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Rich Cober is MicroStrategy’s Chief Human Resources Officer. In this role, Rich leads MicroStrategy’s teams responsible for HR Business Partnership, HR Operations, Talent Acquisition, and Talent Management.  In addition to his professional experience, Rich has published his research in the areas of employee recruitment, hiring, and performance management in academic journals, had research findings cited in the popular press, and is a regular presenter and chairperson at professional conferences.

Across all the business departments, Human Resources has potentially the most to gain from the intelligent use of analytics. From improved resourcing and performance reviews to identifying problem areas that can improve policies, data analytics can drive deeper insights into management and operational issues that can improve overall organisational performance, argues

Every HR department collects data on staff. This could include feedback forms, check-in times, sick days, all sorts of valuable information that often sits on disparate Word and Excel documents. If your organisation is not bringing all this data together to create a collective view and using that data to improve business performance, then you are overlooking a key advantage.

To become a truly intelligent enterprise, HR teams need to be primed at collecting data in a meaningful and strategic way. The starting point for any HR team keen to use data and identify opportunities to improve both collective and individual performance and ask these questions: What do we want to capture?

How are we going to capture it? What are we going to do with this data to improve performance? How will we manage and secure that information?

It might sound like a daunting task. This approach to data collection requires staff to have the right technical and analytical skillset to collect and interpret data for greater insight. Let’s look at some of the areas where HR could use data intelligently to improve performance.

Skills assessment and resourcing;
How can you assess whether or not you have the skills within your organisation to achieve a particular business objective? How can you bring together that ‘dream team’? By applying analytics to your HR data, you can identify the right people and draw on existing resources rather than any unnecessary outsourcing.

Recruitment is not cheap. Along with recruitment fees, pensions, training, office overheads and National Insurance, costs of hiring additional staff can soon add up and cut into the bottom line. By using data strategically, you can improve your chances of getting the right external hires and source internal talent to fill skills gaps.

Traditional forms of recruitment and understanding staff requirement may no longer be appropriate in many organisations, and this is where data can help. Remember Moneyball, the true story of how baseball team Oakland A’s managed to compete effectively with rivals who had salary budgets three times larger? The team ditched more than a century of perceived wisdom on coaching and player recruitment and used statistics to identify areas to improve and undervalued players to sign. The result was two successive seasons in the play-off finals. This was data used wisely to gain a competitive advantage, and the same logic can apply to HR.

You want to know who your high achievers are. Not just the sales team who bring in the business, but what about those who keep the whole organisation ticking over? Who clocks in first and spends the most time in the office?  Likewise, who is not performing well, so you can help them in a review process?

Metrics must be tailored according to job role, objectives and seniority. For example, longevity of staff at the company is not necessarily a good metric to use if the high achievers are leaving and the low performers staying. Understand what inspires and motivates your staff. Alternative incentives and reward structures may be required for different staff members. Only by collecting data on your staff will you get a clear picture of how to inspire them.

Staff management;
Can you use data to work out the average ‘career cycle’ for someone at your organisation? How long do people stay typically? When are they most productive? Can you pinpoint ‘turning points’ when performance improved or declined and identify the determining factors? Organisations need to assess the performance of the whole organisation at a macro level, teams and departments at a median level, and individuals at a micro level.

Next steps: Identify what you need;
Data will play an increasingly pivotal role in the HR remit going forward and the business will benefit over the long-term. To successfully deploy a data-led approach to HR, leaders need to be able to answer four questions:

Is this strategy crucial for long-term success?
Do we already have the tools we need to succeed?
Do we have the talent to get the job done?
How can we bring our strategy to life?

Organisations that move towards an intelligent enterprise model should have a platform like MicroStrategy to cultivate data and identify insights that will help them better understand their staff and recruiting needs. We all know the data is there. HR departments need to rise to the challenge to get the tools to find it and act upon insights.

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