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Revolutionising HR: How Augmented Analytics and AI are Transforming Workforce Management – ARTICLE FROM ISSUE 236 – JUNE 2024

Data and analytics are set to breach the boundaries of the foundational and hygiene issues within people management. Democratisation of data and ai-powered insights – via augmented analytics – are accelerating a shift towards embedded analytics, leading to more impactful and strategic insights and making inroads into new areas of workforce intelligence such as; skills hiring – along with more integral and nuanced innate skills and diversity data – in order to capitalise on the true meaning of the global talent market. This is being heralded in recruitment as the key to the straitjacket that has restricted businesses to linear talent.

HR leaders must set high expectations across their teams, developing a data-literate mindset across the entire HR function, rather than confining it solely to analytics specialists. The opportunities for greater data democratisation and moving away from long-winded or even manual data cleansing and transformation offered through augmented analytics, AI and ML mean there has never been a better time to embed this. But before exploring the possibilities, it is crucial to acknowledge the traditional challenges HR has faced with people data.

T he lack of readily available, actionable insights often results in suboptimal decision-making and analytics having a limited impact on business outcomes, employee engagement and HR performance. Augmented analytics further leverages AI to automate data analysis, allowing HR professionals to focus on root causes, solutions and strategic initiatives. Leveraged effectively, one of the most transformative applications of these tools lies in the potential for strategic workforce planning, talent acquisition and talent development to move to an agile, skills based talent model that is better suited to today’s labour market. It’s about understanding what skills will be required in a future workforce, what skills can be developed internally, where talent may have been overlooked, then combining this insight with a cohesive picture of the labour market to drive competitive advantage. HR leaders must instill ambitious standards of data literacy across their teams and develop an analytical mindset across the entire function, rather than relying solely on data scientists and analytics specialists. The opportunities to democratise data and move away from long-winded or sometimes manual data cleansing and transformation offered through embedded and augmented analytics mean there has never been a better time to embed these practices. As organisations increasingly recognise the importance of data-driven decision making, embracing embedded and augmented analytics is imperative for staying competitive in today’s constantly evolving business environment. Additionally, ensuring compliance with GDPR and other data protection regulations requires that employee data is handled meticulously and failure to do so exposes an organisation to legal risk, erodes employee trust and can have a significant reputational impact.

T he lack of readily available, actionable insights can lead to suboptimal decision-making, limiting the impact people analytics can have on business outcomes, employee engagement and HR performance. For instance, a talent acquisition team might be tasked with filling critical positions in a new market without a full understanding of the skills and experience needed for success in the role. Similarly, significant investments may be made in rolling out training and development programmes without a comprehensive understanding of the notable gaps in organisational performance. Fortunately, the landscape is evolving rapidly, bringing forth advancements in data analytics like embedded and augmented analytics, both of which offer promising solutions to HR’s persistent data challenges. Embedded analytics tools seamlessly integrate insights into existing processes and workflows, offering real-time talent insights within familiar HR platforms such as your HRIS, ATS or LMS. This means end users do not have to switch between systems to access valuable information. Augmented analytics goes even further by harnessing AI tools such as machine learning and natural language processing to automate analysis and produce more real-time insight. This empowers HR professionals to make informed decisions in the moment, address emerging challenges and capitalise on opportunities promptly. The integration of both these tools can foster a more collaborative approach across the business as stakeholders can access and interpret insight more easily, pivoting the conversation from transactional ‘reporting the weather’ discussions to problem solving and taking action. The focus can shift from ‘what the data says’ to root causes, solutions and strategic initiatives and reduce reliance on analytics professionals to prepare and transform the data, then signpost the ‘so what’?

Effectively utilised, these tools offer a transformative opportunity to reshape strategic workforce planning, talent acquisition and talent development towards a more agile and skills-based model, better aligned with today’s labour market dynamics and skills shortages. Through analysing historical performance and skills assessment data, these tools can deepen the understanding of the skills essential for a future workforce, identify skills which can be developed internally and pinpoint overlooked talent pools. Predictive analytics capabilities can forecast future workforce trends such as attrition rates, succession planning needs and talent gaps, anticipating challenges and developing strategies to address them. Combining these insights with a cohesive picture of the labour market can build viable talent pipelines and develop targeted recruitment strategies. Other applications could involve applying an employee experience lens. Embedded analytics tools could identify individual skill gaps and suggest personalised training programmes, leading to a more fulfilling and positive work environment, reskilling employees to suit future business needs, improved job satisfaction and higher retention rates, all of which are likely to lead to better business outcomes. Being able to utilise augmented analytics to investigate demographic data and patterns can play a crucial role in ensuring that an organisation’s diversity and inclusion initiatives actually foster a more equitable and inclusive culture by measuring the impact of initiatives and driving accountability. This shift in approach positions HR as a true strategic partner driving competitive advantage.

Deciding where to focus and the importance of developing an analytical mindset across the function is key, because the volume of available data and various possibilities for exploration with advanced analytics can feel overwhelming. It is essential to prioritise and concentrate on hypotheses and initiatives with the potential to influence business outcomes. T hrough streamlining data processing, investing in augmented analytics also offers the benefit of freeing up people analytics teams from lengthy data mapping tasks, allowing them to take on more consultative and advisory roles. This ensures that what is being measured has a clear purpose and a greater likelihood of contributing to organisational success. However, making use of advanced analytics tools is only part of the puzzle. T he key to driving success lies in HR professionals, regardless of their role in the function, cultivating an analytical mindset. This involves developing the ability to ask the right questions, displaying curiosity and being open to change their minds if that is what the data suggests. It also entails interpreting data effectively and translating findings into actionable strategies. The inclusion of data and analytics, analysis and problem solving and evidence-based practice on the CIPD’s Profession Map underscores the importance of these skills.

HR leaders must leverage the many advantages offered by embedded and augmented analytics tools to build analytical capabilities across the function. Doing so will help overcome traditional data challenges and drive strategic initiatives, allowing HR to identify opportunities for improvement, mitigate risk, drive organisational growth, whilst aligning with and setting business objectives. Employee experience, diversity and inclusion and retention strategies can all benefit from these innovate approaches. Additionally anticipating future skill needs and talent gaps and factoring these into strategic workforce planning outputs can help ensure that organisations remain resilient in the face of evolving workforce demands, upskill existing employees and attract top talent. An analytical culture needs so extend beyond people analytics teams to ensure that the right business challenges are being examined, data is interpreted effectively and insight is translated into action. Being a proactive early adopter of innovative technology is critical for HR to be seen as a strategic partner and for organisations to move or remain ahead in a competitive and ever changing talent market.

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