The era of “people analytics” has arrived in HR. Unlike the data warehouses and unwieldy analytics tools of the late 1990s and early 2000s, new solutions promise scalability, integration, speed and high performance. However, for many HR departments, problems don’t relate to technology but to people—more accurately, the sheer volume of unstructured data generated by the people. How do companies get a handle on this massive influx?
According to a recent Forbes article, the notion of people analytics has a broad appeal, and could potentially address any company issue which involves human contact—everything from analysis of sales productivity to employee turnover, fraud, and customer satisfaction. But a report from Deloitte Consulting argues that the uptake of analytics in HR is “stuck in neutral.”
Why? Part of the problem may be a skills gap for current HR professionals, but principal analyst Bill Pelster says that for many firms the bigger problem is “dirty data.” In other words, because the data generated by human beings can’t be neatly categorized or easily organized, it’s tempting to lump it altogether as “qualitative” rather than “quantitative” and call it a wash. The result? Two opposing viewpoints: experts see people analytics as having large-scale appeal, while HR professionals often feel overwhelmed because their data isn’t clean.
A post from the Association for Talent Development (ATD) suggests that getting out of this HR data loop requires setting new goals—ideally, big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) that go beyond simply performing day-to-day tasks. This means thinking about company infrastructure and talent like an investor, not an insider; potential matters more than current performance. The same rule applies to unstructured human data: What’s possible trumps what may be presently available or understood.
So how do companies tap in? The right analytics platform is key, one able to handle structured and unstructured outcomes with equal facility. There’s also a need for steely-eyed determination, the understanding that this won’t be easy at first. Properly managed, moved and integrated, however, the use of people-based data has far reaching implications for both HR departments and the bottom line.