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Taking data-driven HR to the next level

Article by Clare Hickie, Chief Technical Officer for EMEA at Workday

In our digital age, data has never been more important to the effective practice of HR. Practitioners require the insights yielded by advanced data analytics to better meet the needs of the company and make decisions that are aligned to business strategy. 

Business leaders, meanwhile, use data to assess the value of HR and measure the effectiveness of key programmes. The use of data analytics is no longer a nice-to-have, but something that is business critical. The only question that remains is how best to integrate data and insights to drive next-level outcomes.

A change of culture
One key consideration for driving value through data is the cultural shift that takes place within an organisation when digital tools are deployed widely. On one hand, digitalisation empowers workers. For instance, routine, transactional tasks can be automated, freeing employees of manual tasks and allowing them to focus on strategic and value-adding tasks. Similarly, collaborative digital environments can enable a more flexible approach to work. 

However, this new digital-first culture also risks creating a divide between employees with technical skills and those without. What’s more, if companies journey too far and fast into the digital world, they may find they lack the digital talent needed to operate effectively. It is therefore essential that HR puts in place a robust system for identifying the training needs of workers and ensures they are upskilled appropriately. Here, technology can play a role, such as HR management systems that integrate applications to address upskilling and reskilling requirements.

Focus on employee experience
There is clear demand from employees for digital tools, particularly given the rise in remote working that has followed the pandemic. According to research conducted by Workday and Harvard Business Review, HR professionals can play a key role in boosting business performance by using technology to improve employee experience, recruit new employees, and increase the retention of current employees.

With the boundaries between organisations disappearing due to digital connectedness, employees need to be able to collaborate and conduct business digitally enterprise-wide as well as across multiple organisations. When employees are unable to connect with their colleagues and collaborate effectively, the resulting frustration can lead to an increase in “quiet quitting”, where employees do the bare minimum of required work due to a lack of enthusiasm or engagement. The challenge for HR is to mitigate the negative impact of remote working by arming employees with the tools they need to thrive regardless of where they work, ensuring increased employee engagement.

Here, the right cloud-based tools have a clear role to play, as they can help employees and managers develop within the company, feel more engaged and connected when working remotely, and improve their performance and productivity. For instance, a cloud management system that leverages automation can help employees better manage their time and control their schedules. Meanwhile, the same platform can help HR manage the entire lifecycle of that employee.

 Developments in data analytics mean that HR can implement listening platforms that collect feedback from employees and mine this data for insights into how to improve commitment and productivity, or as a means of tracking how employees feel about the corporate initiatives that are important to them, such as diversity, equality and inclusion. 

Beyond the digitalisation of HR
The digitalisation of business therefore demands the digitalisation of HR. In the dynamic and unpredictable environment that is currently in place, the best approach to achieving this goal is through a cloud business management system underpinned by powerful data analytics capabilities. 

Taking this approach, organisations can extend beyond the digital business of HR and incorporate finance for a more holistic and impactful approach. Doing so requires more than simply upgrading to cloud-based enterprise applications and running them over legacy architecture. Rather, enterprises should look to more flexible cloud-native systems. Cloud-native systems are agile, flexible, configurable, and scalable by default. They leverage a data core that provides complete visibility into people and money to unlock valuable insights and facilitate decision making and real-time planning.

Collaboration between HR and finance at Rolls-Royce
Rolls Royce is a case in point. The company operates 42 payrolls worldwide, which made it a challenge to analyse its workforce costs which historically have been based on averages rather than precise figures. As a result, there was often a significant gap between estimated and actual costs. To solve this challenge, the company implemented cloud-based automated reporting on headcount and total workforce costs. The approach has ensured complete accuracy and reduced budget variances by millions of pounds.

This insight was critical when the impact of COVID-19 on the company’s markets brought about a major restructure to reduce costs and drive synergies. It has resulted in unprecedented collaboration between the HR and finance departments, who now share a single source of people data for budgeting and planning purposes. As a result, Rolls-Royce has emerged from COVID-19 as a more agile organisation, better able to identify and respond to opportunities for future growth. 

Going cloud-native
When looking to implement a cloud-native management system, HR leaders should seek out a system that can be deployed rapidly, be used with ease, and deliver a rapid ROI. It is also important that the technology provider is a true partner to the business, and not just as a vendor. Digital transformation is a journey, and technology companies that can guide an organisation, help it identify its needs, and get the most out of its applications are a clear benefit. With the right technology partner, HR can integrate data from a variety of sources, make it accessible, and enable collaboration to solve any number of critical business issues, while bringing HR closer together with finance and other strategic business functions.

    Clare Hickie, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) EMEA joined Workday in June 2018. She is not only a passionate technology champion but inspires tech leaders to achieve full advantage from the rich Workday platform. As an IT specialist, Clare started her career in the.’com’ era, moving on to the current times of digital transformation. Prior to joining Workday, she worked for large blue-chip organisations. Clare advocates and encourages more gender diversity in the tech industry and serves as Sponsor for the Women at Workday network in Dublin.

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