8 Recommendations: Leveraging Analytics to Bridge HR/Business Divide

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For the full scoop, please go to the webcast replay of my recent talk Remove the Barrier Between HR and Your Business (sponsored by Peopleclick Authoria)

In my recent research report Helping HR Bridge the Business Divide, I laid out four ways for HR leaders to bring new value to business leaders.  Analytics, dashboards, and interactive visualizations figure heavily in the first two techniques 1) bringing insight to investment decisions and 2) building future value through today’s forums.  The other two techniques will be discussed in future posts.

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Despite strong efforts in the areas of HR efficiency and effectiveness, there is a substantial wall between HR and the business decisions it wants to impact.  There are two problems associated with this wall:

  1. Business decisions are being made in a vacuum – without the best data and insight.
  2. HR is not seen as part of the solution.
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Remove the Barrier and Enable Strategic Conversations

HR leaders should strive to solve both of these problems.  Workforce analytics can serve as a catalyst for equipping business leaders with better decision tools and for transforming HR into a value-add function – if done correctly.

Based on interviews with HR leaders making headway in this area – including what’s worked for them so far and what’s planned – these eight recommendations represent a best practice approach for rolling out workforce analytics:

#1 Make Business Leaders your priority

HR leaders have a myriad of stakeholders to consider, but to create strategic impact and deliver business value, HR needs to make business leaders their number one priority.  Business leaders are the ones running the business and making strategic decisions.

Narrow in on the metrics and analytics that will best address their people-related business challenges, such as: determining and managing investments, identifying and retaining who’s going to solve problems, and balancing current and future priorities.

To navigate the array of business leaders (from those that will fully embrace newfound insights and HR’s role in delivering those insights to those that are skeptical of role changes and/or new technology), keep in mind:

  1. Business leaders with urgent, significant problems are more likely to be receptive.
  2. If you get a few champions – some with those urgent problems and some that are just star leaders – on board initially, it will be easier to gather momentum.

#2 Fix the Business Partner Role

There is nothing more important than setting up your business partners for success.  These folks are the face of HR.  They are now going to be asked to do an entirely different job than in the past.  There are three major changes required to support them:

  1. Developing skills. 2 key skills stood out as essential for strategic business partners:
    • a consultative approach
    • analytical story-telling
  2. Removing administrative duties. Separate strategic and generalist roles or outsource lower level requests to a service center.  Expect some growing pains here.  Business leaders will need to learn how this works.  Also, it will be easy for business partners to revert to what comes naturally.
  3. Tuning HR organization support. The HR department may require some changes to support the business partners in their strategic interactions with business leaders.

#3 Create Strategic Conversation Platforms

If business decisions are made far away from HR, both sides lose out:

  1. The business misses out on insight HR can bring into the conversation to make better decisions,
  2. HR has little visibility into what’s important to the business leader (i.e. what’s driving their decision).

It is for these reasons that it’s so important for HR to be in the room at the right time.  Strategic conversation forums include 1:1′s with business leaders and executive roundtables with leadership teams (talent reviews, business planning sessions).  Successful characteristics of such forums:

  1. The conversation is business-centered.
  2. The HR partner brings something to the table (skills + tools).

#4 Don’t be a Bottleneck

It is powerful to have insight and tools to bring to strategic conversations, but there’s a fine line between adding value and becoming a barrier to the business.  It’s about being an advisor, not a gatekeeper.  Rather than holding onto the information, HR should get it directly into the hands of the decision-makers and focus on staying a step ahead via depth and color analysis.

#5 Use a Quick Win Approach

Even if you just have basic data available, you have enough to get started.  A quick win or two will meet your preliminary goals of getting business leaders visibility and creating conversation opportunities for HR business partners.

#6 Deliver Engaging Tools

There are four analytic tool characteristics to consider in “luring” business leaders into better decision-making and strategic conversations:

  1. Guided – burning questions are laid out with an easy path to answers.
  2. Actionable – there’s a direct connection to the data, including a visual ability to drill into more detail, access source data, and initiate a change.
  3. Relevant – information is centered on business leader’s purview (including benchmarks against leader’s situation) and data metrics are combined according to the leader’s burning issues.
  4. Business-centric – analytics are focused on business questions and can be accessed from business (not HR) dashboards.

#7 Optimize Strategic Platforms

Interactive visualization tools can accelerate the value of strategic conversation platforms (in #3).  Talent review and organizational planning tools can bring forward multiple, complex dimensions in an easy-to-consume way.  Plus, the interactivity – including drag & drop and real-time updates – engages leaders in higher level of strategic dialogue and decision-making.

In addition to the benefits of rich dialogue, HR saves days/weeks of administrative hassle pulling information together in preparation for the meeting by leveraging the data repository and online presentation.

#8 Improve that Data!

Building out the people data infrastructure often seems like an uphill battle.  (competencies, anyone?) However, creating visibility and conversation platforms into what is already available/tracked leads to insight into what’s missing.  The business partner comes away with not only insight, but also buy-in from the business leader to collect, restructure, invest – whatever is necessary to get better results.  It stops being an HR-driven proposal and becomes a business-driven proposal.

All of the preceding steps work together to get to the overall goal of optimizing the business’s people assets – by way of equipping business leaders with better decision-making tools and equipping HR to add value.

You POV: What steps have worked for you so far?  What are you planning to do next?