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05 Jan 2023

Demystifying Data to Drive Better Business Outcomes

Special guest post by Pearson

While HR professionals still maintain responsibility for the performance, productivity, and efficiency of the workforce, they’re now being called on to contribute to wider business strategy development and Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) initiatives.

Most HR professionals welcome the fact that the department is being recognised and acknowledged as one of the most critical functions in the corporation. The added level of accountability and increased need to base decisions on data can cause apprehension and worry, however.

To be successful in today’s workplace of rapid digital transformation, HR professionals must become comfortable using people analytics to drive better business outcomes.

HR Is Being Called on to Shape the Workforce of the Future

What skills does your workforce currently have? What technologies will be prevalent in the future? What tech platforms or coding languages will be redundant or likely to be phased out? How do you acquire new tech skills and at what cost? How can you map skill sets to business objectives?

HR has been looped into initiatives to try and understand the future of the workforce and find the answers to these difficult questions and more. Without visibility into the current workforce’s abilities—or access to easy-to-use analytics—it can feel extremely difficult to know how to move forward. As a result, many organisations are operating without a data-based people strategy when it comes to ensuring they have the skills necessary to compete today and in the future.

The answer? Getting comfortable with using data to drive better business outcomes.

Relying on verifiable skills and predictive workforce analytics is the most accurate and scalable way to continuously identify, map, and bridge the skills gap. This data-based approach puts science at the centre of your workforce planning strategy—eliminating the need to rely on gut feel or assumptions when aligning skill sets with existing and future needs.

But how can HR professionals navigate the complexities of data management, often involving integrating data from different platforms and tools before even being able to make sense of it?

Here are three ways to demystify data and leverage the power of analytics to ensure talent remains your competitive advantage.

1. Reduce redundancies by using workforce analytics to drive your strategic workforce planning (SWP)

Chances are, you have plenty of data available to you. The challenge is making sense of it all and leveraging insights to make better workforce decisions.

Most HR professionals have a passion for people, and complex data housed in disparate systems can often feel intimidating or monotonous. But intelligent, consolidated data can help tell a story and reveal opportunities to enable your people grow and excel within your organisation.

By introducing SWP to bring multiple data points together, you can quickly assess the current state of your internal talent marketplace and decide on the actionable steps that need to be taken to advance to your future state.

Armed with these insights, the HR team can present data-driven recommendations to other stakeholders in the organization about how to address skills gaps, navigate disruption, and upskill or reskill the workforce.

Your SWP programme should not only allow you to quickly glean insights to make data-based decisions, it should also provide a way to track those decisions so they can be measured against goals set out by senior management or the C-suite. Doing so will help your organisation improve business results by reducing redundancies and recruitment costs, while simultaneously improving your employees' experience at work.

2. Leverage forecasting to understand how emerging technologies will impact your people

It’s the HR department’s responsibility to understand:

  • the extent to which existing jobs will be completely replaced or profoundly transformed by technology
  • which new jobs must be added to support the technologies rolled out in their workplace
  • which skills are transferable to other roles, and which are important to the future of work
  • which critical digital and data literacy skills employees need to work effectively with new technologies

The rapid pace of digital transformation is transforming how work gets done around the world; it’s even transforming the way we’re able to predict the path of the transformation itself.

Forecasting tasks that used to take hours, including manual data inputs and manipulation, are being replaced by machine learning that can deliver insights with just a few clicks.

Machine learning capabilities to build custom predictive models are now available, and can provide insight into your workforce challenges. These models can help you predict the future state of the workforce, so you can plan accordingly—and stay ahead of disruptive change in demand patterns due to economic fluctuations or changes in technology adoption rates.

The right workforce forecasting solution can help you understand how emerging technologies will directly impact the people within your organisation and make decisions that benefit both the business and employees. Predictive analytics allow you to give advanced warning to employees whose skills may be declining in relevance and provide them with opportunities to upskill or reskill—benefiting their level of productivity and future career path.

Having a high-level view of how technology will impact your workforce gives you the opportunity to address automation responsibly as a business.  

3. Get familiar with the AI behind your candidate screening tool

Many HR teams have already adopted the use of AI-powered screening tools, and if not yet, they’re quickly moving in that direction.

The argument in using these tools is that they dramatically increase the speed of the screening process, and because they use machine algorithms, they do a better job than humans at removing bias and staying grounded in objectivity.

While this is always the goal, it’s not always the case. Recent years have seen several high-profile examples of how ethical dilemmas have arisen from well-intentioned AI projects—which has spurred new legislation around the use of AI-powered HR technology.

As AI continues to take over more decision making throughout the recruiting and hiring process, HR professionals must ensure their tools are powered by responsible and transparent AI, and have a deep understanding of how they determine matches, from both an ethics and compliance perspective.

Making Sense of It All

Data makes the world easier to interpret and predict, and it can serve as a guide in a disrupted and complex business environment. The HR function has gained their much-deserved seat at the table. It’s now critical that they combine their passion for people with comprehensive data analytics to drive better business outcomes for the enterprise.



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