5 HR Analytics questions every HR Business Partner should know the answer to

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You’re an HR business partner and there’s been quite a buzz about HR analytics. Strap in, here are the five HR analytics questions you should know the answer to. We’ll start off with some more generic questions and will gradually dive into the more specific topics relevant to you towards the end.

What is HR analytics?

HR analytics is a contraction of Human Resources and Analytics.

Traditionally, HR departments have been data averse. HR professionals got into HR because they wanted to work with people – not numbers. Reducing people to numbers just feels… wrong.

In reality, however, HR analytics is not about reducing people to numbers. It is all about supporting HR decision making – just like talking to people, in the end, helps to make better personnel choices. To read more, read this post, titled: What is HR analytics?

What’s the deal with predictive analytics?

Predictive analytics is probably the most famous part of HR analytics. Using the right data, an HR analyst can:

  • Predict who will leave the company
  • Make a salary estimation for new functions – just by looking at the job description
  • Predict the performance of new hires

And much more.

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These examples are all very exciting but it’s not what analytics is really about. Predictive analytics is a tool in the HR analyst’s inventory.

What are the other tools of the HR analyst?

The HR analyst is someone who is doing organizational development using primarily data.

The analyst first needs to talk to the business to find out what the real problems in the company are. This is a consulting skill set.

Second, the analyst needs to talk to the employees to really define the issue. Senior management can think one thing, but employees often have a very different perspective. Combining these different perspectives is important because it will give clues as to what the relevant variables are that should be included in the analysis.

Related: What is digital HR?

Third, the analyst will take a look at the available data. Maybe all the data is available and the analyst can start immediately. Oftentimes, analysts need to generate data themselves by creating questionnaires or establishing other measurement methods.

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When the data is available, it needs to be cleaned and filtered. Is Jake, who is a “Sr. Manager” in the same role as Jill, who is a “Senior Manager”, or Bill, who is “Sr Manager”? These little differences in data prevent analysts from putting the same functions on one large pile for analysis. This process is called data cleaning.

After cleaning the data, the analyst can do the actual statistical analysis. This can be a predictive analysis or a simpler correlation analysis. There are multiple kinds of analysis and depending on the problem the analyst will deploy the one that suits the situation best.

After the results come in, they need to be presented to management in order to trigger action. Analytics without action is called analysis paralysis. This is something you want to prevent.

Related: 3 must-knows about the connected workforce

Often, the results show things that are hard to explain. When this happens, the analyst needs to go back to the employees that were analyzed in order to get an accurate picture.

For example, the analyst finds that people who are redeployed in department X are likely to leave within the first 6 months. However, the data might not say why. Is it because of an unhealthy culture, the high work pressure or because the senior manager is a bully? This kind of data is oftentimes not measured and the only way you can find out is by talking to people.

So, the HR analyst is a lot like a business partner?

Well spotted! To make things a bit more complicated, however, the roles that I described above are often done by multiple people.

The data analyst may not be very good at talking to people and the liaison with senior management often has other responsibilities, like managing the analytics department. This means that an HR analytics department consists of multiple people. For example, a team of three people could be:

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  • The business consultant
  • The data analyst
  • The analytics team manager

To answer the question: the business consultant is often quite similar to a data-savvy HR business partner.

Related: HR Analytics for HR Business Partners

We recently got an HR dashboard. What’s up with dashboarding and analytics?

HR analytics is a way of working – as you may have picked up by now. Dashboarding is often part of becoming more data-driven.

As a senior manager once explained to me: A business partner can do his/her work in two ways. The first way would be if the business partner goes to the manager and asks: “what can I help you with today?”. The manager will then give a list of very practical things to do that he doesn’t want to do himself – and the business partner will fix them for him.

The second approach would be that the business partner does his or her research before they go to the manager. They check the dashboard and see that this manager has a high turnover and low engagement scores, particularly when it comes to healthy work culture.

The business partner can now make a plan to fix this. When he comes to the manager with this plan, he has something substantive to talk about. In this conversation with the manager, the business partner can coach him on how he can create a healthy work culture.

In addition, he can set targets and create a follow-up with the manager. The business partner recently read a paper about how giving compliments is really effective in showing appreciation and in building a good relationship with others. So, the business partner gives the manager a target: By the end of the month, the manager will have given 5 sincere compliments to each employee. Together, they practice how to do this and will evaluate in their follow-up conversation next month.

The second business partner takes charge and operates at a much more tactical and strategic level, whereas the first one didn’t do this at all. The manager probably likes the first business partner quite a bit better – that one just does exactly what he says! However, the second one will make a positive impact on the business. Ultimately, that’s what the business partner’s role is all about.

If you’d like to learn how to use HR data, reports, and metrics in your daily work activities and have a greater strategic impact, check out our new HR Analytics for HR Business Partners course.

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