Agility through workforce analytics

Putting the possible into practice

Posted by Erica Volini on February 29, 2016

Analytics capability is a top human capital trend. Two of the 10 trends in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report directly focused on analytics, and as we prepare to launch the 2016 report in the next couple of weeks, I can tell you that analytics will remain a top trend. Analytics is seen as critical, and our research shows its use is climbing rapidly, in part due to an influx of new supportive technology. That said, many organizations are still wrestling with how to use analytics to inform workforce-related decision making.

For example, research by Oracle1 into how organizations are using data-driven decision making found that while roughly seven in 10 organizations surveyed are incorporating data into decisions about compensation & benefits and selection (the most data-driven decisions reported), less than half use data to make workforce planning or succession planning decisions. Only 13 percent report being able to connect employee data throughout the entire talent life cycle.

This 13 percent figure is particularly telling given the emphasis and attention in recent years on the importance of providing a well-crafted “employee experience” and the role that plays in talent attraction, development, engagement, performance, and ultimately retention. (Our upcoming 2016 Trends report discusses HR’s role in designing the employee experience in more detail.) Organizations that are able to make those end-to-end connections may have a real opportunity to differentiate themselves.

Beyond the experiential, workforce analytics can also have practical applicability in helping to optimize spending and investment in talent programs. Using a combination of analytics and data visualization tools, many organizations are investing in short-term, deep-dive projects to identify millions of dollars in unnecessary talent spending. For example, these projects might identify areas of payroll leakage due to inefficient pay practices. They might simplify organizational structures that have become overly complex and costly to maintain as the business has grown. Or they might evaluate core HR functions such as total rewards, learning & development, and recruiting with an eye toward reducing duplication and adding efficiency while improving outcomes.

The data challenge is real…

Why aren’t more organizations applying workforce analytics? While lack of enabling technology is less of an obstacle than it was, say, five years ago, companies still face challenges related to the data itself. With so much data available and growing exponentially, how do you differentiate signal from noise and determine which data indicators are actually meaningful? Data overload often overwhelms already busy leadership teams to the point of paralysis, prompting a tendency to put off analytics efforts “until next year” or “until we’re better able to deal with it.” The HR function itself is often hampered by data silos—disparate, disconnected data sources—and a lack of analytical skills to be able to interpret data and tie it to business issues.

…But data challenges shouldn’t be an excuse to stay on the sidelines

While these are common reasons why some organizations lag behind in their workforce analytics capabilities, they are obstacles that can and should be overcome—the potential benefits are that compelling. As I stress to organizations who are thinking about embarking on the workforce analytics journey, data is power. And analytics is a tool that can convert that raw power into meaningful insights that contribute to informed decisions.

Given that human capital was the top CEO concern in the last two Conference Board Global CEO Challenge Surveys2, data and the workforce analytics it enables are simply too valuable in leveraging human capital to leave on the table for “someday.” When executives have insight into their workforce, decisions related to investments, productivity, company culture, and overall direction can be more informed, and workforce issues can be detected (even predicted) before they can derail business plan execution.

The informed executive: Improving organizational agility through workforce analytics is a new publication by Deloitte and Oracle to help leaders bridge the gap between seeing the potential of workforce analytics and actually being able to apply it to their business. The paper outlines considerations for leaders across the C-suite and offers practical steps for getting started with and evolving analytics use—which is probably not as complex as you think. Deloitte and Oracle also co-presented a webinar on the topic; I encourage you to view the playback here for some additional perspectives.

Additional Contributors: Carl Bennett and Jen Cowley of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

As the leader of Deloitte Consulting LLP’s HR Transformation practice, Erica Volini is responsible for the overall strategy, financial performance, and delivery of HR Transformation services across the US.

1 Joint Oracle-Deloitte webinar, “The Informed Executive: Improving Organizational Agility Through Workforce Analytics,” presented February 4, 2016.
2 Charles Mitchell, Rebecca L. Ray, PhD, and Bart van Ark, PhD, “CEO Challenge 2015: Creating Opportunity Out of Adversity,” The Conference Board, February 2015,

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