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A Data-driven Approach to HR

Jane Crofts, Founder of Data to the People and creator of Databilities®


The ability to quickly access and interpret data at work is more important than ever.

In the face of a rapidly changing and uncertain future, the ability to quickly access and interpret data in the workplace is more important than ever.

In the face of a rapidly changing and uncertain future, the ability to quickly access and interpret data in the workplace is more important than ever. With so many businesses forced to innovate their offerings, implement remote working, and make significant operational decisions, a data-driven approach to HR has never been more important.

When ‘data’ isn’t part of your role title, data-driven planning and decision-making as it applies to the management and development of an organization’s workforce can seem daunting. But without realizing it, much of what HR professionals already do requires them to flex their data literacy muscles daily. In fact, data is used in almost every aspect of recruitment, retention, development, innovation and monitoring workforce productivity.

Entering and monitoring individuals’ details through talent management systems during the recruitment process, capturing and coordinating workforce availability, tracking employee absences and monitoring staff levels, as well as updating employee records with professional and personal details, are just a few of the ways that HR professionals engage with data in their daily workflow.

But HR professionals have an even bigger role to play in making their organizations truly data-driven. As HR’s role spans all across all departments, they can interpret and articulate HR data to help paint a more fulsome picture of the current state of the organization and drive informed decision-making across other departments.

Here are some of the ways that HR professionals can leverage their data expertise to strengthen and sustain their organization in rapidly changing times:

1. Make sure your workforce systems and employee records are up to date

As HR are the custodians of employee welfare, it’s imperative that workforce systems and employee records are kept up to date. In a time like this, such data needs to be readily accessible and will be relied upon to predict staffing levels, movements and potential impacts to the business. This information includes contact details, availability, location, reporting lines, upcoming and available leave. All these details help to paint a clear picture of the workforce’s capabilities and capacity at a moment’s notice.

2. Share the importance of keeping systems and records current with the entire workforce

It’s HR’s responsibility to champion the importance of keeping systems and records up to date across all departments. Often HR procedures such as leave management and personnel records receive less attention from employees than their direct responsibilities, however if HR can’t rely upon current records to be accurate, they’re unable to reach people who need are needed and cannot plan appropriately for future workforce requirements. HR professionals will need to ramp up their campaign to promote database rigor as they face considerable employee absences and changed working conditions in coming months.

3. Get ahead of the questions

Prepare and monitor your key people metrics such as the number of employees in different locations, number of employees who are sick or unable to work, and employees on leave or with upcoming leave scheduled. This will mean you have helpful information on hand for reporting, in making necessary adjustments to business operations and most importantly, when it comes time to make critical decisions about the future of the business. HR responsibilities are also likely to extend to supporting and managing a remote workforce in changed working conditions, so the data transferred via various platforms for staff communications and collaboration will also be a useful guide for HR when designing workflow systems to ensure privacy, security and integrity of data outside of the organization’s regular channels.

4. Find the silver lining

The saying rings true that every cloud has a silver lining, so do your best to find it! If people are reallocated from specific projects or initiatives during this time of flux, or perhaps unable to fulfill their existing duties – use this time to build their learning and development through online training, webinars, electronic toolkits and resources. This is also a great time to consider online assessments to measure where skills gaps are and creating learning pathways to keep your employees engaged and productive. There’s no time like the present to learn a new skill and prepare for the future.

A long-term, data-driven approach to HR will help businesses to understand the factors that make effective people management programs work, identify skills gaps, and make informed personnel decisions for the greater good of the business. All of this provides HR with expanded capability to design new talent programs and processes that will measurably increase productivity, innovation, and revenue of their organization.