of referrals/hires.


Delighting and developing talent

Getting the right people in the door is just part of keeping a company’s workforce happy and productive. Simplistic as it sounds, the employees are the sole source of a company’s income and its ability to be profitable lies in having workers who want to be there, want to do a good job, and get a sense of accomplishment out of their work. HR teams (and indeed, the whole organization) can’t simply bring on high-performers and hope for the best. Systems like CultureAmp and SuggestionOx and self-/manager-evaluation tools allow HR teams to take the pulse of the organization regularly and stay ahead of any issues. And the data from them is important to include in analytics.

“We do our employee survey twice a year, we report on the results, and we take action. People need to feel like their voices are being heard and that they are getting something out of the survey. That’s really how you measure the culture. With the right questions, anything can be measured.”

If employees are not feeling appreciated or like their work matters, the company can take steps to address that. Likewise if a manager self-reports that a subordinate is doing good work and that they are appreciated, but the team member in question does not report high feelings of appreciation from the manager, that’s another place for HR to intervene, coaching the manager and hopefully giving the worker more of what they need to feel good in their role. Additionally, sudden dips in productivity from formerly successful employees can signal a hiccup in their career progression.

“We look at the results of our employee and manager review surveys and the metrics can definitely show when employees are at risk because they are disengaged and just not achieving anymore. That’s definitely going to make us get involved and have some talks with the manager and the employee. And from a growth perspective, if we see someone has gone from a high performer to being disengaged, that could be because they’re ready for the next step in their career and they’re not getting the support they need from their manager. This is a chance for HR to step in and say ‘let’s not lose them!’ and get involved to bring them that next challenge.”

Building trust, proving worth

“There was a time when HR professionals could get along without knowing their numbers. Today, I think that would be pretty foolish. Today, if you want a seat at the table, you’ve got to know your numbers. Because executives don’t want to hear anecdotes, they want to know real data. ‘How is my organization performing?’ ‘How are HR’s initiatives performing?’ At the end of the day, they want a true picture of what’s going on in the company.”

Consistency is the key to building trust. Metrics remain a key part of executive-level reporting at companies of all sizes and HR professionals cannot afford to fail at presenting timely, accurate, understandable analytics to leadership. The right analytics solution will pull together the wide array of different bits of data that HR teams use and turn it into reports and even help them build interactive analytics apps that they can use to update their executives and show HR efforts over time. This kind of historical reporting and at-a-glance updated information goes a long way towards demonstrating the long-term contributions that HR has made to a company. It also helps executives and HR leaders make plans based on what HR has been accomplishing and what’s its overall capacity is.

Those past accomplishments are also tied towards demonstrating the value that HR has and continues to bring to the company. Not every action a company takes is about the bottom line value that it brings in, being able to tie actions to eventual results (via HR analytics) can do just that. While initially something like having an events budget to plan employee events may seem like a frivolous expense, if the numbers show higher employee satisfaction and longer employment durations (which means less money spent sourcing, hiring, and ramping up new workers), that’s a net win for the company and a great example of how HR analytics can take something very human and give it weight in our data-driven world.

The “human” in “human resources”

HR Analytics is not about taking the human element out of “human resources.” There will always be intangibles wherever human interactions are concerned. There’s no way to fully reduce to datapoints a person’s history, skills, abilities, hopes, dreams, and most of all, potential. The teams building the companies of tomorrow know this. They also know that we live in a world of data. If these HR professionals want to build better teams, they need the right tools to crunch all the data they are inundated with, find the best candidates, develop them, and also prove their own worth to leadership. There’s no substitute for the human touch, but HR analytics is a powerful tool in the right hands.

Jack Cieslak is a 10-year veteran of the tech world. He’s written for Amazon, CB Insights, and others, on topics ranging from ecommerce and VC investments to crazy product launches and top-secret startup projects.

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