How outsourcing providers can help uncover value in workforce data through analytics

Jill Goldstein of Accenture looks at workforce data analytics.

For one national consumer goods company, the difference between the performances of its sales regions presented a puzzle for the executive team. They saw a consistent and significant gap between the productivity metrics across the four sales regions – particularly between its highest and lowest performers, in the West and North-East respectively – and needed to know why.

To determine the reasons for the disparity, and to design a plan to remedy the situation, the company turned to its outsourcing provider. While on the surface the workforces in both regions appeared to have the right skill sets for the job and the sales leadership teams were meeting objectives, the service provider used its workforce analytics capabilities to dig deeper.

Drilling into the data on performance ratings revealed that approximately 25% of managers in the North-East region fell below or significantly below expectations, far more than in the West. Further, it was found that exceptions had been made in the hiring process for a high percentage of managers in the North-East, with many lacking the required level of education.

The outsourcing provider next looked at the perception of the support the sales workforce in the two regions received from their managers and found that there was a huge discrepancy, specifically in the areas of communication, executive presence and industry acumen.

Jill Goldstein

Jill Goldstein, HR BPO offering lead, Accenture.

Extrapolating this information led the outsourcing provider to make the following recommendations:

  • assess the North-East region’s leadership to ensure their skills match the role;
  • update the enterprise’s recruiting/job profile to match characteristics of higher-performing sales personnel in the West;
  • allow fewer exceptions to hiring criteria; and
  • consider a rotational assignment to infuse skills and model behaviors within the North-East.

This case illustrates how analytics can help an organisation make the workforce changes needed to impact the bottom line.

The challenge

Given the economic climate, some enterprises are finding it a challenge to figure out how best to grow their organisations. They need to move out of the cost-cutting mindset and yet, when going to the HR team for help with these workplace insights, they often find that HR was just as much a victim of the recent downsizing activities as anyone else.

Additionally, while HR management systems contain a wealth of data, many organisations are faced with poor data quality. An underinvestment in the HR IT infrastructure over the years has resulted in data that is incomplete and inconsistent due to numerous sources of information from manual processes. Finally, organisations often have limited access to analytic skills and resources internally.

For these reasons, outsourcing providers are perfectly poised to address these challenges and help organisations add value with analytics. Often sitting on a gold mine of data, outsourcing providers can help move from information to insight in a journey that can identify opportunities for improvement and enable better business outcomes not commonly associated with business process outsourcing (BPO). Spanning from traditional operational efficiency and effectiveness through to workforce performance and productivity, these outcomes can deliver quantified results to the business.

Getting started

To start on this workforce analytics journey, organisations should:

  • Identify the end goal and desired business results. Is it end-to-end business analytics? On-demand HR reporting? Somewhere in between? In tandem, it is important to determine what questions and challenges need to be addressed, eg information/data about the organisation? Is it looking for a “root cause?” Understanding what the organisation wants to achieve will ensure more than just more data.
  • Determine what resources are available to deliver against the analytics agenda. Does the HR team have the skills and capacity due to recent right sizing activities? Do you have access to the non-HR data required to complete the analysis? Is the data complete and accurate? Is there a common definition across the HR function, geographies and business units? Is there access to analytics resources to connect with key business threads? If the answer to any of these questions is no, an outsourcer may be able to help.

Assessing a provider

Once the need for an analytics partner is determined, potential providers should be evaluated based on their demonstrated experience in delivering insights as well as the depth and breadth of experience and expertise, which should extend beyond the traditional HR borders to ensure thoughtful and actionable insights.

Complimentary capabilities in technology and consulting will help in not only creating a road map, but in executing a variety of solutions. Compliance with local security and privacy requirements is also critical. And last, but certainly not least, is the importance of relevant industry and regional experience.

The chosen provider should be able to:

1. Perform a gap analysis to determine where the organisation is today versus where it should be based on its goals and business performance objectives;

2. Bring together data from disparate sources, creating a central repository, normalising the data, and making sure there is a common definition across the entire workforce;

3. Apply deep industry and functional insights to report and analyse trends and patterns. A great deal of the value derived from analytics is based on aggregating data that might otherwise be analysed independently and drawing conclusions about relationships;

4. Present the analysis in multiple formats, for example by geography, business unit, hiring manager, cost center, workforce type, etc. so that each group can get a view of the data they need to make decisions;

5. Outline corrective actions and provide help implementing them while forecasting the impact of continued trends or changes.

Very often, the difference between success and failure comes down to an outsourcing provider who can bring experience and expertise across industries and geographies; a continuum of strategic to operational experience; working knowledge of technologies and data; and shared accountability for corrective actions.

Recent Accenture research, conducted in conjunction with the Everest Group and the Outsourcing Unit at the London School of Economics, has shown that analytics capabilities are an important differentiator between high performers – those who have succeeded in extracting greater business value from their BPO relationships – and typical performers. Forty-eight percent of high performers acknowledge the importance of using data and information to capture additional benefits, compared with only a quarter of typical performers.

The analytics advantage

Workforce analytics provides organisations with improved decision making. It can offer greater visibility for helping control costs, increase employee productivity, manage compensation, improve retention and reduce voluntary turnover. It can also afford the ability to monitor the progress and effectiveness of HR programs to ensure they are optimising resources and building the right workforce capabilities.

Workforce analytics allows companies to take a more fact-based approach to managing their workforces. It enables them to become more efficient and effective by providing the tools and insights that drive workforce performance, and keep talent and overall corporate strategies in step with the company’s business goals.

Many enterprises have a good handle on how to be a leaner and meaner HR organisation that delivers against administrative priorities. However, they appreciate a collaborative approach with an outsourcing provider when it comes to broadening their knowledge to include workforce analytics. This is where the business can quickly get to the nuts and bolts of their data, to discover trends and insights. It is this marrying of data around productivity that can help the organisation directly and indisputably link business outcomes with workforce effort.

Jill Goldstein is HR BPO offering lead for Accenture

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