In the past decade, virtually all major trends in corporate computing have been heavily rooted in the generation, storage, manipulation, access and analysis of digital information, as the transformation of physical file management into electronic data environments has ushered in a new era of business performances.
Everything from big data and the Internet of Things to telecommuting and enterprise mobility has been at least partially – and often tremendously – reliant upon strong understandings of Web-based information storage environments.
Now that companies have largely gotten their feet wet with these endeavors, the next step in the transformation of corporate strategies has been related to the use of analytics to derive more value from other IT investments, as all of them are generating data that can be used to improve decision making and intelligence. Whereas the tools were once only used by the largest enterprises for marketing and sales research, this is simply no longer the case.
Rather, virtually all departments are being targeted by these deployments, but perhaps none more so today than the human resources divisions of companies of all sizes. With talent gaps and skills shortages hindering operational success, analytics tools in HR are showing promise in easing the subsequent strains often felt. However, big data courses and business analysis training might need to be expanded to reach professionals in these departments and give them the knowledge necessary to maximize returns on investment.
A fine line
Forbes recently published a blog post from culture, collaboration and management analyst Rawn Shah regarding the increased use of analytics in HR departments, as well as what companies need to be doing to ensure that the investments are being managed properly. Now, as Shah and others have noted in the past, analytics solutions are certainly becoming more commoditized, intuitive and accessible, regardless of how well-versed users are in data science.
However, this does not mean that businesses can simply expect to launch one of these deployments in a department with virtually no technically skilled employees and enjoy plenty of rewards in the process. Rather, businesses will need to ensure that their staff members have at least some foundation in data science to really reach optimal functionality and performance in HR analytics investments, which will inherently yield the highest possible returns.
According to Shah, the first step toward better use of HR analytics might be to segment the department following the popular Ulrich model, which breaks it down into administrative experts, strategic partners, change agents and employee advocates. At the same time, the analyst argued that while targeting specific roles with specialized deployments is a good idea, there should also be a guiding, foundational strategy in place that keeps management consistent across the department.
Finally, he suggested that while plenty of HR professionals are beginning to use these tools without being certified data scientists, having an enhanced understanding of analytics and information management will certainly be helpful.
Now, analytics is only going to become a more mission-critical solution as time goes on, with companies that already use the technology excelling in a wealth of fashions given the stronger decision making yielded by accurate, timely insights. At the same time, the public and private sectors are facing a severe skills shortage, specifically when it comes to technical talents and education such as data science.
Firms can often ease the strain of these challenges by targeting big data courses and business analysis training to specific roles or even individual employees who work within the departments that the tools will be deployed. Consider offering the opportunities to trusted, long-tenured HR staff members to get a stronger handle on analytics in these departments.