The relatively new focus on HR analytics and linking people variables together presents an interesting opportunity for human resources (HR), with a great deal of upside for HR practitioners. As such, it’s critical for practitioners to track the HR analytics trends—the good and the bad. The following top trends point to two main concepts: 1. Many HR leaders have graduated from HR analytics 101 and are now able to leverage analytics to truly make an impact, and 2. there is still plenty of room for growth in the HR analytics field.
So, what exactly is HR analytics? Simply, HR analytics is the analysis of people data. The goal of any people-analytics project is to gather and understand the connections between people data from multiple sources and other hard data (e.g., performance, financial, and business metrics) to inform organizational and HR changes that support the leadership’s vision and company initiatives. Now, on to the predictions.
Surveys: Continuous Discontinued
Organizations will build an employee experience strategy that includes more feedback opportunities (e.g., targeted pulse surveys) but moves away from “continuous listening” (i.e., surveying all the time). If people weigh themselves every day, will they lose weight? Of course not. Similarly, if organizations collect employee experience data every day, they will not change a thing. Too many organizations are swimming in a sea of data and wondering why they haven’t seen an impact. This means that organizations will instead finally institute a strategy—one or two census surveys with a few pulse surveys mixed in that intentionally focus on problem groups or targeted areas (e.g., low-performing leaders or key drivers of business outcomes). This approach will allow organizations to gain critical insights, which will point to clear actions. Action is, of course, the key here because without it, stagnancy will reign.
Plus, consider employees’ reactions to survey-taking and results. A recent study found a majority of employees (65%) preferred to provide feedback via an employee survey two or fewer times a year. Essentially, employees don’t want to take more surveys. Furthermore, 65% of employees expect to hear about survey results, but only 46% of them were actually made aware of the results. And, 63% expected to see changes based on the survey, but only 32% actually saw changes within their organizations.[i] The clear issue for employees is using the feedback provided to drive change—not to provide more feedback.
Employee Experience Data Islands Bridged
The employee experience market will continue to consolidate based on the underlying strategy to integrate employee data across different platforms (e.g., ATS, LMS, HRIS, and talent management). This prediction has a similar theme to above—what good is data in isolation? Data without action yield zero impact. Organizations and vendors will embrace this data integration trend and implement analytics advancements in their tools and technology. For example, the term “employee life cycle” has become the latest buzzword, and it’s an important concept. It’s possible to build a view of employees’ entire journey (or life cycle) from recruitment to exit with multiple data sources. With this mapped out, organizations can better predict turnover. Ultimately, insights from analytics are much more powerful when you bring together multiple types of employee data. This is definitely not a fad; it’s something all companies should embrace.
Less Thinking, More Doing
The third prediction may end up being the most significant leap in the HR analytics space in 2019. Organizations and vendors (employee experience and analytics companies) will move from simply providing intelligence via analytics to delivering data-driven actions. Insights and intelligence are great, but in what other aspect of a job is just thinking about an issue appropriate? Advanced analytics have made it possible to move past simply thinking about survey results. For example, analytics-driven “nudges” are on the rise. “Nudging” is about moving from simply providing insights to directing (or nudging) employees/leaders to the best actions based on the intelligence provided. These actions are what will ultimately yield the impact and return on investment (ROI). So, expect a greater focus on, and innovation with regard to, using data insights to direct the actions of leaders and employees.
AI Not Nigh (Yet)
You can maintain a healthy dose of skepticism regarding artificial intelligence (AI) in HR. Because it’s a trending technology in society and very intriguing in theory, you’ll see companies with significant investment money flashing some sort of HR AI tool. But buyers beware: AI can be dangerous in HR, as significant risks exist (e.g., bias in algorithms). I’m keeping an eye on this market, but I still don’t see any huge AI in HR breakthroughs … yet. The first significant breakthrough will likely come in the recruiting/hiring space, but that still appears to be over the horizon. There will be a time when AI will impact HR, but you can hold off on jumping on that bandwagon for now.
Dr. Shane Douthitt is the co-founder and managing partner at the results-focused employee survey and assessment firm, SMD. More than 25 years in the areas of measurement, talent management, executive assessment and coaching, and organizational development at global Fortune 50 companies provided Dr. Shane Douthitt with invaluable experience, but more importantly fueled a desire. A desire to infuse innovation in a field (HR) that had been stagnant entirely too long. Focused on removing the divide between HR and ROI, Shane can be described as an out-of-the-box thinker, analytics expert, and technology enabler.