Why People Analytics are THE Big Data Your Business Needs

Big data and data analytics are all the talk these days as the digital benchmarks for improving customer service, product development, sales flow, and productivity. And rightly so. There’s nothing like having real information on how your business is operating to understand where the gaps and opportunities are and how to address them. People analytics specifically can reveal how well your organization functions, providing data that can be instrumental in taking the guesswork out of all important talent decisions. Inside the data are big opportunities to transform your people practices with results that speak for themselves.

People analytics can make the difference by helping you:

  • Improve your hiring practices and land better quality hires
  • Understand why people join your company and what keeps them long term
  • Know which areas of the company or specific roles lead to turnover or disengagement
  • Uncover the factors that contribute to high performing (and poor performing) teams and business units

To explore what’s behind these issues, most companies customarily start with a few data points such as employee turnover rates or number of hires in the last year. These may be interesting in themselves, but as a point of leverage they don’t go far enough. Beyond these basics, a more strategic approach is to leverage people analytics in real-time at the point of business need. Consider your most important business goals or priorities, and the role people will have in their achievement. Let’s take a look at some examples.

If your goal is to grow revenue by 20% in the next year, what will your talent strategy be? Is it to hire one or more sales leaders to drive that revenue growth? If so, your strategy may be to attract and hire the right people. The people analytics that may be helpful in this scenario would be to look at the attributes of the most successful sales professionals on your team. Pre-hire assessment tools in this case can bring forward important data points to determine an individual’s drive for achievement and overall fit with the role. This kind of data can also help eliminate biases in hiring, such as favouring candidates with a specific kind of industry experience or education from a preferred institution, when taking initiative and thinking independently may be more accurate predictors of success.

If succession or business transition to new leadership is on the horizon, your talent strategy may need to focus on growing and developing new leaders. The people analytics that can help here are the number of internal hires and promotions vs. external hires your company normally makes when it comes to filling key leadership roles. This can provide a good indicator of whether current practice is toward building talent vs. buying talent and the implications of those decisions.  In addition, a review of the factors that have enabled the success of current leaders can shed light on the development needs of emerging talent.

If retaining your current staff will be essential during a major change, such as a facility move, acquisition, or large system upgrade, your talent strategy may be to focus on the factors that keep people productively engaged. In this scenario, the analytics from exit interviews can uncover historical trends around why people leave, allowing you to translate that to the current staff to see if they are at risk for turnover. One of the more recent measures of engagement is a pulse taker called an employee net promoter score, which indicates the degree to which employees would recommend their company to friends as a great place to work. This data helps understand which employee groups may be impacted positively or negatively by business developments, decisions and changes to workflow. This is not a replacement for a full employee engagement survey, which for the right size of organization can also be a helpful data gathering tool.

If you want to replicate the high performance success of one business unit or location in another, having the data on the factors leading to that performance is essential. Survey employees of the high performing unit to determine what workplace factors or management strategies contribute to their success. This can help you understand if there’s a value set within the one group – such as having fun or recognizing innovative thought that may be driving engagement – and can be a starting point for the next division. Instead of thinking that their success is all about a rock star leader, there may also be other intangibles that ignite the levels of engagement you’d like to see across your organization.

When the knowledge, innovative ideas, and skills of your people are increasingly the most important competitive business advantage, you need the most relevant people analytics to harness that talent and drive your organization forward. The best organizations review business decisions and talent decisions as one, and are more likely to ensure their talent and business strategies are tightly aligned. Having the right BIG data on your people can accelerate your path to success.