HR and Analytics

In previous posts, I’ve written about HR and Big Data, and HR and UX, as a way to help give some thought to some of the upcoming challenges facing the HR (including all aspects) profession. In this final instalment, I’m going to talk about the way HR interacts with Analytics.

In the big bad world, analytics is becoming more and more important. The ability to take data, analyse it in some meaningful way, and provide intelligence based on that information.

But we’ve been doing that for years, you may ask, or posit.

Kind of. In the world of the consumer, it’s not as mainstream as you may think. Only over the last five years or so, has it become important to take data widely available, and use it to inform action.

What kind of analytics are we talking about here?

Well let’s take a look at how some other functions use analytics already. The finance function of an organisation, amongst other things will keep an eye on cash flow. It takes data from a range of sources, pulls it together, and uses that information to make judgements on the ability of the organisation to sustain certain actions or not. The operations team will take data available to them to help inform about productivity levels, down time periods, absence periods, and use this information to identify trends and insight into what these trends mean. The online retail team will take information about online behaviour of its customers, track their user journeys through the site, identify times of day, look for important factors such as time of year, and a host of other factors, to inform what actions they can take which will drive online sales.

We might also call this business intelligence. That’s for the geeks of that community to argue amongst themselves.

There is already some level of this analysis which HR is savvy about. Some good examples of this are:
– the milkround
– tracking absence/sickness
– potential low periods of productivity due to time of year
– salary benchmarking activities
– observing university course applications to identify which skills are being developed
– CSR activities such as community events or raising money for charity

To push the boat on this, we need to consider what is it HR can inform, which is not already self-evident.

The national pandemic in the UK of obese people and what we are doing in organisations to help combat this. Add to this, the constant battle many face with smoking and alcohol addiction. Organisations want people coming to work to be productive first, and being positive about their work would be advantageous. HR can drive this forward by putting on the agenda initiatives where they specifically target health and well-being so that everyone is given support to live a healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t just become a nice to have, it is essential if we are not to let our people die because of complications with their health.

Mental health is gaining more and more prominence as a key step change we all need to make to improve our sense of personal well-being. I make a separate point of this to physical health as one can be achieved without the other. More can be done to show people at work how to care for one another, how to support others, and how to be empathetic so that we bring our best selves to work. There are still sadly too many work environments where mental health has a very negative stigma attached to it.

Financial health. It’s almost stunning to think we don’t do this en masse already. 95% of the UK population is bad at managing their finances. They don’t look for better deals, they don’t look for better options, they don’t look to save for the future, they don’t consider the impact bad financial management has on their life. I include myself in this description. Yes, we’re all adults and capable of making decisions ourselves, but we can only do that when we have good information with which to base those decisions. Otherwise we just carry on as usual.

Support of others in our society/community. There is a lot to be said for the power of the crowd, both for its gains and for its potential for damage. When you rally a crowd to do good, all things are possible. We just don’t do this enough. Instead we worry about reputation of the company or fighting fires instead of creating a purpose for achieving great things. Humans are capable of doing great things, and together we do. Just not at work (mostly).

Dignity at work. This encompasses so much from diversity to inclusive cultures to employment law to emotional intelligence. When we come to work we have a right to be treated with dignity. As the workforce becomes more diverse, so does the possibility for friction. We need to be actively gathering information which helps the workplace be naturally inclusive. Too much at the moment is left in the hands of individuals, or in some cases a team of people. In both cases, not enough is being done to truly value the everyday chaos which arises from just being different.

Take any of these suggestions, and HR can directly gather intelligence which will help any of them move forward in a positive way for both people and the organisations they work for. Don’t forget, ‘people are our greatest asset’, only rings true if you decide to give people the full means and capabilities to do amazing work.

What I’m suggesting here is that a new area for the HR profession to start moving itself into, is this world of people analytics, and how we help them do great things. After all, isn’t that why we do the work we do?

HR and UX

I’m writing a short series of posts about trends I think are happening in the world which will come to affect the way HR carries out its work. My first was about HR and Big Data. In this one I’m going to talk about HR and User Experience, or UX as it’s commonly referred to. HR gets involved in so much (or at least has the potential to) in the workplace today that staying in the mainframe of what we think we should be restricted to is old hat. There are ever interesting ways to create an exciting workplace, and as technology and time moves on, we will have ever more innovative and creative ways of servicing the people we work with.

When we consider UX, first we need to get a grasp of what it’s all about. Thankfully, it’s an easy enough topic to understand in a very educated sense. UX is about making a journey easy, meaningful and purposeful for the user. Well, that’s my definition, which I think captures most aspects of UX. Consider when you visit a website and want to get to a specific piece of information. Is that user journey easy? Were you able to get the information? Did you have any difficulties in getting there?

Consider the use of mobile apps. Is the purpose of the app clear from the outset? Did you achieve your task quickly and without hassle? Was the information displayed clear and useful?

Consider going to the library. Was the signage clear? Did you spend longer in the library than you had intended to? Were there helpful prompts about where you needed to look?

Getting the clear idea, yes?

UX, then, is about regular daily interactions that we face. Some of those are cumbersome and hear-wrenchingly difficult like putting in a planning application for building work on your property, and others are blindingly easy like buying a lottery ticket.

So what interactions do the people at work face that have direct relations to HR?
– Finding out what benefits they have
– Applying for a job
– Reporting in sick
– Finding out what training they can attend
– Talking about difficulties with team members
– Arranging inter-departmental workshops
– Informing about maternity/paternity leave
– Listening to concerns about working conditions
– Reporting an incidence of bullying
– and the list goes on…

We have very good processes that will ensure we deal with these various pieces effectively. Which is partly what people want. Mostly, though, people don’t want to be dealt with efficiently. They want to be dealt with like people, by people. There is a place for efficiency to meet heart, and that’s where I think the future of UX for HR rests.