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28-Mar-2017

MUCH ADO ABOUT DATA: A GCC PERSPECTIVE ON BUILDING HR ANALYTICS

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by Giovanni Everduin, Global expert on Organisational Strategy, Culture, HR and Shared Services

A lot has been written about HR analytics over the past year. Whether you refer to it as People Analytics, Talent Analytics, Workforce Analytics or any other name, what used to be a rather obscure art form within the HR community years ago has rapidly evolved to become the number one priority for any HR function looking to drive real business impact. According to market research by MarketsandMarkets1, the global market for HR analytics is estimated to reach a whopping USD 860M by 2020, which is double from what it was back in 2015. The Force is strong in analytics these days.

David Green, one of the most active voices in the HR analytics space, frequently curates a list of worthwhile articles on the topic. If you don’t already, please make sure you follow him on LinkedIn as it’s a great way to keep up to speed with the latest and greatest in the market. Just for January and February of this year he already managed to pull together a Top 20 – which goes to show just how relevant the topic is in today’s world. Browsing through Amazon’s catalog today I found 11 books published on the subject over the last 12 months. I have been fortunate enough to contribute a few anecdotes and quotes to one of those books ‘The Power of People2’ (by Jonathan Ferrar, Nigel Guenole and Sheri Feinzig) which is coming out soon and is a very practical, recommended read to get you started on your analytics journey.

HR Analytics has become a popular and mainstay HR conference and seminar topic, with a large number of conferences now fully dedicated to the topic. Even some of the world’s leading universities like Wharton are hosting large and popular people analytics events.

Different organizations in different parts of the world are at different maturity levels when it comes to analytics in general and HR analytics in particular. Especially in the GCC my observation is that, while HR professionals and C-suite are starting to see the value of it, HR analytics still has a long way to go and grow. Both from some of the fundamentals that underpin any successful analytics capability (e.g. consolidated, clean and structured data architecture) as well as from developing the skill and capability required to analyse and interpret the data into meaningful insight.

The trick is to get to that insight without getting overwhelmed at first by a deluge of data that makes it hard to see the forest for the trees. I often talk about how any analytics journey should really start by formulating a set of strategic questions that need answers, and then building a structure that allows you to easily retrieve answers to those questions. Without these questions you’ll end up looking for a microscopic golden needle in a very large haystack.

It’s important that the process to define these strategic questions includes the broader leadership team and is not restricted to HR alone. Most of these questions should be business questions, not HR questions, it’s just that you look for answers through an HR lens. Real insight is meaningful at an organizational level and directly impacts the business in one way or another. That’s not to say you can’t get meaningful insights specific to HR only, but this should never be the main goal and you’ll have to caution yourself in the design of your HR analytics capability to avoid insight that’s great for HR but doesn’t serve the business as a whole.

Few business in the region are ready with ‘one source of (clean) HR data’ let alone to have discussion around whether to use ‘R’ or ‘Python’ for data analysis. If those terms are unfamiliar to you there is good news – few up and coming startup companies are offering affordable, intuitive and easy to use technology that puts great analytical power directly in an end-user’s hands. This doesn’t mean there is no need for deeper, more specialized data analysis in the background, but it does mean that the average HR professional doesn’t immediately require to develop a full new set of data analysis skills to answer some of the more common people related questions that most business leaders ask on a frequent basis.

Like I said, the trick is to get to real insight without getting overwhelmed by a deluge of data that makes it hard to see the forest for the trees. You don’t necessarily need large investment, sophisticated tools, hiring a team of data scientists or a multi-year program to achieve some level of analytical insight, so don’t let those things stop you. While it’s not a sustainable long term strategy, you can achieve some pretty amazing things with some handy Excel work, provided you have the right questions and most importantly strong commitment and perseverance. Remember, in the words of Lao Tzu ‘Even a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step’.

Interested in learning more? Come hear me speak at the 12th Human Capital Forum MENA at the Sofitel hotel Palm Jumeirah on April 30th and May 1st, 2017.

NOTE 1: MarketsandMarkets – “Workforce Analytics Market By Solution, Service (Consulting Services, System Integration Services, Managed Services), Deployment Type, End User, Vertical & by Region – Forecast to 2020”

NOTE 2: J. Ferrar, N. Guenole, S. Feinzig (2017) “The Power of People: How Successful Organizations Use Workforce Analytics To Improve Business Performance”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Giovanni Everduin is a global expert on Organizational Strategy, Culture, HR and Shared Services, with deep experience in the Middle East region. He speaks and writes frequently about building culture, HR analytics and the future of work.

A Harvard Business School alumni, he is currently Managing Partner of the ETNICITY Group, an independent boutique advisory firm that works with clients across the globe on defining organisational strategy, culture, people analytics and shared services design. In addition, he serves as Senior Advisor of Product & Brand Strategy for Qlearsite – a Organizational Science startup based in London. Before that he served as Chief People Officer of Tanfeeth, the GCC’s first, fast growing, Shared Services & Advisory organisation in Dubai and a fully owned subsidiary of Emirates NBD.

Get in touch and keep the debate going:

Giovanni@etnicitygroup.com
https://www.linkedin.com/in/geverduin/
@giogavino