In an earlier blog, Sam Carr talked about how HR professionals are in constant strife to identify their role and position within an organisation. While aspirationally, we would like to believe that HR professionals need to become strategic business partners and work towards an Ulrich’s utopia – through Capgemini’s experience, we have found that the Business Partnering model is not very effective. Moreover, there hasn’t been a refreshed point of view in this field of research. With digital transformation  making a big impact on the future of the workplace and the agile workforce becoming prevalent how do we stay ahead of the game? How is HR making informed decisions about the workforce which reflect strategic partnership with the organisation? How is HR managing both the structured and unstructured information that is out there on our employees, competitors or even potential new hires in the organisation?

Is Big Data the solution?
There is a lot of Buzz about the benefits of Big Data and organisations raving about the potential value it could contribute to an organisation. With the right access to information, organisations can start to measure the bottom line of HR’s contribution to business performance.  Yet, a recent study indicates that only about 4% of organisations actually have the capability to utilise predictive workforce analysis. With Big Data being one of the key trends in the HR domain, the question still remains, do HR professionals understand what Big Data is all about and  how do we acquire the relevant skills to stay on top of the game ?

In the context of HR, Big Data is nothing but the capability to harness and analyse a vast amount of structured information maintained within organisations (employee information, performance & demographics) and unstructured data (social media, consumer shopping, etc.)  to develop predictive trends and analysis for business performance. In the past, most HR reporting have been unsubstantiated and lagging considerably due to slow turnover of collating information globally. With Big data, HR now has substantial data to analyse and provide insight in addressing the strategic growth of an organisation to meet the needs of the company in a fast-changing global environment

How does Big Data impact HR?
HR as a cohort have been slow on the up take to develop their skills outside the sphere of HR including and not limited to data analytics.  The future of HR would require skills (along with its softer aspects) of understanding business; develop insight by combining data and business knowledge to drive strategic decisions. But how is HR using this wealth of information available on employees and predicting drivers for performance, retention and hiring? As HR professionals, we need to conscientiously move away from operational reporting (lag of data accumulation) to providing insights of people and becoming respected partners, in order to become effective HR Business Partners and stay relevant in this changing environment. We all need to ‘Become HR Analysts’ 

What is HR doing to stay Relevant in the world of Big Data?
In order to stay relevant in the world of Big Data, the biggest change for HR is the shift in mindset to become comfortable with data. We need to move away from the ‘number averse’ notion and accept that Big Data is here to stay. Changes can be made in small but impactful ways and it becomes a matter of learning informally and keeping current with the trends. These skills need to be developed over time and some of the suggested ways (apart from hiring new resources with an analytic and consulting background) is through

  1. Reverse mentoring in the Digital World [1] : Identify the young bloods in the organisation that are tech savvy and provide context around using social media and developing your social presence.
  2.  Building Analytical Skill: Having people with strong analytical skills to help in training day to day HR analysis
  3.  Indoctrinate Insight Development: Ingrain the concept of Insight by connecting multiple sources of information together by using facts and recurring observations  in a wider context and making informed decisions

While developing your skills as an analyst, it is important not to lose sight that HR is still about working with people. Data is only an aspect of the Big Data schema and doesn’t necessarily give the whole response to a business question. While Big Data and predictive analytics do help the business strategically, it is not as black or white as it seems. A strategic decision would still need to be supported by insight. Data should not be derived to make it the truth, but allow the data to increase the odds to make complex decisions right.

What do you think? Do you think that in order for us to become effective business partners, we would need to become effective HR analysts?