Friday, 12 June 2020

theHRDIRECTOR: Data & Analytics

I'm included in this article, 'Operating Below the Mean' in May's theHRDIRECTOR section on data and analytics.

I don't often post on analytics, largely because I think the topic has become very specialised, and it's not my specialism. There are now a lot of people who know a lot more about it than me.

But that increased specialisation is the reason I've now written about it. I think the HR world is increasingly bifurcated between a smaller group of very knowledgeable and experienced professionals and organisations, and a larger group of people and businesses who don't see analytics as a priority.

The first group shout ever louder at the second group to catch up, but it's just not happening.

Whilst many in the first group may think the second set are just scared or ignorant, I think the latter group are often just making reasoned decisions that analytics still aren't the priority right now.

I'd point to two main reasons why not. Firstly, most examples of analytics in the first group are very operational, and the second group are actually quite smart - they know all this activity is going to be automated fairly soon, so it's really not what they want to spend much time on.

Secondly, operational analytics support operational insights, and that's not what we need to focus on. The second group want to be more strategic, and they realise that just moving from operational HR to operational HR insights isn't going to take them where they need or want to go.

Becoming more strategic does benefit from analytics, but it requires a different approach. There are two main aspects to this as well.

Firstly, strategy doesn't generally emerge from analytics, it develops from a deep, human understanding of the opportunities inherent in people and their organisation. From synthesis not analysis, and art not science. We need to identify measures and analytics to test, validate and improve these strategies, but they're not how they originate.

Secondly, strategy is about doing something new, and that means we generally won't have relevant data, especially as most strategic issues tend to lend themselves to more qualitative and subjective approaches. If you have relevant data, it's not going to be in your HR system.

The second group therefore needs to develop their own approach. This is about smart strategic planning; linking measures to these plans; collecting and then analysing data (often through very basic or simple analytics); and then reporting on the insights gained from this.

It's the complete opposite of the first group which, whist now understanding the value of a good question, still tend to approach analytics from the perspective of the data they have available.

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