Is HR really slow in adopting Analytics?

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This post was originally published on my Linkedin Pulse.

2nd January 2015, Josh Bersin said that “The Geeks have arrived: People Analytics is here.” and now another article by Deloitte – “HR Analytics stuck in Neutral“. In between these 2 articles, I happen to read a beautiful post by Mr. Prabir Jha – “HR is Dead. Long Live HR!“. This article talks beyond absence of right data, technology and analytical resources and says “The problem is not with HR alone. But the problem is with us, as employees and leaders. We have taken it for granted. We have thought in terms of “Us” and “Them””.

With mixed conclusion, I thought to take an attempt on 4 myths vs facts about “Is HR really slow in adopting Analytics” on the basis of published digital contents and my own little understanding of this domain.

HR doesn’t have right technology: Love for Technology is in air. According to consultancy Towers Watson, western European businesses spent a vast €2.5 billion on HR software systems last year, with the market showing a compound annual growth rate of 7% while system to do with Analytics outflank at 10%[Learning and development, performance management and recruitment 8% each, Compensation and reward management at 9%]. Its a strong progress and predicated to remain stable this year as well.

Per another research by Bersin Deloitte’s – One-fifth of the 251 responding organizations said that HR technology was a key area of increased investment in 2014 and it will continue in 2015. So overall it seems that HR technology spend has been on radar for a while and not a concern. Additionally, these technologies will help streamline HR processes and put right governance, in-turn produce good quality data but may/may not have analytical capabilities. So, not sure if it justifiable to see it as barrier for adoption of Analytics in HR.

And of-course we have open source Analytical tools like “R” and “Rapid Miner” – as articulated by Hendrik Fedderson in his article “HR Analytics – Still in need of bridges“, if needed. So, I would classify this as myth that HR doesn’t have right technology to make progress towards adopting Analytics.

HR data is not clean: Before we deep dive into this, lets reflect on 3 key questions:

1) who is the producer of the employee data?

2) who is the custodian of the process of being compliant with HR processes in the system which in turn produces employee data?

3) Who is responsible to ensure governance for people measurement definitions?

And the answer is employees, HR & business leaders of the organization. Technology will never enable [of-course it will upto great extent] us completely to achieve clean HR data, It is “US” who have to make it happen.

Organizations who have adopted Analytics and delivered quantifiable business impact have embraced the so called not-cleaned data for insights. They have delivered outcome and fed the data quality issues back to data custodians [employees, leaders and HR] to improve upon and develop & attain sustainable process. So, we should start to make progress wherever we feel we have good quality data [could be in small quantum] than see this as roadblock. And develop organization wide employee data governance program to put right control in place to get better data quality in future.

Hence not good quality employee data is a fact but this is a “myth” for one of the reason for HR not been able to adopt Analytics.

HR is not Business centric: Most of the time, we hear that HR is not business centric and since they don’t understand business need, they fail to deliver data based insights. I may differ on that as its about what business asks HR. If you ask HR to be compliance-driven function, HR will behave that way than being a business-integrated. Its about the eco-system that we are creating for the new kid on the block i.e. HR Analytics. This point is well articulated in Bersin’s article – Is HR earning it’s keep?

However, HR needs to evolve into a consulting partner role, very similar to Finance – CFOs see this as one of top 3 to-do list in 2015. Organization needs to make an investment for development of HR not only in technical areas [data interpretation, communicate analytics] but soft skills [business acumen, consulting skills, and organizational design and change management] as well.

So, I would categorize this driver as “fact”.

HR is unable to hire HR Analytics Talent: HR is the custodian of golden source of talent data internally. However I haven’t heard many success story of they using this information to mobilize right talent to join them to drive Analytics agenda. This could be due to either they are busy supplying talent for other functions only OR not understanding what talent is required for HR Analytics functions to deliver the agenda successfully.

This connects back to my previous point of HR organization should invest in technical & soft skills to be informed to take right decision at right time. They need to scout for data artist, information artist, quant artist and domain artist to build a high performing analytics team. And marketing and finance analytics functions could be a right place to acquire these talents.

So, I believe, it is a “fact” that HR is unable to hire HR Analytics Talent.

In nutshell, It is not only HR who is responsible to make HR Analytics as success but all of us i.e. employees, business leaders and HR. We need to shift from “US” and “Them to “US” to enable HR speed up adoption of Analytics and act as business-centric function.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not reflect in any way those of the organisations to which he has been/is affiliated.

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