Drinking from the Data Fire Hose

How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Data

Big Data has arrived, and with it comes a deluge filled with promise and peril.

Organizations worldwide can tap into dizzying amounts of information about their employee population – what engages them, what keeps them productive, and what keeps them from departing for greener pastures. By monitoring these critical metrics, companies gain valuable insight into their workforce and business processes that translate into greater financial success.

Yet many companies aren’t prepared to manage the massive stream of data. HR organizations typically lack access to strong data management and analytic skills, limiting the strategic decision-making value of the metrics they collect. According to a November 2012 report from Bersin by Deloitte, only six percent of HR departments believe they are “excellent” in analytics, while more than 60 percent feel they are poor.

Simply said, organizations are accumulating too much information without the processes or expertise to manage it. To turn the data into actionable analytics, companies need to develop a measurement-driven culture. It’s no small task: HR reporting is different from other business functions, with no clear definition of standards other than performance indicators such as time-to-fill and cost-per-hire. What’s most important is to identify the mission-critical elements that matters most to your business.

Before turning on the data “fire hose,” take the following steps:

1. Communicate to stakeholders the importance of measuring human capital, as well as what will be measured. This can help stakeholders understand the value of employees and correlate the connection between talent and performance.

2. Understand the business priorities. Knowing what’s important to your business ensures that the right metrics are used and measured.

3. Define key performance measures. Ensure all stakeholders understand what they are and the business impact.

4. Eliminate operating in a reactive environment. Reports and data analysis often happen as the result of board requests, budget planning or other business demands. Instead of scrambling, start with a baseline and obtain early consensus on the analytic roadmap.

5. Resist the urge to look at everything at once. Looking at too many dimensions or adding additional data points without establishing a baseline and key performance metrics compromises the likelihood of being able to demonstrate value and impact.

6. Hire or develop expertise. Not everyone needs to be a statistician, but it’s important to learn the basics of pivoting, data calculation and spreadsheet functions.

Consistency, technology support and the right expertise are the keys to developing a measurement-driven culture. For the full story, read our latest white paper, “Drinking from the Data Fire Hose: Designing an HR Analytics Program for Better Business Results" available in our Resource Center.

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