Windward Insights

How Can HR Use Data Analytics to Improve Organizational Outcomes?

Published Jan. 27, 2016
Written by Nick Wilkerson

graph with people

As an HR executive, you’re responsible for all aspects of managing your company’s most valuable resource – its people. Indeed, HR’s impact on the larger organization is extensive throughout the employment lifecycle – from identifying the right candidates to fill open requisitions, to working with organizational executives to retain and grow the workforce over time. The good news is, HR has a powerful ally to help accomplish its vast mission – analytics. This blog describes some of the ways HR should be leveraging data analytics to successfully pursue this mission.

Investing in Talent Development

Effectively developing and growing your internal employee bench stands to benefit your organization in a number of ways. However, the starting point here is having clear visibility into the skills sets of your existing employees. For instance, data from your employee skills inventory can be analyzed over time to gauge the extent to which the skills of existing employees are aligned with their current job requirements, as well as the projected future skill demands of your organization. This data can help you to more precisely identify and invest in training opportunities that gives your organization the most ‘bang for your buck’.

Mitigating Insider Threats

Traditionally, monitoring and responding to insider threats has been seen as falling squarely within the IT department’s domain. And while IT should rightfully retain the primary responsibility for responding to specific threats, there is an important role for HR to play in this domain. Namely, HR should analyze the same machine generated log data that IT analyzes in order to assess the prevalence of risky employee behaviors such as visiting unsafe websites, or downloading unauthorized or malicious software programs. Analysis of this data will help HR (in conjunction with IT) to formulate employee education programs designed to train employees on safe use of their corporate hardware and software tools.

Employee Feedback Management

Chance are you’ve conducted surveys to gather quantitative and / or qualitative feedback from your organization’s employees. And as you know, when done right, such surveys can yield powerful information in areas such as employee satisfaction, engagement, attrition risk, and more. The cool thing about the information gleaned from surveys is that it can serve as a ‘cheat sheet’ of sorts, helping HR and senior leadership to hone in on specific policy and process levers that can be pulled to affect more favorable employee outcomes. Moreover, this data can be integrated into ‘real world’ data sources to better gauge how subjective ratings and comments provided by employees translate into ‘real-world’ impacts.

Monitor the Impact of Your HR Efforts

The examples above speak to how HR can leverage data to the benefit of other parts of the organization. HR should also be leveraging data to the benefit of HR Operations. For instance, key HR performance indicators such as the number of open requisitions, average duration of open requisitions, number of new hires, average retention, attrition rate, etc. should all be systematically monitored by HR executives through dashboards and reports. This data should be analyzed to test specific hypotheses or answer critical questions with regard to HR strategy (e.g., what impact do our on-campus recruitment efforts have on how quickly we fill open reqs?).

Now, obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list of analytics use cases for HR. While this list does summarize some of the more important uses of data analytics within HR, it’s important to note that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to HR analytics. Each organization is different…accordingly, the ‘right’ analytics activities for a particular organization should be based on the specific circumstances of that organization. My hope, though, is that this blog gives you some ideas of the things you can do with data in HR.