“DATA is the new oil. It is the new capital for producing high-value products and services,” said Lenovo Asia Pacific executive director & HR head Subhankar Roy Chowdhury.
Chowdhury was speaking at the HRDF Conference & Exhibition 2017 on Nov 28, where he shared his insights on how to build a successful HR analytics function. The three-day conference is organised by Malaysia’s Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), the agency tasked with upskilling and reskilling the nation.
Chowdhury pointed out that in the 10 years between 2006 and 2016, tech companies became the largest companies in terms of market capitalisation because they were leveraging on big data analytics.
“This shows us the power of data to drive the success of organisations, businesses and countries. Data is becoming such a valuable commodity that it will drive the competitive and strategic advantage for many organisations and nations,” he said.
While there is no doubt that data is important for a business’ success in this day and age, human resource director of B. Braun Medical Industries Connie Lim said that the right data at the right time with the right insights is vital to reduce uncertainty and enable the business to make better decisions.
In her session, Lim showed how her company made the move to become a data-driven company.
It’s not about just any data
Chowdhury also said that the right data is important – compiling and analysing data for its own sake is unhelpful. Rather, the business impact of the data must be determined.
HR must ask itself what the business impact drivers are and what the company is trying to achieve. Whether it is getting a more diverse workforce, tightening management processes or becoming more customer-centric, how can data analytics help achieve this?
This will help in selecting the right matrices for measurement and then in collecting the data. For data analytics to work, data must be clean as well as relevant. Clean data – correct data – can be something of a challenge, especially in a large company.
Lim revealed that her team’s solution to this challenge was to make data entry ‘self-service’ – employees enter their own personal data into the system, a much more efficient process because there is no longer a need for HR to print out a form and get each employee to check that their information is correct.
“Once you collect the data, you must have competent people to analyse and deliver the analysis so that it can be turned into knowledge and actionable information,” she said.
When analysing data collected from within the company, it is important to include relevant external data in the analysis, said Chowdhury.
He cited a general example of an analysis of engagement of millennial employees across several countries versus attrition rates. Brazil showed unusual numbers, with low engagement yet extremely low attrition. This data defies logic until external factors are taken into consideration – amid political and economic turmoil, employment opportunities in the country are few and far between, meaning that Brazilian millennials have nowhere else to go should they leave their employer and so they stay.
Both Lim and Chowdhury said that this data, and the eventual analysis, must be stored in a single database that is accessible to everyone.
Lim explained that companies must have one master data in the system, meaning that all the data from across the company – sales, marketing, finance and so on – are in the same database, including data from subsidiaries. The data must be normalised – do not have it in different islands – and the information must be meaningful so that everyone can understand it.
“When you are able to do this, you are unified and harmonised, able to bring intelligent data to the organisation and provide better services to the organisation,” she said.
“Interlink HR date with business data to build something more powerful and holistic, and democratise the data. Give access to the larger community. This will create a data-driven culture, which is one of the most important pillars of driving analytics in any organisation. You may make some great products and solutions but if people do not use them it’s an absolute waste of effort,” said Chowdhury.
Lim and Chowdhury also said that the data analytics must be shared directly with leaders in the organisation, as communication on how the data is being analysed and what it can be used for is crucial.
Chowdhury advised sharing small pieces of information regularly with top management, especially data analytics that has been visualised to make it easily digestible. For example, he sends an email out every Friday with a small piece of information that is relevant and important to the company’s business direction, such as the number of women hired into leadership positions in the last six months.
Lim advises analysts and HR to look at the positive instead of the negative when delivering analytics to an organisation that may not want to believe a ‘bad’ report: “Look at how to use data to drive performance and motivate.”
Another tip Chowdhury gave is to obtain a seat in a monthly leadership meeting where a small bit of interesting data can be presented to the team.
Building a culture of data in this way will lead to a trickle-down effect to the rest of the organisation, as well as ensuring that the data is used intelligently to aid the business in its growth mission.
“There are umpteen areas within the HR lifecycle process in which you can make an impact with big data analytics,” he said.
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