People analytics, the data analysis related to human resources within an organization, is becoming far more prevalent among forward-thinking companies. A recent study by Forbes1 showed that 69% of companies surveyed were in the process of integrating data to create a people analytics database – up from 10-15% in previous years.
This represents a seismic change in the way people think about, view, and talk about the experiences that employees have working for a company. It means that what was formerly a subjective observation can now be expressed as numeric data; a move from ‘feeling’ to ‘fact.’ And this change allows HR management to contribute to strategic analysis and planning in new, powerful ways, including how they approach leadership development initiatives.
Data and analysis can help equip managers with the essential insights, knowledge, and skills to directly improve leadership, and therefore team, effectiveness. Managers and executives have found that by using people analytics, different perspectives, judgements, and even opinions can be translated into numbers, percentages and statistics. And in the business world, the ability to present a subjective observation (employee dissatisfaction) as a fact (75% of employees are dissatisfied with pay) can help human resources to get support from other departments for HR programs and initiatives.
The strength behind these numbers resides in the fact that there are definitive boundaries set by numerical representation, that are universally understood across industry, department and function. This strength, though, is also the problem with people analytics. When subjective views, language, and sentiments are presented as data, the nuance is often lost.
It is important that managers accessing and utilizing people analytics do not forget that even the best data is limited, and that the application of analytics to a person’s employment situation carries a responsibility for managers to continue to look out for the individual behind the data.
And as methods for data capture mature, and people analytics moves beyond HR to be applied to different departments throughout the organization, investment in employee data analysis will increase. However, managers must take care with applications of the data that affects the lives of their employees. Understanding that there are limits to what can be expressed by data, and keeping the best interests of the employee aligned with company strategy are a challenge, and the responsibility of organizations using people analytics.
To learn more about how People Analytics can have a profound impact on your organization and things to look out for when using this data, download People Analytics: Utilize Data to Drive Employee Leadership Development and Satisfaction.