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Building HR Analytics Capability in Your HR Function

By Linda Croll Howell, Ph.D., Director, Human Resources, Analytics, Cornell University

Linda Croll Howell, Ph.D., Director, Human Resources, Analytics, Cornell University

Over the past few years, I have attended several HR Analytics Conferences. A common thread I have heard is, “We have built great data. Now how can we get our HR business partners to start using it?” Although many universities now have strong analytics components in their HR studies programs, this was not the case when much of the HR workforce was receiving their training. To realize the full impact HR analytics can have on an organization, it is critical to upskill HR business partners on using data to tell their story and drive decision-making.

Increasing the HR community’s data capability is a central part of our HR analytics strategy. We have utilized a three-pronged approach including the establishment of an HR analytics academy, the creation of hands-on opportunities for HR business partners to work on projects with the HR analytics team, and finally integrating data into our HR planning process.

"Engaging HR business partners through education, learning experiences, and integrating data into HR planning can greatly increase the HR community’s analytics capability and appetite for data"

Technology has been a huge catalyst in providing data and tools to create strong analytics. Much of the data we utilize to create our dashboard displays comes from our HRIS. In many cases, we download and manipulate our HRIS reports, which are essentially large data dumps on spreadsheets. With this being the case, our inaugural HR  analytics  academy programming focused on managing and manipulating spreadsheet data including creating charts and using pivot tables. We also now offer training on how to use our dashboards and provide templates for business partners to use to create leadership reports. Other programming we offer includes how to write/administer a survey, how to use our surveying technology, how to visualize data and how to measure the impact of programs. Well over half of the HR community has attended at least one program, and many have attended several.

A key component of our talent strategy is monitoring an employee’s experience as they move through the employee lifecycle. We do this through administering surveys at each step of their experience including a hiring/acclimation survey, climate/pulse surveys and exit surveys. Through a new hire cohort study, we discovered the criticality of certain experiences during the first 90-120 days of employment for retention and success. We developed a new acclimation process with a team of HR business partners and piloted it in each of their respective units. They were actively involved in every part of the pilot, including analysis of the data and helping to make tweaks to the new process to maximize the effectiveness. We have also partnered with several of our HR business partners to develop and administer climate surveys in their respective units, having them help shape the story the data is telling to share with their leadership. These “hands-on” data experiences have been powerful learning opportunities.

Finally, this year our Chief Human Resources Officer launched a new all community data-focused HR planning process resulting in the identification of four main priority areas. The up-and-coming talent was selected to lead each priority area and work with HR analytics to develop a “what we know” data story as a foundation for creating impactful action steps. Each priority team also identified metrics to determine the successful accomplishment of their priority initiatives.

Producing great data is futile if not used to drive great decision-making. Engaging HR business partners through education, learning experiences, and integrating data into HR planning can greatly increase the HR community’s analytics capability and appetite for data.

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