No better time for HR to boost data analytics capability, says CIPD

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There is significant demand for HR data analytics and evidence-based decision-making, but only a handful of HR practitioners are using advanced analytical techniques to help make business decisions.

This is according to the CIPD’s people profession survey for 2020, which found that there continues to be a substantial gap between the demand for data analytics capabilities and the amount of time that HR spend on analytical tasks, with many struggling to make the best use of their data.

Although only 11% of HR professionals do not plan to use people data and analytics, just 5% of in-house and 14% of independent HR professionals have a professional focus in this area.

Capability is focused mainly on basic analytics and reporting (37%), with only 6% using more advanced techniques to inform business decisions.

The report says: “Having evidence and information at your fingertips can influence strategic decision making and lead to the development of data-driven solutions to address business issues. Without data and other information, it is difficult to make sound judgments and decisions that will ultimately add value to the business. This is an area of real opportunity for both the in-house community and those operating as independent people professionals.”

It notes that the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of using data when making complex decisions that will have significant impact on their organisation and says there is no better time for the profession to grasp these high-demand skills, even at a basic level.

“Low data visibility, inaccurate or incomplete data, and inconsistencies across evidence sources mean that greater interrogation and exploration is important, and should be role-modelled to the function,” it says.

Sixty-seven per cent of in-house and 84% of independent professionals feel they can use evidence and data to improve their practice. However, asked whether they feel HR leaders made evidence-based decisions through challenging periods, only 54% agree.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said: “The demands placed on the people profession over the last few months have never been greater with the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have seen so many positive examples of how individuals and teams have risen to the challenge.

“However, there is always scope for development and, once again, the report highlights the need for people professionals to improve their analytics capabilities. The crisis has put people much more at the heart of business thinking everywhere, but we need to show we can engage with business leaders at all levels with clear and actionable insights to drive positive change.

“This will be even more important as businesses look to drive performance and productivity as they chart their way through more challenging and uncertain economic times, and must balance financial, legal and ethical perspectives in the decisions that impact their workforces.”

The report says HR professionals need to recognise how they can add value both operationally and strategically. Only 56% have a clear understanding of what successful organisational outcomes look like and only 48% say links between people practices and business outcomes that have been agreed across the business.

A quarter feel that clear measures of success have not been established.

“Responding to change quickly and effectively has been key. Businesses must strive to build a culture of agility, data-driven decision-making, and automation to fuel the recovery from the effects of this year and to drive innovation in the future,” said Peter Gamble, regional vice president at Workday, UK and Ireland, which supported the survey.

The survey covered 1,368 in-house HR professionals and took place between 24 January and 5 March 2020. A further 204 independent HR professionals were polled between 6 and 25 March 2020.

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