HR Leads Business

Apr 25, 2018 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, aPHR, HRCI Staff Writer

It's Time to Make Workforce Analytics Work: Here's How

Workforce analytics must play a bigger role in HR and people management. Companies now want comprehensive data to show how HR practices and talent decisions align with business objectives. The HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) and its community of experts, which constantly keeps tabs on emerging HR and talent management trends, has identified workforce analytics as swiftly rise in importance as an essential competency.

A recent HRCI practice analysis of experts in the field recommended more emphasis on workforce analytics for the PHR® and SPHR® exams (effective August 1, 2018). The HRCI expert community also suggested that more e-learning and assessment is needed on workforce analytics — for HR and non-HR pros with people management responsibilities.

The result: HRCI just announced the Workforce Analytics upSkill, a self-paced learning module. This is the first of many e-learning modules that HRCI has planned for its new suite of on-demand HRCI upSkill topics. Each module will be designed to help professionals grow and be recognized for people management excellence.

There remains a need for expanded thinking and more capabilities around workforce analytics, says Dave Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and a partner at the RBL Group. Ulrich believes companies gain a significant competitive advantage with more focus on workforce analytics. But he also believes much more work remains to be done.

What do we mean when we talk about workforce or HR analytics? What is working? How are HR-related analytics viewed as essential organizational drivers?

Workforce Analytics Still Lag

"The analytics on HR analytics suggests that this new HR elixir has not yet fully achieved the stated or desired impact for either HR professionals or HR departments," Ulrich tells HR Leads Business. "HR professionals who can do analytics are not being seen as more effective, delivering value to stakeholders or creating business impact. HR departments with an analytics capability are not delivering business results or stakeholder value as much as other department capabilities."

Ulrich backs this warning with findings from The Human Resources Competency Study, also published in the book, Victory Through Organizations. A comprehensive study by Ulrich and team measured the impact of various HR competencies on business performance. So far, HR analytics has had only modest impact on delivering business results or stakeholder value.

Ulrich offers some advice to help HR departments gain greater analytical impact and respect:

Focus on the right issues. Ulrich suggests that there are four stages of analytics: (1) HR scorecard, (2) HR insights, (3) HR interventions and (4) business impact. "Much of the (low impact) HR analytics work is in the first few stages. These analytics do not start with or explicitly connect with business impact."

Manage expectations. Ulrich believes that HR is still viewed as non-analytical. That may still be having an impact on HR’s reputation as an analytical contributor. "HR professionals need to overcome these expectation biases by being even more able to link their work to business results."

Build on previous research. "Science does not advance with isolated studies, but a series of studies, each building on each other to create more rigorous and robust insights," Ulrich notes. "In HR, studies too seldom build on previous work.  HR analytics are too often isolated events rather than cumulative building blocks."

Strengthening Your HR Analytics Muscles

Individual HR professionals must also continue to do more to build analytical competencies. The study suggests that HR professionals should continue to sharpen abilities to:

  • Use HR data to create organizational value.
  • Identify important questions about the organization.
  • Translate data into useful insights to influence decision-making.
  • Accurately interpret statistics and understand the limitations of data in ambiguous situations.

"For HR analytics to evolve from being a quick fix elixir to having sustainable impact, HR needs to focus on the right issues in the right ways," Ulrich concludes. "Sustainability comes when HR is not about HR but about stakeholder and business impact and when each individual study becomes a puzzle piece of a larger HR mosaic."

upSkill Your Workforce Analytics

Learn more about how HR roles have become more complex and the nine emerging competencies for HR identified in The Human Resources Competency Study. Also, strengthen and demonstrate your alignment with business goals by earning the HRCI Workforce Analytics upSkill, a new on-demand learning and assessment module from HRCI.

HRCI upSkill is the first e-learning of its kind to aligns HR and non-HR people management practices with team goals and organizational objectives. It’s time to up the ante on workplace analytics as a foundational skill for all managers and executives.