Saturday 14 November 2009

InfoHRM conference – Europe 2009


A quick summary of my two days at InfoHRM’s European conference on workforce measurement, workforce analytics and workforce planning.

Peter Howes and his team believe more strongly in the power of metrics than me, but in general, I support their approach, eg the need to gain a “multi-dimensional view of data to get true insights”, and for “hypothesis setting as well as measurement”.

I also agree that workforce planning needs to inform, as well as result from, the human capital strategy.  I just (still) think that in general, the issues tend to be so significant, and the opportunities so vast, that value creating strategy development depends on ambition, courage, creativity and the understanding of human and social behaviours, more than it does on measurement.  It’s why in my model, measurement follows on from strategy.


Communicating workforce analytics


I also agree that what organisations do with the data and analysis they produce is as or more important than generating the data and undertaking the analytics.  Deciding how best to communicate the findings of analytics is as important as increasing understanding of what the data means.

One way of doing this is through visualisation and Stephen Few, Perceptual Edge provided a great explanation of how to tell stories using data.


Workforce Analytics capability


And I also agree that whatever the approach, HR’s capability in understanding and using data needs to increase.  This is something we spent quite a bit of time on today.

Thomas Otter from Gardner suggested that the skills gap within workforce analytics is a big issue – there’s a lack of people interested in both HR and in analytics – the function needs to learn to love numbers.

David Guest from King’s College asked why more organisations are not using the data that exists on the value of good HR practices.

“Organisations, particularly Finance departments, look at people as one of the easiest variable costs to cut.  When the Finance Director comes in to say you need to cut 9%, how many HR departments have guts to question this?  HR is often an executioner of policy driven by Finance without a lot of thought.”


According to Peter Howes, it’s unlikely that all these capabilities will ever exist in the same person, so he identifies three roles: HRIS analyst, business analyst and business partner.  And it’s worth bringing these together into a centre of excellence focussing on workforce analytics.

And later on, Jacquie Heany from the Cabinet Office provided an overview of changes in the UK Civil Service HR:

“By developing HR capability [in workforce analytics], it’s moving there [a strategic role] because it can”.





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