Non-Human Resources for the HR Professional: Harnessing the Data

Michelle Doyle

Can you pinpoint the most important aspect of your professional skill set? From analyzing data to understanding key applications, you’re constantly juggling the growing demands of your career. HR professionals experience this concern on a grand scale. They have to worry about not only their skill set, but also the skills and growth of everyone else in the organization.

The changing role of the HR professional involves much more than administrative tasks today. Modern HR professionals are in charge of people management, and as a result, the organization’s overall health.

In a recent HR.com study sponsored by Iron Mountain called The Advancing HR Function, 80% of surveyed professionals rated “leveraging HR data and analytics” as a critical skill, yet only 31% rated themselves as proficient – a wide gap of 49 percentage points What’s more, although leveraging HR data and analytics suffers from a tremendous skills and proficiency gap, HR professionals ranked analytics and self-service, by a wide margin, as areas of technology that will play the largest role in the future of HR.

This gap could stem from the rapid expansion of data as well as from quickly evolving technologies. New technologies increasingly deliver useful metrics and data, and HR professionals need access to the applications and tools that can provide them with such metrics in order to meet professional and business goals that will enable them to be an even more valuable strategic business partner. The ability to leverage HR data isn’t a soft skill like communication and leadership – it can be trained. However, you need to have the appropriate tools at hand, those that can provide you with the relevant data and analytics about your HR processes. Only then can you analyze, leverage and report on the data to make training fruitful.

How can professionals expect to keep up? Fortunately, applications to assist HR professionals are increasingly available from third-party vendors who provide cloud-based solutions. The HR sector’s use of cloud computing increased to 73% in 2017 from 68% in 2016, according to PWC’s worldwide HR technology survey. What is the reason for this increase in popularity? In an economic climate where resources are scarce, it makes sense to look for technology solutions that provide these capabilities without the need for capital investment and without the need to place an additional burden on internal IT resources. In fact, 56% of the HR professionals surveyed in The Advancing HR Function study report that their organization currently use cloud-based HR technology or a combination of cloud-based and on-premises HR technologies.

“In some cases, the change in technology has allowed HR professionals to take on more strategic roles, while in other cases technology has simply allowed the HR professional to more effectively address the administrative tasks associated with their role,” said Jacqueline Smith, an independent HR consultant with more than 25 years of experience working in human resources, in an article on SNHU.

Besides the ability to harness key HR data from databases and applications, how else can organizations benefit? With an elevated role, the HR professional can offer more strategic input in the decision-making process. An HR professional could use big data to examine employee behaviors and preferences, such as indicators that an employee is likely to quit within six months. By identifying certain key behaviors, HR could encourage more productivity in the workplace, according to
The Society for Human Resource Management. Creative data analytics could also reduce hiring bias.

“Because we now live in an era where it takes more than a great paycheck and retirement plan to engage and retain top performing employees, it is natural that HR departments in companies of all sizes are becoming more strategic,” said Bruce Holoubek, president and co-owner of the organizational efficiency contracting firm, Contracted Leadership.

However, becoming a more strategic part of the organization could be easier said than done — especially with the growing administrative demands of the job. HR professionals can make the transition a little more seamless by shifting their focus to a process that’s able to scale quickly. For example, they could standardize common policies and interactions, such as performance tracking. Using the cloud and developing standardized procedures offers more flexibility. It also provides a solution to the endless amounts of paperwork that can burden HR professionals.

It’s time to encourage HR professionals to have an even greater effect on their organizations. By addressing critical HR skills gaps, identifying links between HR initiatives and overall employee performance, and partnering with a third-party provider to assist in executing key initiatives, HR professionals can become the strong strategic partners they hope to be.

 

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