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HR data. The new black?

One of the things what struck me most in the past months was that I must have heard “HR data” about 1,000 times. Everyone’s talking about it. HR data as the new black?

Not the goal but the means

Of course I love data, because it’s what I do and HR data is my fuel, but we’re now overdoing it ‘a little’, believe me. Naturally HR data is an essential component of optimising decision-making in HR, but the exaggerated focus (mainly pushed by our well respected software colleagues) is hiding its higher aim: business improvement.

HR data is not the goal but the means, got it? It’s as if data has become an end in itself. As long as you install the right software that will spew out endless amounts of HR data, you’ll be safe. Hell you! It’s not about HR data, dear reader!

Too much HR validation with HR data

People ask me a lot what data they should focus on. The question in itself is quite bizarre already and when I probe into what my interlocutor was thinking of exactly, they often don’t get much further than analysing HR data to account for a few of HR’s major activities or validate some of their programmes.

Suspicious line managers

Dear HR professional, let me tell you that focusing on HR validation alone will never make sure analytics truly create permanent value for your organisation. And besides, line managers will always look on these analytics with great suspicion, even if the intrinsic quality of your analysis is great. HR data and analytics are there to optimise the business or organisation, not to validate HR! I can’t say it any louder.

Transforming HR is necessary

Striving to improve analytical expertise to guide future decision making or support critical operational processes, demands a radical transformation from HR:

  • a new research culture (what are the people drivers of our success?)
  • a thorough understanding of critical business processes
  • a much broader view of data and data ownership overall (not only HR data)
  • the addition of an HR Analytics Translator who bridges the gap between HR and the business

People research first, data second!

Just look at all those new-school companies with their large analytics teams. They focus on people research and only allow data into the equation after that. The HR management of those progressive organisations decides every year, together with the business, which business-critical processes must be optimised.

Based on those improvement objectives, they gather people AND business data and put their analysts to work in collaboration with strong internal consultants (their HR business partners). What are you waiting for?

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  • Anonymous

    Great Insights! HR is now on the edge of a similar step change in how it can operate in a data-driven way, but it has the advantage that it can learn much from what business improvements went through in those early years. While it is not a simple step for some or many HR functions, undoubtedly has the potential for HR to add, and be seen to add, more value to the business.