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Latest Trends in People Analytics

By: Ralf Bovers

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People analytics is attracting more attention than ever. This growth is propelled in large part by companies seeing the value of using data insights for their decision making. But the pandemic and other social movements have accelerated interest over the last year. So, now is a good time to take a look at the latest trends in people analytics. What can you expect to see in the year going forward?

1. Greater Than Ever Emphasis on Insights for Diversity

Reflecting society’s focus on combating racial injustice, there’s growing scrutiny on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives in the workplace. Organizations can no longer just “say” they take these activities seriously. Employees and external stakeholders want to see real results. Here, people analytics will play a more important role.

Insights from people analytics will enable companies to measure the current state of DEIB across the talent lifecycle and see the gaps. From there, they can do the work of looking into root causes and forming action plans.

2. Planning for Success after COVID

HR leaders are doubling down on the use of people analytics in order to plan for a post-COVID workplace. There are any number of ways that people data contributes to that. Here are just a few examples of how companies might use it:

  • Obtain insights on remote employee performance by examining those metrics from before and during the pandemic period to spot trends;
  • Measure employee wellbeing with pulse surveys. Many companies have been doing this regularly during the pandemic in order to organize support programs for employees. Measuring the pulse over time, however —  especially as workplace begin to adjust to post-lockdown norms — can help inform decisions for how and where employees work in the future;
  • Look at attrition rates and employee engagement surveys to reveal weaknesses in management and team relationships that may need shoring up. A study of Microsoft’s 150,000 employees showed that during the last year of uncertainty, managers mattered more than ever.

All of these metrics and many more can inform future workplace policies for, and how companies can best support employees to be successful in whatever the post pandemic transition looks like.

3. The Need for Storytelling with Data

Fully unleashing the power of people analytics insights relies on persuasive storytelling. Just talking about data points in isolation doesn’t help leaders to develop strategies. So, whether that’s an HR manager or someone in another are of the business, there is a growing need for people who can translate data into cases that decision makers can understand and act on.

For example, if the number of failed hires is on the rise, the “storyteller” might want to pull together various data points to look at the fuller picture of this problem:

  • Can new onboarding surveys show what it is really like to be a new employee at the company — and are there red flags?
  • Are certain hiring sources responsible for more-than-average failed hires?
  • What does exit survey data reveal about why people are leaving?
  • Which business units or job functions are affected most?
  • What is the cost of failed hires?

The point is to establish a shared understanding of the problem. Then, the team can turn their attention to finding a solution.

4. More Attention from Senior Leadership

Along with the general trend of looking to data to inform decisions in all areas of a business, people analytics is attracting increasing recognition from senior leadership. It makes perfect sense: Business priorities like growth, productivity and budget are closely tied to the workforce. It becomes the job of those in charge of relating the data (see #3) to identify the metrics that matter most to leaders — such as retention levels, engagement rates, sales staffing — and communicate them regularly.

5. Productization of People Analytics

Many companies still use homegrown tools to analyze HR data. And this can work fine, until it doesn’t. As the data needs become greater and more complex, simple dashboards are not enough to cope with the demand and to adequately protect privacy.

Getting the most out of data insights requires that they be accessible to stakeholders across the organization. That’s why more organizations are moving toward productizing people analytics, that is, scaling it to be used across departments. This typically means buying a platform solution that’s specifically designed for purpose.

6. Greater Focus on Privacy

As people analytics becomes mainstream and is used by more people in companies, the focus on privacy protection is growing with it. Businesses need to ensure that only certain people can access certain personal data. Safeguarding privacy and information security requires a great deal of scrutiny. Add on the fact that the type of personal data companies are legally allowed to collect differs by country (or region), and it’s easy to see how complex a task this is. Organizations will benefit from using analytics tools that are built with privacy controls and employing HR data specialist to stay on top of this critical priority. 

There will be no doubt other trends emerging as workplaces settle down to a new normal in the coming year. Whatever those are, it’s all but guaranteed the role of people analytics will grow larger and more influential.

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