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The Human Capital Institute (HCI) Workforce Planning & Analytics Conference: All Talk and No Action

Based on the title alone, I bet that you’re wondering whether this will be a blog criticizing the event.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The conference, held in Atlanta two weeks ago, brought together many of HR’s leading practitioners for human capital measurement – the quality of the presentations alone made me feel as though I was “standing on the shoulders of giants”, able to share my experience but also garner extensive wisdom from very engaged talent management professionals reflecting all levels of measurement maturity.

But first, back to that title. What stood out to me were two themes related to the current state of workforce planning and analytics:

Opportunity #1 (the “talk”): Using integrated workforce and business data, tell compelling stories that resonate with your audience (leaders, managers, peers, etc.). At the end of the day, data is just data. It lacks context, a plot, and a conclusion. But, by placing that data into a narrative –  stories that connect the data to specific actions, decisions, priorities, or strategies – and reducing the complexity of your message, your audience is more likely to understand why these numbers are relevant to their roles.

Almost every presenter came back to the premise of needing to tell a better story with the billions of data points to which they have access.

Challenge #1 (the “action”): The worst possible outcomes of human capital measurement are that data is ignored, forgotten, or ineffective in actually driving action or transforming the behaviors of staff whose responsibility it is to utilize metrics. This was the second key theme for me. While the process of gathering, integrating, and cleansing data is critical, HR must not neglect the need to establish processes through which data supports talent management decisions, from investing in future hires with much-sought after technical skills to determining the quality of an effective leader.

Here, HR can lead their colleagues in challenging traditional assumptions specific to their organization’s workforce (e.g. “sales professionals with 5+ years of industry experience deliver better results than staff new to the industry”) and tell them how we can improve their business results by providing fresh insights. Just think back…across 2012, what three major (i.e. involved the commitment of financial resources) decisions did your organization make based on new insights offered by workforce data?

Both of these themes were also part of the pre-conference workshop on Actionable Analytics delivered by Jaye Tanner and I; see below for our initial framework on how to make workforce metrics more actionable…feedback welcome.


Finally, a huge note of thanks must go to the HCI team for managing the logistics of a superb event; in particular, Brenda Teachout, Amanda Lewis, and Gary Portie. Well done, everyone.

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      Author's profile photo Luke Marson
      Luke Marson

      Hi Mick,

      Great point about actionable analytics and especially that "Transformative" is at the heart of an analytics strategy.

      At the end of the day, data is just data

      Good point and without a sound strategy to harness it and with guidelines on how to interpret analytics then it will always remain as just data in a system. Organizations need to know what to do with analytics once they have them in front of them: What are these figures telling me? What does this correlation mean? How can I influence future behavior and improve my organization with these figures? This is a challenge HR has at analytics become more easily available and consumable.

      Best regards,


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Thanks, Luke. Many years ago, I ran a webcast with a CLC Metrics customer (CLC Metrics being the joint venture between Infohrm and the Corporate Leadership Council) in which we talked about the importance of balance...between learning and teaching for workforce analytics.   In the first phase, learning, practitioners are seeking to understand the issue (e.g., High-Performer Turnover) in more detail, uncovering the "what", the "where", and the "why" of turnover. This phase often accounts for the majority of effort in workforce analytics.  In the second phase, practitioners need to sift through all of this data to simply, or reduce the complexity of, the message, so that audiences fully understand the story. This is teaching phase and often is under-valued as a practice.  Together, learning and teaching enable practitioners to go beyond the headlines to identify the root cause of the issue, then present those results in a simple fashion (using some standard presentation guidelines, such as the 7-second rule for graphics and the "main idea first" concept) to help drive adoption and action.