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Posted by on Jan 16, 2014

Sometimes Smaller is Better: Starting an HR Analytics Program

Last week, I blogged about the emerging skillsets required in the HR function for introducing analytics and data driven decision making to the HR practice.

Even with the right team in place, it can be daunting to launch your first analytic study. Much has been said about the importance of data driven decision making for HR. The early results suggest that organizations who are adopting data analytics to support HR decisions are reaping the benefits. However, as the resources available to government agencies continue to be stretched thin, implementing analytics programs can seem like an impossible task.

But there is good news if you are the CHCO of a small or mid-sized organization – not all analytics programs have to be complex and costly. Instead, sometimes smaller is better when it comes to your first foray into the world of workforce analytics. Here are a few strategies your organization can take to start an HR analytics program and reap the benefits of data driven decisions.

  • Go Small to Go Big
    One of the most significant challenges in creating an analytics program is to conceptualize and implement big data tools and methods. So, instead of trying to build and deploy a comprehensive program, find some small wins where a limited and readily available (or easily collected) data set can provide solid evidence that will improve your decision making. Applicant tracking systems, learning and performance management systems and intranet sites that are all present in most organizations may provide valuable insight on trends, issues, and organizational needs that can be collected and evaluated with minimal investment.
  • Use Data to Confirm (or Disprove) Your Intuition or Hypotheses
    While the ability to improve workforce decision making through data collection and analysis is indisputable, a hallmark of effective leadership is the ability to make sound decisions based on experience and intuition.In the rush to utilize big data and analytics it can be easy to overlook your own successful record of making good decisions in the absence of data. So, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Instead, focus your data collection and analysis efforts on gathering data that can confirm or disprove a hypothesis you already have.

    Chances are, if you’re plugged in to your workforce, you really do know what’s going on in the organization and what it takes to be successful. Devise a data collection strategy that is targeted to address areas where your intuition tells you more data is needed while moving areas where you have a high degree of confidence lower on the priority list.

    Of course, there are risks with this strategy – you might be ignoring blind spots or over estimating your grasp on the organization and its challenges. However, with limited time and money to invest in data driven decision making, prioritizing your investments is a necessity, so trust the wisdom gained from experience to guide you in the right direction.

  • Start With the End in Mind 
    You will experience a strong temptation to go fishing for what your data can tell you.. As more and more is written about the benefits of data driven decision-making, resist the urge to invest time mining data in an undirected exploration.Instead, take time upfront to carefully consider the challenges your organization is facing and how increased data may help you shape the appropriate response to those challenges. Armed with the list of specific challenges, devise a strategy for using available data to help drive solutions to things that are currently hampering organizational performance.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
    The internet, in particular social networking sites like GovLoop and LinkedIn, offer rich sources of expertise in the collection, analysis and interpretation of workforce related data. If your effort is struggling or you are wondering how to start or where to go next, a quick post on a group message board is a great way to get the (free) advice you need to tackle a particularly difficult analytic project. The Linked:HR, and I-O Practitioners Network groups on LinkedIn, and the Human Resources group on GovLoop are great places to start.
  • Publicize Your Success
    When you experience success with analytic driven decision making, it’s OK to pat yourself on the back. Take time to publically recognize your team and those that contributed to the success of the effort. Recognizing success in reaping the benefits of improved decision making is essential to gaining momentum for continued investment in data collection and analysis.

These five simple strategies will help get the ball rolling on introducing analytics to your human resources or human capital practice. Following them gives you the chance to “fail small” and helps create a culture where taking measured risks to improve workforce performance is embraced – which can lead to innovation, excitement, and real return for the organization at large.

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