Getting Started with Workforce Analytics

Hear the Buzz coming out of the HCI Conference in Atlanta Georgia 
Posted by Rob Eidson on March 26, 2013

Members of the Deloitte Consulting LLP Workforce Analytics team are fresh from the Human Capital Institute’s Workforce Planning and Analytics conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Hear Deloitte leaders talk about the energy and desire among participants to “seize the day” to improve the way HR organizations drive and enable sound decision making.

Getting Started With Workforce Analytics

Business analytics is about making decisions based on facts—data—to realize business strategy and drive performance. Workforce analytics zeroes in on how to use data to effectively manage and derive value from an organization’s workforce. Given that, for many organizations, roughly 70 percent of expenditures are people-related, the financial and operating risks of making arbitrary or seat-of-the-pants workforce decisions is high (ask me about businesses that have been damaged or even destroyed by such decisions). What we do in our Workforce Analytics practice is to help organizations build the capability and tools that can enable leaders to make sound people-related decisions.

This aim isn’t so different from other types of analytics endeavors (such as supply chain analytics, finance analytics, customer analytics, etc.). What is often different, though, is the starting point for a workforce analytics effort and the groundwork needed before the data can be put to work in decision making.

For example, some of the organizations we work with have trouble answering what seem to be basic questions like, “How many people work here, and what do they do?” Getting to that answer, and a big part of the up-front effort to implement workforce analytics, means defining a host of standards, including things like assigning an employee number and a location. Or getting everyone to agree on what constitutes an employee. (Do you count temporary workers? Contractors?) Or settling on a standard meaning for different employee types (e.g., a consultant vs. a senior consultant) or determining if what one global location calls a material handler is the same as what another global location calls a loading dock worker.

Hammering out these details is an essential, if not very glamorous, part of creating a data environment from which consistent, accurate data can be queried. Another essential part of the effort is to build the capability of the HR organization and organization leaders to capture and manage the data and then understand what the data mean.

We find that implementing workforce analytics is as much about education as it is about technology. It’s a process for HR organizations to learn about metrics and where they come from, what metrics make sense for them, what constitutes good data, how to confirm data is entered correctly, and how to have a good system to store and retrieve that data. It’s also critical to teach consumers of the data (throughout the organization, not just in HR) how to use it to make strategic decisions.

At the HCI Conference, we joined hundreds of HR practitioners looking to start on or advance their workforce analytics journey. As we often find to be true, many participants we talked to were there in response to some type of disruption in their business—a catalyst, whether a problem or opportunity—that is necessitating a high-stakes decision. They understand that being in a position to make that decision based on hard data is a lot more comfortable, sensible, and less risky than the alternative. We understand those risks and what it takes to develop the workforce analytics capability that makes data-driven decision making not only possible, but practical.

Rob Eidson Rob Eidson is a specialist leader with Deloitte Consulting LLP focused on HR Analytics, Metrics & Reporting. He provides thought leadership as well as practical capability for HR to advance its data and analytics capabilities.

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