by David Ludlow
Throughout this blog series, my colleagues have discussed how many midsize businesses have significantly changed their approach to human resources. From relying increasingly on contingent employees and engaging a multi-generational workforce with a variety of needs and expectations to contributing strategically to the bottom line, HR leaders are setting a solid foundation for long-term, sustainable growth and expansion.
At the center of this transformation is data analytics. According to a recent IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP, 95% of best-run midsize businesses are effectively building and developing their workforce and measuring outcomes with the “right” analytics tools and data insights. By leveraging data assets, advanced technology, and process automation, companies are embedding intelligence into their HR operations to make decisions that are impacting the bottom line.
So how are these companies energizing their growth with data analytics? From my perspective, the secret lies in overcoming three critical challenges.
1. Connecting HR data residing in multiple systems
In most cases, HR data sits in a wide variety of disparate systems. I have even seen some growing companies run as many as six separate talent management systems. Individually, each solution covered one specific area – core HR administration, time and attendance, process workflows, employee performance and compensation, learning, or recruiting.
When such intelligence is siloed from the rest of the HR function, thoroughly and objectively assessing the employee experience is difficult. IDC reports that nearly half of surveyed HR organizations lack insight into organizational processes and procedures. For example, they may not have the end-to-end visibility to pinpoint root causes for problem areas such as low recruitment results, high turnover, and languishing workforce engagement.
The solution: Combine HR solutions as part of a comprehensive talent management model that aligns, optimizes, and advances every employee in your workforce. Data cannot be analyzed if it is not digitized, and every data update and interaction point provides an opportunity to gather data and start visualizing trends. By thinking end to end across the entire employee lifecycle and all points in between, HR organizations can automate as many processes as possible. While this will be made easier by using a human capital management (HCM) suite, there are lots of great add-ons that can be integrated to increase the value of your processes. The key is to ensure the data is accurately reflected within your source systems.
2. Improving data quality, governance, and security
HR leaders within midsize businesses traditionally struggle with knowing whether their data is accurate, well-managed, and secure. For many employees, HR teams, executives, and board members, this could mean handling the intelligence they receive with caution. And ever-growing regulations regarding the collection, use, and storage of employee data expose the entire company to hefty penalties if not done correctly.
The solution: Reduce paper and data-entry errors with process automation. HCM technology enforces data accuracy by restricting data values to company-defined configuration. Plus, leveraging cloud solutions helps conform to data privacy regulations. With a solid, accurate, and compliant data foundation, HR leaders, hiring managers, and executives can maintain an insightful, reliable view of the total workforce and see how investments in people and shifts in employee dynamics impact business outcomes.
3. Putting data to work in ways that optimize the strategic value of HR
Once you’ve automated, consolidated, digitized, and improved data quality, you can move from simple reporting to more advanced analytics. But without the right tools and capabilities, HR leaders may be held back in evolving their function into an essential business contributor.
The solution: Bridge the gap between business strategy and execution with workforce plans driven by data, and you’ll be better prepared to support your CEO’s agenda – and measure HR’s contribution to it. But don’t stop there. Today’s workforce analytics packages can provide a great foundation to deliver valuable insights into how HR data can help HR leaders evolve their function into an essential business contributor. Consider feedback mechanisms that collect data on every employee’s experience. Ask how well you did and how your HR process can be improved, then use it to do just that: make it better. Armed with this “experience” data, and combined with your operational data, you’ll be in a great position to accelerate your contribution over time.
Grow digitally, not just profitably
Data is one of the best ways that HR teams can support the growth of their midsize company. However, genuine interest in reviewing HR intelligence is not enough. The right staff should also be in place to manage the data, and the right tools are required to deliver the insight needed to move the business forward.
HR leaders should identify what’s most important to the company, determine which analytics and data are required to support those demands, and learn how to measure process performance and decision-making. More importantly, they must find ways to get data to the right people, so they can make better decisions that guide the business to long-term, sustainable success.
The good news is that midsize organizations have a leg up on their larger competitors when it comes to achieving these capabilities. The agility and smaller size of the business allow HR leaders to simplify and consolidate their IT landscape quickly, flexibly, and scalably. More importantly, this level of intelligence can be extended across the company to transform how people are engaged, informed, and equipped to pivot their strategies in times of rapid growth and constant change.