Essential people analytics: Seven key HR metrics for 2017

With data and analytics playing an increasingly critical role in HR decision-making, latest analysis from XpertHR Benchmarking reveals the seven essential HR metrics for 2017.

The box to the right provides links to full data on seven popular HR metrics – the most frequently accessed data for users of the HR metrics tool XpertHR Benchmarking over the past year.

Recruitment and retention, absence and attendance and reward emerge as key areas for HR metrics data. But the ratio of employees to HR staff ranks first in the list.

This suggests an ongoing concern with how to structure and resource HR departments for maximum effectiveness.

The median number of employees per HR practitioner was 62.5 in 2016, compared with a median of 80 in 2011.

The median number of employees per HR practitioner has shown a downward trend since 2007, according to analysis of XpertHR data. This reflects the impact of redundancies and restructuring during the recession and its aftermath.

Labour turnover rates have shown a steady increase since 2012, with the median voluntary resignation rate reaching 14.1% in the latest data. Rising labour turnover rates suggest a buoyant labour market.

That said, HR professionals would be well-advised to continue to monitor voluntary labour turnover to ensure it remains optimal for their organisation.

Absence rates have been falling since 2006, and seem to have reached a level of stability, with little fluctuation over recent years. Latest XpertHR analysis of absence data finds a median sickness absence rate equivalent to 2.6% of working time.

Where to begin with HR metrics and analytics

The box to the left has links to the five most accessed survey topic pages on XpertHR Benchmarking, over the past three months. This covers a wide range of topics, including shared parental leave and learning and development budgets, indicating that HR has a strong need for up-to-date benchmarking data beyond the essential HR metrics identified above.

Getting started with HR metrics and analytics also features as a key topic area, which reflects the emergence of data as a key focus for HR in 2017.

The main benefits of using HR metrics and analytics data are better-informed decisions within the organisation and enabling HR to be more proactive, according to recent XpertHR research. Nearly all (97.1%) HR departments gather or hold HR metrics data.

However, a majority (95.5%) of HR professionals have experienced problems gathering and analysing HR metrics data. The most common are poorly integrated data systems, a lack of resources to gather data and uncertainty over what to measure.

“Many organisations I speak to are struggling to get their people analytics programme off the ground,” says David Green, global director of people analytics solutions at IBM Smarter Workforce, in an article on best practice in people analytics.

He identifies the top priority for successful people analytics activities as “focusing on projects that actually matter to the business”, indicating how vital it is to identify the HR metrics with the closest bearing on the organisation’s business objectives.

“Learn the business, find out what matters to your CEO and senior leaders,” adds Green. “If you focus your efforts on where your firm makes money, then people analytics projects will quickly pay for themselves and your star within the organisation will rise.”

Regular benchmarking is key

Regularly benchmarking how the organisation is performing on a targeted set of essential HR metrics can provide an ideal starting point for HR professionals looking to launch data and analytics activities. This is the use of data to compare policies and practices with those at other employers. Collecting, analysing and using good-quality data is critical to this process.

Benchmarking is most effective when HR undertakes it as a regular, ongoing exercise. It is best to benchmark at least once a year, advises Shebani Patel, Director, PwC HR Consulting:

“It’s a healthy check to assess how you’re performing in comparison to the industry on an annual basis,” says Patel. “For the majority of metrics (except for maybe some recruitment and turnover metrics), most benchmarks don’t move that drastically on a more frequent basis.”

XpertHR Benchmarking users are able to access and drill down – for example by geography, industry sector or employer size – into the complete results for each of the seven essential HR metrics and 4,000 further HR data points from more than 150 survey data sets.

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