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HR Analytics - where to start?

22 September 2016


I wasn’t the only one still in the starting blocks of HR Analytics at the conference I attended in London last week, so here’s my bucket list of top tips for people who find themselves in a similar position:

• HR analytics represents a move towards more evidence based people decisions. We need data to do this, so if you haven’t invested in reliable, robust and forward looking HR information systems - now is the time to do so. Play around with HR dashboards – but remember less is more. Just because you have a lot of data doesn’t mean you have to share it all. Focus on how you can support the key business objectives.
Prioritise the data and decide what it is ok to have 60/70% accurate and what you really need to focus on improving. Data cleansing is important but accept that your data might never be 100% accurate so don't put off the analysis.
Ask questions – this really is the key message, and fundamental to making your HR analytics worthwhile. Find out what drives the business, engage with your stakeholders, book time to meet with senior people and find a sponsor. The CFO could be a good first port of call to identify what the key issues are - and if you can find out what keeps the CEO awake at night, even better!
• Adopt a project approach – you don’t have to analyse everything all of the time.
• Once you've found a problem - bearing in mind it might not be obviously a people issue (in fact it might be better if not) - you need to answer or resolve it. You can use this as an opportunity to show your HR analytic capabilities, and if successful this should result in more opportunities to develop and grow the function. Prove by doing.
• You can also start small with some ‘low hanging fruit’ – for example if absence is an issue in your business, or maybe not even on the agenda, present the cost to the business. Look at different business areas; and investigate the reason behind the statistics. Is there a common denominator; a poor manager for example.
• It’s important to tell the story alongside the stats – put things into context, delve into the reasons behind the numbers and recommend ways to improve (and ultimately save the business money).
• HR analytics is also about change management – “it’s not what you find out, but what you do with it”, said Ben Hawkes, Advisor, HR Analytics at Shell.
Predictive analysis is the end goal; that is anticipating decisions before you know they need to be made. This is great for workforce risk management and could be applied in so many ways in shipping especially. But it probably feels like a very long way off for most of us. There were references to virtual HR advisors warning managers when an employee is at risk of leaving, using artificial intelligence, employee Facebook likes and Twitter feeds to measure personality and make people predictions around motivators....interesting stuff that could become an integral part of the HR of the future.

A question or problem that is becoming more and more relevant in maritime at the moment is the increased use of technology. Maybe ask yourselves if you are prepared to address the changing skills required, and ensure a steady flow of talent. Could this be your first HR Analytics project?

Sarah Hutley, Compensation & Benefits Analyst, HR Consulting, Spinnaker Global