How to Turn People Data into Actionable Business Intelligence
Adam Hale, EVP, Sage People
Adam Hale, EVP, Sage People
Intelligent use of data has been touted as the route to success for business units including marketing, sales and finance, and now we’re finally starting to see an understanding of the benefits of data science in people management. Traditionally, HR functions have captured information about employees passively to meet legislative requirements, but for fast-growing organizations this is no longer enough. Top performing companies are putting people at the center of their businesses through people science, an approach that takes the intuitive power of HR and adds data evidence to support ideas, investigate theories and prove what works.
We call these organizations ‘People Companies’ and Sage People’s ‘Becoming a People Company’ report found that, of the 500 global HR leaders surveyed, 92 percent would like to use people data to improve their business and 87 percent thinks that more should be done to put people at the heart of their organization. However, approximately two-thirds of HR leaders are not using data to support decision-making or inform strategic planning.
So how can HR leaders turn data into actionable business intelligence to improve workforce performance and contribute to rapid organizational growth?
1. Take a data-centric approach
While 63 percent of organizations aren’t taking a data-centric approach, there is one group that is: fast-growing ‘gazelle’ organizations. We define gazelles as fast-growing companies that have increased their revenues by at least 20 percent annually for four years or more. The research shows that these organizations are far more advanced in HR than the average organization.
"People science is a new way of looking at how companies can relate to their employees"
Gazelles tend to have full HR automation (80 percent) so they can report faster and more easily on a range of influential HR metrics. If asked to report on headcount within a single day, 84 percent can do it; that’s 16 percentage points higher than non-gazelles. They can also report more easily on high potential employees (58 percent vs. 42 percent) and they have a roadmap in place to address people data shortcomings (92 percent vs. 66 percent). These high-growth organizations can see what’s working and what needs to change and then act confidently to make sure they’re supporting employees to achieve their potential.
2. Focus on people, not ‘human capital’
People science is a new way of looking at how companies can relate to their employees who focus on understanding and engaging with people, not just managing workers as human resources or capital. Unsurprisingly, 92 percent of survey respondents said they’d like to use people science to improve their business.
The research also positively showed a movement across all organizations toward the implementation of people science: 17 percent have appointed a Chief People Officer to put people science at the heart of their business. Appointing a Chief People Officer is a good initial step to help to make people science a business-wide, business-critical focus.
3. Move away from laborious manual processes
Using every lever available to improve performance is the key to rapid business growth. The challenge is putting systems in place to collect and analyze HR data for tangible benefit—31 percent of the survey respondents revealed they don’t currently have the right technology in place to interpret the necessary people data. Adopting the right tools to gather data is crucial for empowering HR to move away from old-style, laborious administrative and manual processes and spreadsheets and turn people data into business intelligence. With data processing tools, HR can better use the available data to understand what employees want and then provide great workforce experiences that fuel productivity and business growth.
4. Change how we talk about HR
Almost every organization we spoke to have an awareness of the potential to use people data to improve their business; even if they haven’t yet adopted the approach. HR leaders should be calling for urgent changes over the next 2 years so they can make better use of people data to support their organization’s drive to meet growth objectives (96 percent), have greater agility (71 percent), and improve employee retention (70 percent).
To catch up with the fast-growing gazelle organizations, prioritize conversing with your executives about how a more people-centric approach can positively impact the bottom line. Find out where your organization is on the People Company journey by completing this people company profiler and discuss the results internally.
As the pressure to grow and innovate is continuous, HR leaders must take a leading role in ensuring that their organizations have the workforce needed to get it done. By following these four steps, you can help transform your organization by putting the data and systems in place to put people at the center of the business.