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Learning How to Humanize HR with Data

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, July 07, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Young Professional Conference Panelist, Anthony Walter - Director of Workforce Analytics at Gap Inc. says, "HR is in a unique position to use data for good."  Learn more at the NCHRA Young Professionals Conference on July 20th.
Register today.

 There's been a constant push that HR catch up with Marketing and Finance in the way it uses analytics. 

Every decision should be rooted in data. Facts are king. Intuition or "gut decisions" should be a last resort.

A last resort that HR has relied on for far too long. I'm not going to dispute this, but instead, argue that HR is in a unique position to use data for good.

The reality is that HR still has a perception problem. After all, you go into HR because you are a "People Person." 

My question is:  What's wrong with going into a profession because you like dealing with people?

In fact, I would say this is exactly what makes HR uniquely equipped to execute analytics - our data can positively impact people's livelihoods and enrich the employee experience. If you're not in People Analytics to help people, you're in it for the wrong reasons. 

There's a reason Google is such a great place to work - their mantra of "Don't be Evil" (now "Do the Right Thing") permeates their culture and Laszlo Bock's People Operations team walks the talk. For example, Google knows what makes a great manager, but instead of getting rid of those who didn't have these characteristics, they coached managers and saw a statistically significant improvement in manager quality for 75 percent of its worst-performing managers. By treating these employees with respect and using data to ground their actions, Google created invaluable goodwill and loyalty. Their latest research on the keys to a successful team found that psychological safety - the ability for team members to feel safe taking risks - was the most important dynamic to a high performing team. This finding has already led to tailored development programs, which has improved participating team's feelings of psychological safety and the ability for its employees to take smart risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed. Their data isn't just sitting on a shelf somewhere - it's being used to elevate the well-being and performance of employees, and that's the right thing to do.

Every day, companies are using HR data for good. Let's shift the focus from how we're behind other functions in analytics, to how we are helping employees find their happiness at work. Don't sell yourself short if you got into HR because you're a people person. Instead, use that to guide your analytics. Think about how your work will help a top performer be recognized. How it will set someone up for their next promotion. How it will increase diversity and reduce discrimination in the workplace. How it will identify someone who is at risk of leaving, and if they are at risk, how you can address their concerns. No one should be miserable in their job. If you predict someone's turnover risk and that leads to a manager having a real conversation with their employee about career, job satisfaction, and ambitions, so be it. You shouldn't be scared of knowing someone will leave, you should be scared of not knowing what an unhappy employee is telling their friends about their job. Because believe it or not, this will impact your talent brand and your company's bottom line.

I'm optimistic about where HR is headed as a function. And while we can debate all day about whether People Analytics should sit in HR, let's not forget that HR is most closely aligned to a company's greatest asset, its employees. Data can help us determine what's best for employees and the company. It shouldn't have to be an either-or decision. Let's use data to inform our decisions, but let's not forget that most things are a little bit of science and a little bit of art. That's the beauty of it all; numbers can only get you so far, and the rest is intuition. We're pretty good at that.

Note: All opinions are solely my own and may not necessarily reflect the opin
ions of my employer.

Anthony Walter leads the Workforce Analytics team at Gap, Inc. - providing operational reporting, predictive and advanced analytics, and capability building opportunities for a broad range of customers across its 140,000+ employee population worldwide. The WFA team strives to build workforce intelligence and advises business partners on data collection and analytics methodologies to make data-informed people decisions. 
Prior to joining Gap Inc. in 2013, Anthony was a Senior Consultant at the global consultancy firm Booz Allen Hamilton. He also has previous work experience across the HR spectrum, including organizational development, training, recruiting, and HR operations in retail, digital media, and regulatory organizations.

Walter will be a panelist at the
NCHRA Young Professionals Conference on July 20th - "Making Strategic Decisions with People Analytics" a Q&A Session (11:45am-1:00pm) with Ben Teusch, People Analytics, hiQ LabsModerated by: Amelia Barker, Regional Director, hiQ Labs.

About session: HR teams using sophisticated data analytics are four times more respected by their counterparts for data-driven decision-making. What does this mean for your organization? How can you get there? Discover how people analytics (PA) are changing the way HR operates. You’ll find out what building a PA team looks like and describe its day-to-day function. Leave the session able to: leverage PA data to make strategic decisions (without a background in economics or statistics); improve your HR teams and workforce planning; and better retain talent. 

For more information about and to register for the Young Professionals Conference
click here.

Tags:  HR Conferences  HR Data  HR Management  Young Professionals Conference 

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