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Thirteen ways to create a data-driven HR department

If your company wants to gain a competitive edge by using HR analytics, you'll need to get the HR department involved and create a culture of data. Here are 13 strategies to help.

HR departments often have a large database full of employee-related information, but its members may not recognize...

the positive impact that data can have. An analytical perspective is not something that just happens -- it needs to be developed.

To that end, here are 13 strategies that can help create a data-driven HR department at your company.

 1. Make data analysis a priority

For analytics to be taken seriously, the HR leadership team must make it a priority. This starts with setting measurable goals and assigning a knowledge employee to take on the challenge. The data analyst does not have to be an HR person, nor does he necessarily have to have a degree in statistics. However, that person does need an interest in the data and the desire to help others see the benefits of moving from gut feel to using data.

How to create a data-driven HR team
How to create a culture of data within HR

2. Don't wait to focus on data-driven HR

Your company's data will never be perfect, nor will all your systems, so start today with what you have. You may have to use unsophisticated spreadsheet software or very basic tools, but the goal is to start the process and improve over time. Show progress, and it will start to build momentum.

3. Train everyone in HR on basic analytics concepts

Everyone in HR should develop a basic understanding of analytics and the impact it can have on your company's business if used effectively. Over time, this will drive all employees within the HR team to consider analytics when implementing a new program, process or system. The end result will be better analytics and reinforcement that this is an important goal for the company.

4. Review the data on a regular basis

For analytics to be taken seriously, the HR leadership team must make it a priority.

Whether your company's plan is to produce analytics on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, the HR team and the primary data analyst should meet to go over any changes and explore any questions. This will also help reinforce the importance of data and provide a forum to reinforce the concepts that have been discussed.

5. Explain what the data is showing

To the data analyst, certain trends may become obvious over time, such as high turnover in a certain department or low morale in a specific region. However, these trends may not be obvious to everyone. So, the data analyst should help others understand the trends and issues. If helpful, the data analyst can support HR business partners by attending meetings with leaders to help explain what the data is showing.

6. Persevere in showing the benefits of data-driven HR

There will always be leaders who prefer to manage by gut feel. Those who understand the power of analytics need to be persistent and continue to share the data and highlight what it is accurately predicting.

7. Celebrate small wins

For some, the move to analytics is a difficult one. It requires them to change the way they've operated for years. For every small win you achieve, data champions should make sure to recognize it to reinforce the project's importance and encourage the data analyst who may be desperate for good news.

8. Leverage the tools you already have

While everyone loves a shiny, new toy, like a great analytics application, proving the value of the initiative without the cost of a new application may go a long way in getting the project off the ground. Once the project gains traction and value, getting the funding for better tools will be much easier. Also, look at your current system since it may have features that are not used or not being leveraged to their full potential. Although not ideal, you can even use your spreadsheet software to incorporate data from multiple sources and produce meaningful dashboards.

9. Implement new HR analytics tools once appropriate

Once analytics has proven its value to HR and the organization, investigate the available analytics software. There are many great applications that can incorporate data from multiple sources, restrict data access based on predefined rules and enable leaders within your company to access analytics on demand, without having to wait for HR to prepare them.

10. Take an agile approach to data-driven HR

Even with a new application, your company should focus on producing valuable results quickly rather than taking a long time to implement every feature available. The benefit to this approach also helps ensure you are implementing the features people want and need based on the feedback you receive.

11. Identify data-driven HR champions within the business

Almost all companies have people who are interested in data and will be keen to help in any way possible. This may be in the form of a focus group, providing feedback or helping to sell the initiative within the company. HR can push out the software, but it often makes a big difference when business leaders also help to push it to their peers and subordinates. The key with champions is to treat them well and avoid disappointing them with subpar data or errors.

12. Educate your company's leaders on analytics

To truly benefit from HR analytics, your company's leaders need to be trained so they understand how to interpret the data, what to ask for and how to use the data to support their decision-making processes.

13. Understand the bigger picture

The job of the HR data analyst is not done once your HR team and leaders are comfortable with the analytics being produced. The data analyst must continue to help employees understand the story being told by the charts and graphs. Many people can read an individual chart, but some will need help stringing all the charts together to help draw conclusions.

HR departments have a vast amount of data at their disposal, and the key is for HR to find a way to use it to improve the company and the decision-making processes. To succeed at creating a data-driven HR department, top leadership must support the initiative. You'll also need a good data analyst, a solid training plan and data-driven HR champions, since this type of initiative may face resistance before it is embraced and leveraged to its fullest potential.

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This was last published in October 2017

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