Over on Quora, I answered a question today on "What are the low hanging fruit in workforce analytics?". Given the surge of interest in Workforce Analytics over the past couple of years, I thought it was a great question and one worth exploring. Here was my response, slightly edited to suit this blog format:
Most organisations use a stepped or pyramid-shaped "maturity model" to define how they're going to approach workforce analytics.
If a member of an HR department has been to a conference any time in the past 5 years, trust me - they've seen this model, or something simlar. Probably multiple times. And they know the oft-cited statistic that only 4% of organisations self-report getting to the top of that pyramid.
What usually happens is that organisations assume that you need to start at the bottom and work you way up. But as we all know, pyramids are made to be buried in. Here's a picture of the Giza Necropolis. These pyramids are the tombs of Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure, and Queen Khentkaues I.
What generally happens when you follow the pyramid method to implementing workforce analytics is that you will start to generate lots of lists and extracts, and then you'll move up to operational reporting. At this point you're adding some value, and if you're doing it well, you'll start getting inundated with requests from the business for more data. This helps the business executives make operational decisions (which is good), and it also makes them feel more informed and more important at meetings. You'll get lots more requests for data. Sometimes this will be ad-hoc (which is time consuming), sometimes the value will be questionable, and usually they will be (ostensibly) urgent, which gives you significant Switching costs. At this point you want the business to be engaged in workforce analytics, and they are. Congratulations! The business loves workforce analytics, and you're swamped with requests. The bad news is that you are buried in the pyramid, and you'll never make it further towards the top, because the finite resources of your time and focus have been depleted. And you know that the insights that can lead to tangible and sustained long-term advantage are at the apex of that pyramid.
Here's the alternative. Reporting workforce analytics at any stage of the pyramid requires clean data. Other than that, there is no reason why you need to start at the base of the pyramid - and if 96% of organisations never make it to the apex, that's precisely where you should start if you want to be a world-leader in workforce analytics. Come up with a plan to extract, transform, and clean data from disparate systems, and start to confirm or refute all of those workforce initiatives that are considered "best practice" but have never been validated.
Challenge them to be able to:
1. Provide tangible, game-changing insights about the workforce with data - not only workforce data, but operations data too;
2. Quantitatively demonstrate the strategic value that both HR and the workforce provide to the business; and
3. Use data-driven insights to target workforce initiatives that will have the highest strategic return on investment.
Workforce Analytics isn't just a matter of measuring - it's about measuring what matters.