People Analytics: A Parallel Universe?

Inspired by leaping around with real-life HR and tech consultants to describe and explore what People Analytics is all about, I’m minded to post to reassure many in ordinary business, or the business of HR about the space-age stuff out there that’s apparently going on:

It occurs to me (and perhaps true in other aspects of HR strategy too?) that analytics currently exists in a kind of Parallel Universe. Most of us are goggle-eyed and full-sold on the insights to be derived from new predictive tech, the machine learning, the algorithmic efficiencies of big data – and therefore the possibilities for our businesses. The HR press is full of it. Both business case and science is there. And yet it’s like we are sitting in front of Star Trek.

In parallel to mission Starship Enterprise, we exist in a real world where HR Reporting (a word in itself we are barely allowed to say anymore) has moved on for few of us far. The UK-based organisations we visit on our people technology missions, small and medium in scale and some tipping into pretty large enterprise, have the appetite for this stuff we read and a yet very different reality. Where is everyone at?

I assure that, for most, life looks like a team of BI analysts if you’re lucky – and a skills vacuum for in-house reporting if you’re not. It looks like an up-to-date HCM solution that delivers and delivers well to a dashboard state of advancement but not further. It offers valuable visualisation in charting and graphics and the metrics on HR operations we previously struggled with. In some contexts, the real-life still requires a dumping into Excel and a jiggery-pokery still to derive a set of KPI’s. You are not alone if you can’t do headcount or attrition. (Where off-payroll working and employment status interfere now, are these easy questions?)

In days where other-world stories are told of HR and people analytics and insight, I do not dismiss this capability. We all advance apace. I also credit the industry experts positing that the time is ripe in 2018 for HR to push the technology providers forward and take up the analytics challenges.

But how to start and to make a real notch forward? Hard to acknowledge that this parallel universe and our own does not appear to have an obvious way to link between.

There is a way. It comes down to a confessional of the current state of affairs and from there – with the business leaders – a consensus on the information the organisation would really like to learn about. Is it sales? Productivity? Social reach? Client demographics? How do we measure our performance and success here? This is what is said to be the defining of business questions.

Step 2 is to determine where in your people data you’re going to find the clues. This means working with your analysts or your HR system specialists to explore the data available and answer practical questions about how good it is. How clean? How complete? How up-to-date? How usable? This is all about gathering together the clues to answer the business questions.

Clearly it is easier to analyse this people data set with the best of the technologies now out there. Yet it’s possible with paper and calculator. Something can be done with your current HR solution and reporting capability! Take the concepts of an aspiration to answer a business question, a hypothesis or two about which people data fields could be relevant and what they might show. Get some reports written to test it out and see if you’re right. Nudge just a touch from today’s report suite and make a reality of HR analytics.

I look forward to creating realities for those working with our own consultancy team to get practical on People Analytics. Enjoy the learning from the parallel universe and share an intent that your worlds can converge.

To get started how about, here, a straight-forward list of 20 tips to inch forwards. For grander ideas, but in a very accessible textbook style, read a review of a great book published last year. Take inspiration from Sage People’s take on analytics as People Science, beginning to prove that on a more common scale it can start to be done.

Of course, I invite you to contact me or my colleagues at Phase 3 Consulting as we seek to understand the business questions to which the answers we just might find in your current or near-potential tech. Or message me on LinkedIn.

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Written by : Laura Lee

Laura’s role as Head of Marketing sees her continually looking for new opportunities to tell the world how great Phase 3 is.

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