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If you’re a seasoned HR leader, chances are that “building a capability for workforce analytics” is second only to “creating an integrated talent management framework” on your strategic HR bucket list. A significant gap remains between HR’s need for better data-driven insights and its ability to deliver analytics. As a recent best practices study by Bersin by Deloitte demonstrated, the majority of HR functions are insufficiently prepared to deliver executive-level data analysis, despite greater pressure to do so.

Putting aside the issue, for now, of whether workforce analytics should be a high priority for the modern HR function, the HR leaders that I speak with tend to cite a lack of urgency and lack of expertise as barriers and primary reasons for delaying their commitment to analytics as a core competency.

To help address these hurdles, and without the need to invest more resources, here are four ways in which you can accelerate the process of building a capability for workforce analytics in your organization:

1. Determine what “workforce analytics” means for your organization, HR function, and you

Remember the phrase “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”?  Well, it could also mean that you don’t even begin your journey. This is often where HR gets stuck – not being sure of the destination makes it difficult to decide the appropriate next steps on the roadmap.

That’s where a workforce analytics mission statement can help, especially if analytics is unchartered territory for you. Clearly outlining the rationale for why HR is deploying workforce analytics has two principal benefits:

a. In short, it communicates what workforce analytics “is” and “is not” – setting expectations about how the use of data fits into talent management decision-making, reduces the risk of project over-reach.

b. It streamlines the future deployment of scarce resources, prioritizing those activities and investments which align best with the leader’s vision.

Whether the vision is narrow (“use data to identify the drivers of turnover”) or broad (“to establish an organizational culture that utilizes workforce data to optimize and influence business results”), the statement serves as a rallying cry.

At the end of every practitioner webinar I run, I ask “what has a commitment to workforce analytics meant for your career or professional interests?” Take a moment to think about how analytics can add another skillset to your portfolio, or help with your career advancement. Your enthusiasm and passion for data will be inspiring to others.

2. Write out three analytics “wins” you want to achieve in the next 12 months

Back in 2005, during a customer workshop on talent management KPIs, the Head of HR shared five hypotheses that he wanted to test with data; one example was that “retirees are our biggest net promoters” – newly-retired staff who had a positive work experience would be very willing to share that opinion with others. Outlining a set of testable statements meant that the function’s limited resources could be applied to finding answers to a finite set of well-defined questions.

While solving five hypotheses in 12 months might be a stretch, I would encourage you to write out three “wins” that your team would like to achieve.

For example, you could use the following as a simple template (“I would like to know whether my firm’s investment in _________________ has resulted in ______________________?)”, and narrow the scope by selecting a specific segment (e.g., Sales, Females, High-Potentials).

As with the vision, communicating a clear set of achievable priorities avoids the risk of over-reaching or sweeping generalizations.

3. Conduct a SWOT analysis of your current practices for sharing data

Rather than embarking on a laborious assessment of every single process for how data is transferred from the system (HRIS, Talent Management, etc.) to the end-user, leverage your experience in how data arrives at your desk, and then assess your function’s:

  • Strengths: What organizational or functional assets/resources do you possess that increase the likelihood of success in workforce analytics?
  • Weaknesses: What are your current deficiencies/limitations on the deployment of analytics?
  • Opportunities: In the next 6-12 months, how can analytics help your organization better achieve its goals?
  • Threats: In the next 6-12 months, what might hinder the attainment of those goals?

Doing so will help you prioritize decisions that build upon strengths/opportunities and address weaknesses/threats, rather than trying to build an entirely new data delivery process.

4. Establish a deadline for getting “win #1”

Finally, to instill a sense of urgency, create a deadline for when you expect Win #1 to be realized. While deadlines can focus attention, they can also create undue stress and inhibit creative thought, so should be established only after creating a vision and plan of attack. You may choose to create two deadlines; a soft timeline for the exploration and discussion of the analysis, followed by a hard timeline of when to move onto win #2.

Either way, if you’ve decided where you’re going and which road will take you there, now’s the time to decide how long you want to take to get there.

Enjoy the ride!

To download an excerpt from the Bersin study, plus other white papers and checklists for workforce analytics, go to Your Roadmap to High Value HR Analytics.

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