data

In a modern business, every department runs on data, from marketing and sales to operations. HR is no exception, and the way HR handles employee relations data has evolved significantly over the past decade.

HR used to track a few key metrics in spreadsheets, but most organizations have now advanced well beyond that. They gather data from multiple sources and use analytics to generate strategic insights from that data.

The problem these days isn’t a scarcity of data. In fact, it’s the opposite: The sheer volume of information pouring in from recruiting initiatives, performance management programs, workplace issue cases, and elsewhere can be downright overwhelming, even with technology to help make sense of it all.

What HR pros need today is a systematic approach to collecting and analyzing all that data at their fingertips. Here are five ways to create a more data-driven HR organization without getting buried in the crush of information:

1. Don’t Just Collect Employee Data — Integrate It

According to HR Acuity’s “Tech and Metrics in Employee Relations” study, companies are getting better at gathering and monitoring HR data. However, the study also found that there’s a steep data maturity curve, and too many organizations still aren’t using the best analytics techniques.

If your company is trailing behind on the data maturity curve, it’s time to take the next step. Go beyond collecting data — start integrating it and using it to generate actionable insights.

Employee relations data can be a treasure trove of behavioral trends that offer deep insight into what your employees are doing — especially when that data is combined with other business and organizational information. Integrating data can help you spot connections between business outcomes and specific instances of team performance, for example, thereby fueling greater collaboration between HR and the C-suite.

2. Identify Performance Trends

Every individual, department, and operating unit generates data that can help you pinpoint challenges and uncover effective techniques that can be more widely applied. First, however, you have to analyze that data.

For example, if new hire turnover rates vary across your company, performance data can help you identify the reasons behind that variance. Say your Austin office has very low turnover compared to other offices. Maybe that’s because the Austin office uses a more effective onboarding process that should be replicated across the company.

Maybe your San Francisco office sees a spike in workplace conflicts every fall. By analyzing your business data, you might notice that conference attendance rates are also high in the fall. Maybe the stress of planning for and attending all these conferences is causing tension in the workplace.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Monitor Employee Engagement

At a time of historically low unemployment and heightened competition for skilled workers, creating a positive company culture to attract and retain employees is more important than ever. By tracking employee survey responses, absences, personnel issues, and other relevant metrics, you can obtain vital information about how engaged your employees are — and, by extension, about how well your employee engagement programs are working.

Employee engagement data can reveal which policies are really improving performance and morale, and which are just wastes of time. This data can also show when existing policies need revision. For example, if employees are frequently violating the guidelines around one particular process, that may point to a need for more effective training.

4. Reduce Your Investigations Caseload

Dealing with employee relations issues takes a lot of time and focus. Many HR and employee relations professionals juggle multiple open cases, and it can be hard to see the forest for the trees and identify recurring patterns between cases.

Data and analytics, however, can help you pinpoint bottlenecks, measure case volumes, and track closure rates. By using historical data, you can compare current issues to previous similar cases, evaluate outcomes, and create best practices based on successful handling of certain kinds of issues. This will improve consistency and help you reach resolutions more quickly.

Generating case data also creates the expectation that each investigation will be documented effectively, further encouraging the use of best practices.

5. Improve Retention

With the war for talent in full swing, data from employee relations functions like exit interviews can be invaluable. Data points like length of service and reported reasons for leaving can help you identify and address emerging issues. For example, if multiple employees who recently left did so because they received better offers from competitors, you might need to reevaluate your standard compensation packages.

Data can also help with another key factor in retention: workforce diversity and inclusion. By tracking the right metrics, you can ensure equal treatment and pay across the organization, regardless of demographic differences between employees. That’s an important step in ensuring your diversity and inclusion efforts are really working as intended.

HR and employee relations professionals who are already gathering data generally have all the information they need to make more data-driven decisions. Taking the next step is just a matter of integrating data from multiple sources and using analytics to uncover the insights contained within that data. When you maximize the value of the data you already have and apply it to continuous efforts to improve, then you have a truly data-driven culture.

It’s also important to note that predictive analytics and artificial intelligence applications are emerging to make data collection and integration even easier and more useful. Although many of the biggest breakthroughs in predictive technology are still in the development phase, the possibilities they suggest for understanding employee behavior and shaping strategy accordingly are significant. HR and employee relations pros would do well to keep an eye on the coming advances in this segment of the HR tech sector.

Dushyant Zutshi is vice president of product management at HR Acuity.

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