Making sense of big data

Talent analytics are an essential tool for HR to make sense of big data. HRM looks at the advantages of using these programmes to meet business needs.

In the race for good talent, organisations need to use all the information that they have to analyse and maintain a productive workforce. Today, the use of talent analytics has become a near-mantra for HR professionals, helping them understand all elements of their workforces so their companies can maintain a competitive advantage.

Data obtained through talent analytics can give an insight into different areas of a workforce, including talent management, succession planning, and learning and development for employees.

However, research also shows that though organisations realise the importance of utilising talent analytics, few companies are actively implementing analytics programmes to address business and talent issues. In the study, Global Human Capital Trends 2015, three out of four surveyed companies across the globe stated that using talent analytics was important but just eight percent believed their organisation was “strong” in this area.

Aligning business goals

Industry experts say that merely collating data is not useful if HR does not know how to use it to anticipate and align the information to the organisation’s business goals. For example, the Global Human Capital Trends study highlighted that Google was able to use data to discover that every candidate interview after the fourth was a waste of time. The search giant says this has since helped it to streamline its recruitment process.

Lim Say Ping, Director and Co-Founder of iqDynamics, says HR must realise that the sophisticated talent and HR analytics tools of today are no longer the inflexible tools of yesterday, good only for number-crunching. “Today’s tools draw intelligent and valuable insights from big data, and it is this intelligence that HR can put to good use. From matching the right talents with the right jobs, to linking employee performance appraisals to business objectives and determining the best training and career paths for high-performing employees, this in turn ensures a highly productive and engaged talent pool with a lower attrition rate,” he explains.

Lim adds that with a high-performance talent analytics tool, HR can take full advantage of the insights to strategise the success and continuity of their organisation, and shift their department’s contribution focus to a more strategic line.

In a study entitled People are the Real Numbers, Robert Bolton, a KPMG Advisory partner and HR Transformation expert, says talent analytics should be used for strategic purposes. “Applied properly, HR analytics can show connections, correlations and even causality between HR metrics and other business measures – all of which can be used to drive HR strategy and actions,” he says.

Industry experts also emphasise that HR should have a game plan when it comes to utilising big data. It should aim to integrate data from various stakeholders and departments, build a team that can analyse the data, and reskill itself to use the data effectively.

Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte, confirms much of this in a blog, Making Sense of Big Data in HR. “You must build a team and level of expertise which lets you capture and analyse data, create models, and directly interact with your business leaders to answer the right questions with a deep level of rigour,” he says.

An insight with the right tools

Organisations have their pick of various talent management tools from service providers – from recruitment solutions to HR administration tools covering things like payroll.

iqDynamics provides the HriQ Human Capital Management Solution, a software tool offering an executive dashboard that is geared towards providing HR and management with clear visualisation of HR data. It covers data such as appraisal scores, training and development needs, competency scores, and other crucial talent management KPIs.

“It can drill down into reported variables and tables for HR to conduct further detailed analysis whenever the situation dictates,” says Lim. “Behind our dashboard is a state-of-the-art report builder that is constructed on the latest Microsoft application. Our powerful tool builds reports the way you want them with drag-and-drop functionality and reporting workflows.”

Workday, another solutions provider, offers a myriad of products to help HR departments capture data and align it with business needs. The Workforce Planning and Analytics solution provides insights into cost, capacity, capability and quality of a global workforce – HR can anticipate talent supply and demand and use metrics to check how well the organisation is performing.

Also, the Workday Human Capital Management solution combines HR and talent management into a single system-of-record. Organisations can use these for key areas such as organisation management, and compensation management.

Choose the right solution

With so many choices for talent analytics to mine data available, organisations need to choose the right solutions that fit their business needs.

“Companies who already have a solution in place should source for talent analytics tools that can interface well with their current solutions. Choosing a talent analytics tool need not mean a major reimplementation project, massive data transfer headaches, or the pain of dealing with separate solutions and vendors,” explains Lim of iQDynamics.

Data security is also an important issue for companies when it comes to choosing the right talent analytics. Lim says that with HR solutions or analytics tools, data security and integrity are doubly important to prevent any sort of loss, compromise or unauthorised access.

Tapping on data

The Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report asked 3,300 business and HR leaders to self-assess their capabilities for talent analytics.

  • On utilising HR and talent operational reporting and scorecards, nine percent said their organisations were “excellent”; 36% chose “adequate”; and 53% considered their organisations “weak”
  • On correlating HR data to business performance, five percent said their organisations were “excellent”; 33% chose “adequate”; and 61% considered their organisations “weak”
  • On using HR data to predict workforce performance and improvement: four percent said their organisations were “excellent”; 25% chose “adequate”; and 69% considered their organisations “weak”
  • On conducting multi-year workforce planning: five percent said their organisations were “excellent”; 33% chose “adequate”; and 50% considered their organisations “weak”

Source: Global Human Capital Trends 2015


Developing a “game plan” with big data

Organisations need to develop a plan to use data effectively so that it can be strategically aligned with business goals. What are some steps that HR can take in order to utilise big data?

  • Integrate data: Integrating fragmented data can be time consuming and expensive and can take months, especially in an MNC. However, cloud-based HR management systems can make it easier to maintain all HR data on one format
  • Build a multi-disciplinary team: Analysing data is essential, so HR needs to put together a team of analysts that have business knowledge and technical skills to extrapolate useful data
  • Address immediate business needs: Use analytics to address an immediate business need such as turnover or talent retention in the organisation. This can help build a strong case for the company to invest in talent analytics
  • Reskill HR: HR needs to learn how to use talent analytics and combine it with business acumen to address business goals


Analysing the Workday advantage

Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

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