By Eric Lesser and Albert Hong
HR reporting has long been a central requirement for many organizations, and often the first step in their Workforce Analytics journey. To support the HR information and compliance needs of the organization, many HR functions have assembled teams of individuals who have experience in areas, such as capturing user reporting requirements, querying various Human Capital Management (HCM) systems, creating pivot tables, and assembling system-generated reports for their internal customers. These individuals often have a strong knowledge of an organization’s data and systems and are facile in report development.
But increasingly organizations are looking to go beyond reporting, creating the need for analytics teams that can work more closely with senior leaders within HR and the business to address more advanced workforce analytics questions. These teams are being asked to develop hypotheses, draw conclusions based on analyses, use data science and advanced analytics approaches to develop models and predict potential outcomes, and create visualizations that enable analyses to be understood more easily.
Given these trends, is your HR reporting team ready to tackle broader people analytics efforts?
Understand the needs of a people analytics organization
From our experience working with a range of organizations, we are seeing several emerging capabilities that HR reporting teams are being asked to develop, as the need for more sophisticated people analytics services increases:
- Work with business leaders to identify, frame, and scope analytics projects that address critical workforce issues. This includes developing hypotheses, identifying traditional human capital data, business-related data (such as sales and productivity), and external data sources (such as labor market data) needed to address these challenges and laying out an overall data collection and analysis approach.
- Develop prebuilt visualizations based on emerging business requirements. Reporting team members are more frequently being asked to work with the business and HR to define use cases and develop dashboards that are intuitive and can be monitored on an ongoing basis.
- Tell more compelling stories using the data. Increasingly, organizations are recognizing the importance of communicating the results from analytics efforts to non-analytics oriented stakeholders. Analytics organizations are often being asked to work with HR business partners and other high-value users to incorporate visualizations into presentations and other interactions with stakeholders.
- Promote the use of and capture the value associated with self-service platforms. For many organizations, simply implementing self-service platforms is not enough to spur action among the potential user community. Providing training, coaching, support, and measurement for the use of new tools to promote self-service and continue to reduce the need for ad hoc reporting is often becoming central to the mission of HR analytics organizations.
- Work closely with data scientists on more advanced use cases and challenges. Many of the same skills used to develop static reports can be applied to support the data requirements of more advanced data science projects that require manipulating multiple complex data sets.
Assess required capabilities
Given the types of analytics capabilities that organizations are looking for, is it even reasonable to look to an HR reporting team to fill these important roles? To answer this, it is important for organizations to ask four key questions:
- Does the team have the charter, remit, and organizational support to do this? While everyone around the leadership table may agree on taking a more analytical approach to understanding the workforce, the clear mandate to dedicate a group of individuals charged with this mission is often lacking. If the organization has not developed a clearly articulated mission, vision, and strategy to undertake these new responsibilities, it is unlikely that the individuals within the HR reporting group will see themselves as having the permission to build and deliver these needed services.
- Does the team have the necessary skills? Though there are many skills, such as data engineering, that are applicable to both HR reporting and analytics, organizations need to take a hard look at whether their HR reporting organizations have the appropriate skills and resources to deliver true analytics insights. Skills such as business acumen, consultative partnering, and hypothesis development are all critical to make sure that the organization is asking the right analytics questions and has the appropriate buy-in from business stakeholders. While some analytics professionals possess data science skills, many organizations are finding that machine learning and other advanced capabilities are in very limited supply within traditional HR reporting teams. And on the back end, many HR reporting team members may not have experience in presentation development and storytelling, critical capabilities needed to help make the translation from analytics findings to executive action.
- Does the team have the needed time and resources? Even an HR reporting team that has the mandate and the skills needed to take the next step forward with HR analytics may be hard pressed to take on more advanced projects simply because they already have full-time HR reporting responsibilities. Simply asking people to take on additional projects without relief from their existing backlog can result in a series of half-finished projects that never seem to reach completion, despite interest and desire from participating team members. Organizations need to evaluate the workload currently being managed by the HR reporting team and make decisions about how to allocate time and focus to more strategic analytics efforts.
- Does the team have the appropriate tool set? While HR reporting teams may have access to a wide variety of systems and data sources, the ability to easily bring together disparate data sets and conduct more advanced analytics in an integrated development environment is often lacking. Without a common, repeatable approach to data ingestion, cleansing, analytics, and visualization, the time and effort it takes to deliver analytics insights can make it challenging for any data professional. Dedicated people analytics software can make it easier for individuals to create dashboards, develop predictive models, and manage access to relevant information through a common interface–improving efficiency as well as data security. And Deloitte research has found that high-performing organizations are twice as likely as low-performing organizations to use specialized people analytics tools and software to enhance their analytics strategy.i
Support the transition
If the decision is made to extend the charter of the HR reporting group to take on more advanced analytics, organizations should consider three important steps to make this vision a reality.
- Reexamine the operating model. Adding more advanced analytics capabilities to the portfolio of an HR reporting group requires an examination of internal customer needs and whether processes, skills, and technologies are aligned with servicing those requirements.
- Provide opportunity for practice and skill building. For initial projects, analytics practitioners need the opportunity to build their skills and capabilities on projects that, while important to the business, are clearly bounded in scope and are not encumbered by short delivery time frames. Building success involves allowing the space for practitioners to apply new skills and capabilities and feel safe to make (and recover from) early mistakes.
- Bring in resources from other analytics disciplines for support. In many organizations, experienced analytics resources can be found in Marketing, Finance, and Operations, among other functions. Leveraging these resources can be valuable, not only to guide the HR reporting team in using analytics tools, but to facilitate knowledge of IT systems and data sets that might be beyond the traditional purview of HR reporting professionals.
Making the leap to HR Analytics can be a tremendous developmental opportunity for many HR reporting professionals. For both individuals and the organizations they support, the advancement of HR analytics represents a career enhancement and a greater ability to make a strategic contribution to the business. However, simply interest alone will unlikely enable this transition. Organizations must define the requirements, evaluate the capabilities of existing team members, and provide the appropriate support and infrastructure necessary to support a people analytics organization.
iDeloitte High Performing People Analytics Teams study, 2020.