Key Takeaways from the Mission Critical HR Analytics Conference 2016

Sasha Hanau | 16th September 2016

Yesterday The Happiness Index team spoke at Symposium Events’ conference ‘Mission Critical HR Analytics’. (You can check out the Twitter conversation using #SEanalytics).

Focussed on unlocking the hidden potential of HR analytics and introducing new ways to use data for monitoring staff turnover, employee engagement and diversity statistics; the one-day conference included expert speakers from CIPD, FirstGroup, Shell, Virgin Media and CBRE.

Delegates came to learn how HR analytics is a valuable essential tool; not only to monitor present and past HR activities, but also by being used to effectively predict and support HR strategy and actions in the future.

Listening to the talks, there was a clear theme throughout the day – HR or ‘people analytics’ is still a key concern for HR professionals, it’s still thought to be advanced, and is definitely still causing even the veteran analysts some pain.
The role of HR analytics was described as:

“To deliver timely and accurate dashboards which are used by business leaders to make evidenced based decisions that lead to improvements in both people and financial outcomes.”

It’s not snappy but it does explain well why people invest in measuring their people and the effect their input to the business has on the financial performance of the organisation. In its very essence, people analytics is more than just an HR issue – it is a boardroom issue.

Investing in people analytics can help “reduce costs (the payroll bill is the single biggest in most companies), achieve and create long-term value, improve decision making and increase accountability”.

So what were the hot topics being discussed by the speakers and delegates?

1. Speak the board’s language, get their buy-in from the outset and ask the right questions.

The board and finance teams are integral to the success of your program. Getting their buy-in and building a program around the overall business goals and objectives came up numerous times. HR teams need resource and time to implement people analytics and the board need to provide the investment necessary for HR professionals to focus on more strategic and less transactional HR issues.

Think about what keeps your leadership team awake at night and build your program around that. Speak their language by reporting on metrics they understand including what we call the 2nd P&L.

2. Keep it simple and mind the skills gap (the researcher’s mindset).

Frustrations over technology and education were evident. As was a lack of resource from analysts and other job roles that were considered necessary to successfully utilise a people analytics technology. While simple tech like The Happiness Index exists to solve this problem, the knowledge about such platforms is still in its infancy.
HR leaders who need to deliver such insights see a gap in knowledge and analytical skills needed to make sense of any data collected.

Overall the advice to these people was to keep it simple, start small, improve, refine and advance your analytics capabilities over time. Neil Parkinson, Senior HR Analyst from CBRE described the typical long-term HR Analytics journey well – he said it comprised:

1. Data enablement (simply collecting the data)!
2. Reporting and analysis
3. Benchmarking and targeting
4. Correlation and causation
5. Forecasting and prediction

Everyone has to start somewhere so find the right technology to support you (we can recommend someone!) and keep it simple. The more intuitive the tech, the less work you’ll have to do to build a true picture from the insights. When necessary pick quick wins and always consider the true impact of marginal gains.

3. Developing a consistent, accurate and standardised metric set the whole company understands – a universal truth is hard.

The fact is there is no data that’s 100% accurate but once you get over the fact that it’s unlikely your figures with match your finance teams, you can see that with effective people analytics programs you can easily get a measure of the true picture.

The data doesn’t lie and when asking people for their opinions (e.g. engagement programs) – the data is their version of the truth. What you think about your business and how your employees see things may not match, but we think it’s better to know than to plead ignorance.

Only the insights from a regular pulse of employee sentiment can really guide the most valuable business decisions. The other takeaway here was you have to make a standardised measure for your people metrics. Discuss it with your finance team, sit close to them and start working together more often. This collaboration is critical to the success of HR analytics initiatives.

“Monitoring actual change should be your success criteria.”

4. Legislative impact on global programs is a concern.

For many delegates, global workforces create an additional layer of complexity to their human capital measurement plans. Programs needs to be both culturally fitting, but also have to comply with local legislation. Central management of this can indeed be a challenge but the answer suggested by some was to create a program for your most restricted market and use this as the base point for developing other in-country programs.

5. The future of HR analytics is anticipatory actions and predictive data.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your analytics could warn you before someone is actively looking for work so that you could work to retain them? Save all the cost and hassle of replacing them? The most exciting part of HR analytics is what they could potentially tell you that would help you proactively mitigate risks and identify opportunities. Predictive analytics is the future so we can but watch this space!

6. Close the loop.

Feed the key insights back to the board and employees in a language they understand. Use stories to create a narrative they can relate to.

Whatever you do – feeding back results is essential! If you aren’t prepared to change something, don’t ask about it. Be prepared to tackle difficult questions (the salary and remuneration one will always come up) but always acknowledge and address the negative as well as the positive. Visibility in providing feedback is key to creating trust.

“HR analytics is about change management, and replacing belief systems with evidence and fact.”

It was a really interesting day, we hope the delegates found it useful also. Our slides on ‘How to get buy-in from the boardroom and beyond’ will be available online soon.