People Analytics and HR: Let’s Emphasize the People

When you think of People Analytics and HR, images of statistics, reports and investigations may come to mind - but what about the people behind the data? How do we keep them engaged and what does the future of People Analytics and HR look like?

The People Behind the Numbers

As HR professionals trying to discover ways to retain and engage our workforce, we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the reporting side of things when really we should be investing more time and resources into our people.

Being able to look further than the findings from statistics and paying more attention to the people behind those figures is what will really make a difference to your organisation, as it’s the people who will ultimately drive your business forward.

My experience of people analytics and HR has been a mixed bag, mostly dependent upon the culture my employers were trying to achieve at the time.

It’s about the people, for the people, and by the people

I remember working within a Company that tried to implement a more time-efficient appraisal system in which performance was standardised into large categories scored from numbers 1-5 (1 being a poor performer and 5 being exceptional – not to mention almost impossible to obtain) believing it would create a simpler process.

But, rather than it being simple, it went beyond ineffective and in some ways damaging.

I saw how data gathered and reported in such a way negatively impacted employee morale and engagement as there was no further investigation process into why people had scored the way they did and decisions were made purely on the data alone.

48% of all respondents did not believe employee surveys provide an honest and accurate assessment

If we had just asked more questions of the people to get to the main cause of the issues, we may have seen that Employee A was not in fact a poor performer at all, they just hadn’t received the right guidance or training from management to do their job correctly.

Needless to say, by dishing out these low scores without any follow up and not allowing individuals to achieve the highest rating, you can imagine how motivation took a hit.

“The next time you create a report or run a deep dive analysis, remember that there are people behind the numbers. The more we understand the people at our companies, the better support we can provide our clients.” – Kevin Moore SWP, HR Analytics and Workforce Planning Expert – Author – Speaker

If we fast forward to the present day, data is being used to understand and manage all aspects of workforce planning and employee management, as well as helping to discover ways to improve the overall operations of a business.

Thanks to the widespread adoption of HR systems which enable companies to have real-time access to people analytics at the point of need, it has never been easier to fully understand these underlying people issues and develop more robust action plans to get our people and the business back on track.

Rewarding Our People

To implement people analytics in HR successfully, you need to use the analytical data to highlight areas where improvements can be made to help make your employees feel supported, appreciated and engaged.  It’s no secret that having a happy workforce makes all the difference in the way your business will run.

One proven method to engage and motivate your employees can come from a reward by recognition strategy such as a non-monetary rewards recognition program which can have a huge impact on improved employee performance.

The important part about the point awards is that managers and above could give them either to subordinates or peer to peer

A 2013 study by Cicero showed that employees in the US and Canada who received strong performance recognition were nearly 3 times more likely to be engaged compared to those receiving weak recognition.

49% of company employees said that on-going effort recognition would improve the relationship with their manager and 32% would like to be rewarded for above and beyond performance recognition.

Companies with the most sophisticated recognition practices were 12 times more likely to have strong business outcomes

An earlier Bersin study conducted in 2012 by Principle Analyst, Stacia Sherman Garr, also had some interesting findings when it came to recognition programs.

It was reported that companies which focused on building a culture of recognition through social reward systems had 31% lower voluntary turnover than their competitors and by applying a sophisticated recognition practice would create strong business outcomes.

The study concluded that:

“Progressive organizations look at recognition differently. Most importantly, they have a strategy for recognition that ensures alignment with business goals, organizational culture and other talent management processes. These organizations design their programs to consistently reinforce key behaviors and outcomes necessary to drive business success.” – The State of Employee Recognition in 2012

With the range of benefits that are linked to rewarding your staff through reward and recognition methods becoming more apparent, there are new innovative solutions on the market that are really strengthening the relationship between company and employee; one of which I came across through an interesting article by Kevin Moore, looks at the experienced based reward company, Blueboard, who have received excellent feedback from their Client employees and with the use of an integrated HR system, the whole rewarding process can be solely managed online making it a great tool for larger organisations to operate.

Blueboard Post-Experience Survey Analysis, 2016
Blueboard Post-Experience Survey Analysis, 2016

But with any employee engagement initiative, it is important to continue to measure the effectiveness of its success by simply asking individuals for their feedback and monitoring labour turnover rates.

Performance data by itself isn’t enough and qualitative results received by employees will help employers truly understand the underlying dynamics of their business.


So, How Will People Analytics and HR Develop From Here?

The transition from standard HR reporting to people analytics means that analysis can now be applied to a broad spectrum of business challenges such as recruitment, performance management, compensation, workforce planning and retention to gain a better understanding of opportunities to improve business, yet there is still an understandable concern; by removing the human element from these HR processes has an impact when it comes to intuition and gut feelings which would normally play a part in decision making, such as hiring talent.

Analytics is no longer about finding interesting information and flagging it for managers

A company attempting to go a step further, Deloitte produced a presentation called “How People Analytics will Harness the Future of Work” which introduced Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a future option, predicting that the percentage of jobs vulnerable to automation down the line could be as follows:

  • 35% in the UK
  • 47% in the US
  • 77% in China

Although we have already seen some AI in use to streamline recruitment processes, namely screening applications and even responding to frequent candidate questions, this prediction of the future looks like AI could possibly take over some of the more generalist ad-hoc duties necessary in HR which may not be a bad thing in this fast paced work environment.

This concept is still in the early stages and looks like a lot more work is needed to function as intended.

AI tools are rapidly progressing for Recruiting

However, I believe for the people analytics and the HR function to truly work, even with AI playing a role in our future, we still need to have highly skilled human workers to make up the majority of our workforce, as they are arguably the greatest asset to the success of our business.


Written By

Robyn South

Robyn is a HR professional with over 7 years experience in generalist and complex employee relations matters. A newly established Virtual HR Assistant offering a range of HR services online, who loves to travel and part of the content management team at CakeHR.