Why HR Professionals Should Embrace Data

Kevin Williams

Historically, human resource professionals have focused on, well, human resources. There’s a skill in sizing up someone and learning their story. And there is a skill in sifting through a pile of resumes and reading between the lines to determine which candidates are worth considering. And then there’s the most essential skill of all: deciding whether a potential employee is a fit for your organization. HR professionals are masters at a range of skill sets that result in a more positive workplace.

But one area human resource professionals have consistently fallen short, according to surveys, is in using data.

HR.com recently published a study that showed some revealing findings. The survey sought out the views of 343 HR professionals from a cross-section of companies and disciplines. Chief among them: 79% of respondents view data analytics skills as essential or necessary, but only 27% feel the proficiency in their departments is excellent or above average. That translates into a 52% gap.

Closing that gap is crucial for modern HR departments to operate at their full potential. Gone are the days when HR was just about hiring and keeping tabs on tardies. Today, it’s about creating a culture and fostering a sense of shared values, and in some situations, data can help achieve that.

Data to the Rescue

The importance of data in human resources has caught the attention of many forward-thinking writers and business owners. For example, a recent Forbes article underscores the importance of data in HR, stating that the average HR team is “sitting on a data goldmine.”

Data that can be procured, parsed and analyzed using AI and data distillation processes include such diverse categories as absenteeism information, social media posts, expense account abuse and evaluation trend lines. Data allows HR officers to “see” problems before they occur. Think of data analytics as a powerful flashlight in a dark cave — turn it on and complexities come to light, and suddenly you know the way forward.

4 Ways HR Uses Data

Here are four key areas where data analytics can really come to the rescue for HR professionals:

Time management: HR professionals are always bogged down in a push-pull between bringing in the best people and then trying to retain them. Such balancing acts take time. In fact, a recent study from Business.com suggests that HR professionals spend almost 22% of their time just in meetings. Tracking how they spend their time and then analyzing the data helps HR professionals figure out the best allotment for their scarce minutes.

Employee satisfaction: A happy employee is less likely to leave your organization. Not having to train and find a replacement while retaining talent is a double-win to the bottom line and morale. Performance metrics can hone in on areas where employees are excelling the most, while surveys can help you determine what leads to the most satisfaction. From there, you can analyze trends and help create the most productive and satisfying paths for employees.

Assignment allotment: If employee A enjoys making cold calls and is super effective at them, but employee B would rather have a root canal than make a call, your company will be stronger for placing employee A on the phones and giving employee B another task. Workforce data analysis can help you discern which employees gravitate toward certain tasks so you can reassign accordingly.

Recruitment: A single job posting can bring in hundreds of resumes. A medium or large company with a dozen or more openings at once can suddenly find themselves with a slush pile bigger than the busiest Random House editor. Using software that sifts through candidates by focusing on keywords and skills makes the long slog of hiring a much more streamlined process. Data on the people applying to your company will be much easier to parse than hundreds of individual resumes.

If you’re worried that embracing data may smother the more human elements of human resources, cast aside that fear. The reality is that it frees you up to do the opposite. With some strategic data use, you can find opportunities to make your employees happier while making your own life a little easier.

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