HR analytics and software emerges as priority for first time

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HR analytics and software systems are top strategic issues for HR practitioners in 2016, according to XpertHR’s latest research into HR roles and responsibilities.

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For the first time in 14 years, the annual survey showed that, particularly for private-sector organisations, the role of HR data and HR software was a key priority.

The researchers said that while there had been a drive for HR practitioners to engage with meaningful people metrics and data for some years, the 2016 survey findings showed this has gained traction. There is now a desire to gather, measure and analyse data not only to improve overall performance, but also to demonstrate the value of the HR function to the organisation.

While there have always been some sectoral differences in HR priorities, this year the contrast is stark. HR within private-sector organisations is proactively focusing on strategic people management issues.

However, public-sector HR practitioners are still dealing with the fallout from ongoing and sustained budget cuts and continue to have to react to restructuring and redundancies, harmonising or downgrading terms and conditions to meet budgetary constraints, and workforce planning.

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Senior HR practice editor Noelle Murphy, author of the report, said: “HR within the public sector is dealing with ongoing and sustained cuts, and as a result, has to continue to be reactive to change rather than having the space for workforce planning strategy.

“The differences between the sectors has never been as stark, private sector HR departments are gaining more strategic ground than ever. It will be interesting to see if this has an impact on recruitment within the HR function itself in the public sector.”

With little movement over the past few years on pay awards, HR practitioners within private-sector services are looking at ways to reposition rewards and benefits to negate flat annual pay increases. Looking at ways to improve the overall reward and benefits package for employees within the constraints of a tight budget is challenging, but HR also has to grapple with the introduction of gender pay gap reporting and the national living wage.

For the first time since XpertHR began exploring priorities for HR practitioners, people data and the introduction of a HR information system have emerged as key issues.

The perennial issues of managing performance and conducting effective appraisals top the list on the manufacturing and production HR agenda, but HR analytics and information systems – just as with private-sector-services organisations – comes a close second. The concept of HR analytics is certainly becoming embedded within the profession, across the board.

However, HR practitioners within the public sector stay on a reactive, rather than proactive, course. Change management continues to be a major priority for respondents with restructuring and redundancies still on the daily agenda.

While the overwhelming majority (97%) of respondents collected at least some HR data, less than half (48%) believed that enough meaningful data was gathered to measure HR performance. Asked what proportion of their time was taken gathering and analysing HR analytics, the median response was 5%.

The research also found the median number of employees covered by an HR practitioner is 62, compared with 1:74 in 2015. The ratio has fallen from a high of 1:118 in 2007.

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