The power of people analytics

Using data to drive more effective health care workforce planning

People analytics can help organizations improve the effectiveness of health care workforce planning and drive greater return on their HR investments.

Health care workforce planning challenges

Labor costs and retention are two of the most daunting challenges facing health care organizations. Payroll is one of the largest expenses for a health system, yet executives typically are less effective at managing employee assets and costs than other expenditures such as capital and facilities.

And while organizations often tout employees as their most valuable asset, many health system executives don't have a complete or accurate understanding of them. The stated value they place on employee retention as a "key strategic imperative," is not evident in their operational practice and planning. In fact, many organizations don't adequately invest in health care workforce planning and lack formal retention strategies.

Complicating factors

Adding to these workforce challenges—and further complicating how organizations determine employee value—is the radical change confronting today's health care workforce:

  • Nursing turnover: Bedside registered nurse (RN) turnover increased from 16.4 percent in 2014 to 17.2 percent in 20151, and newly hired nurses are leaving faster than they once did.2
  • Potential retirement bubble: With 55 percent of the RN workforce age 50 or older3, the health care industry is certainly not immune to the brewing retirement bubble caused by an aging US population.
  • Changing required skillsets: Health technology advancements, new value-based payment models, and alternative care delivery approaches are just a few of the developments requiring a new set of employee skills.

People analytics to the rescue

Forward-thinking health care system leaders can capitalize on employee-related opportunities resulting from industry consolidation and shifting workforce patterns by using people analytics.

People analytics helps leaders refocus their health care workforce planning lens from a qualitative one to a quantitative one, enabling them to scientifically unlock and measure the value of people to their organization.

People analytics can help health care organizations to:

  • View employees as a critical and valuable asset in the supply chain; an asset that can be analyzed and optimized to benefit individuals and the company as a whole
  • Uncover opportunities to transform HR practices and optimize talent-focused programs
  • Increase employee satisfaction

What is people analytics?
The use of advanced statistics to expand the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data to drive high–quality people and business decisions.

Mind the gap

Health care industry awareness and use of people analytics is gaining speed. However, there is a growing maturity gap among many organizations in how to best leverage big data for greater organizational value. Today's health care leaders must broaden their analytics focus to include internal HR applications while realizing they may lack and need to build some or all of the key components to a successful program.

Bridging this gap holds many potential benefits. Cross-industry research shows that organizations that use HR-related data analytics have stock market returns 30 percent higher than the S&P 500, are twice as likely to be delivering high-impact recruiting solutions, and have leadership pipelines that are 2.5x healthier.4

To gain insights that drive value, executives should transition from qualitative- to quantitative-based workforce planning.

Getting started: Three initial steps

People analytics can help health care organizations maximize their return on workforce investments. But success requires a strategic approach that leverages senior leadership support and a skilled team of analytics professionals.

Health care organizations can take these initial steps toward building a strong people analytics capability:

  • Begin at the beginning: Don't be afraid to start the process where you are today and evolve your analytics capability over time.
  • Align with leadership priorities: Establish executive-level buy-in and focus on business, not just HR issues.
  • Invest in the right people and expertise: Focus on hiring employees with critical new skillsets—analytical, interpretative, and transformational—that can deliver business value.

1 2016 National Healthcare Retention & RN Staffing Report, NSI Nursing Solutions Inc., March 2016,
2 “Nearly One in Five New Nurses Leaves First Job Within a Year, According to Survey of Newly-Licensed Registered Nurses,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, September 4, 2014,
3 Nursing shortage fact sheet, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2014,
4 "Big Data in Human Resources: A world of haves and have–nots," Forbes, October 7, 2013,–data–in–human–resources–a–world–of–haves–and–have–nots/#3eb72c8c539c

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