Going Social with Workforce Analytics

In 2009, Infohrm (now SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics and Planning) published a survey entitled Workforce Analytics: Creating aGoing Social with Workforce Analytics image 275186 h ergb s gl e1379527745444 300x205Going Social with Workforce Analytics Discipline of Data-Driven Decisions. The study found that, of the 200+ participants, only 4% of organizations said that line managers view workforce analytics of “high importance.”

No definitive root cause of this lack of interest was identified, but potential reasons included the limited availability of integrated data (talent, financial, operational) and the lack of a clear process for delivering analytics at the point of decisions.

More recently, a CIO.com article, HR Departments Invaded by Data Scientists, opens with a profile of General Motors’ Michael Arena, a PhD and visiting scientist at MIT who has been hired to lead the automaker’s Global Talent and Organizational Capability function. Ignore, for a moment, a sense of foreboding suggested by the term “invaded,” and you’ll notice that the article offers a positive view of the changes afoot in the analytical human resources (HR) organization – with one major caveat. As GM’s CIO, Bill Houghton, says, “How do we make the analytics more available? We want to get this out of the hands of the rocket scientists and into the hands of managers.”

These two very different research studies give us a fairly clear idea of the ramifications and implications for the use of social technology in delivering “analytics for all.”

The ramifications

  • Front-line managers undervalue the usefulness of workforce analytics because they lack sufficient access to talent data, especially that which informs major staffing decisions (hiring, deployment, assessment, compensation).
  • Investments in data science will yield significant returns for HR’s analytics capability and for the business, but only if the data can be delivered to managers via processes that increase utilization.

The implications for social technologies

  • Enterprise social technology – tools to improve the dissemination of knowledge, boost internal collaboration, and drive up productivity – offers a wealth of potential for the adoption and value of workforce analytics. This does assume that HR can balance legitimate concerns over data privacy/security with the significant returns (better resource optimization, reduced costs, mitigated risks) derived from pushing talent data outside HR’s walls and into the general population (managers, affinity groups, project teams).
  • Furthermore, if one of the barriers to adoption is uncertainty over how to interpret talent data, enterprise social technologies offer a crowd-sourcing benefit, facilitating collaboration between data providers, consumers, and intermediaries (data scientists, strategists, workforce planners) in better understanding what the numbers mean for their functions.

Nascent examples of how enterprise social technology is being used for workforce analytics suggest a bright future. I am aware of several firms that are using such tools to:

  • Share ideas on metrics
  • Link data to business strategies and associated people practices
  • Serve as a tagged repository for research, blogs, and training on workforce analytics
  • Engage front-line leaders in requesting and using talent data as part of day-to-day business processes

I’d love to hear of other examples in applying social tools to the field of workforce analytics.

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