Data-driven workforce planning is increasingly becoming the "spine" of HR, connecting the People Plan to the Business Plan. This then in turn connects to all the other plan and process elements. This is not about "IT," but rather how senior business leaders are working with highly creative teams in their HR groups, composed of storytellers, statisticians, programmers, and MBAs to explore "what if?" people scenarios, and plan their global workforce years ahead.
Last November, members of our Global HR Roundtable in London met to explore how people and organisation analytics can be used to drive growth and innovation. This group of global and regional heads of HR are in leading global MNCs such as Johnson and Johnson, Costa, GSK, and Unilever. We meet regularly to create new insights about people and organisation solutions for growth. These HR leaders have a point of view as leaders, and they want to help their companies grow.
Let me share some of the take-aways from our dialogue, and encourage HR leaders everywhere to stretch your views about when and how you make a difference to your business:
Elevate desired rigor in people and organisation decisions. Companies today are at various stages of capability and utilisation of people and organisation analytics. The opportunity is clearly to bring the same level of rigour to people decisions as companies do to engineering decisions.
Build organisation readiness for HR to take a high-profile lead. Currently, many HR leaders and their staff lack the credibility/ability to convince senior business leaders of the strategic value of using analytics to identify and address key People Issues. To do this, they may need to recruit different staff and use professional support. The majority of HR staff are great at operational process, but have limited strategic capability or experience.
There is a real opportunity to enhance the capability of all HR people in terms of organisation design and effectiveness through analytics. Another early step would be to build a small core expertise in HR to focus on analytics, and use a skunk-work approach, at least initially. This group turns key business questions into data insights and visuals, supported by "story-telling."
Business leaders must have the discipline to stick to the new model. In developing this approach, it is vital to integrate external as well as internal data, and get the overall context/system right—e.g., align HR/FN and rethink decision rights for people decisions. It is also critical not to let decision makers get hung up about data accuracy.
Embed "analytics" the right way. When getting started, it's best to begin with a proof of concept, followed by pilots, then full-rollout when the business is ready. Keep the true analytic core-team small, and build a network of partners in the wider organisation. This will lead to key decisions being argued on the basis of data, with a real opportunity to change pre-set opinions.
For example, retention algorithms can be developed, which can lead to informed specific and targeted decisions on EVPs. There can also be more robust predictive modelling for "what if" HR workforce planning.
Start by having different conversations with business leaders. To incorporate improved people and organisation analytics into your business to help drive business growth, the HR functions need to have different types of conversations with senior business leaders. Below are some suggestion discussion topics:
- Can analytics lead to sharper investment in people decisions, with geographic and business trade-offs based on data insights?
- Does overall business success depend on the entire company being data-driven?
- Can retention algorithms lead to insights into critical factors? (In some companies span of control is critical.)
Clearly, people and organisation analytics provide an opportunity to change the way we think about and choose to take actions that matter to growth. Such analytics can lead to sharper investment in people decisions, with geographic and business trade-offs based on data insights.