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Why are people analytics skills still lacking in HR?

Ani Banerjee, KnowBe4
Ani Banerjee
Ani Banerjee is chief human resources officer for KnowBe4, the security awareness training and simulated phishing platform used by more than 54,000 organizations. Banerjee oversees HR operations across 11 countries and has 30 years of experience in global HR leadership roles working for VMware, Dell, Yahoo and AOL.

“Back in the day,” human resources professionals were considered to be “people people.” While that’s still true to a large extent today, it’s an expectation that comes with a new twist.

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Today’s HR pros must be able to apply data to help their organizations effectively manage their people. And they must be adept and up-to-date on the technology that can automate work roles to ensure ongoing productivity and efficiency.

Digital transformation is impacting organizations of all kinds and sizes—and every role within those organizations. HR is no exception. In fact, HR is arguably a function that may have been most impacted by the need to understand people analytics and automation.

Unfortunately, while people analytics and automation are must-have competencies for today’s HR professionals, many admit they don’t have these tools.

Big data is prevalent in organizations today. But just because data is available does not mean it is being used effectively. In fact, Sage data indicates that while 94% of business leaders say their companies have access to some form of people data, “62% of HR leaders admit to not being able to use people analytics to spot trends and provide actionable insights.”

Organizations that don’t want to lose ground in an increasingly competitive environment—for both customers and staff—need to either hire for or train for people analytics and automation competencies.

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Practical applications for people analytics

With businesses doing more with less in the talent arena, people analytics is getting the spotlight it deserves. However, HR professionals need tools and education at their fingertips to make data-driven decisions that make a positive impact.

There are many ways that people analytics can offer important insights to HR and organizational leaders. For example:

  • Understanding the top sources of job candidates who will be most effective in their positions—and opportunities to drive costs out of the talent acquisition process.
  • Evaluating the drivers of turnover, areas of high performance that can be used as best practice examples, and strategies to boost engagement and retention.
  • Tracking diversity metrics to identify where diverse candidates are (or are not) entering the organization, moving into more responsible roles, entering leadership ranks or leaving the organization.

This data isn’t just “nice to have.” It’s increasingly “need to have,” both for positively impacting the organization’s bottom line and to address stakeholder demands related to evolving expectations around diversity, equity, and inclusion and environmental, social and governance investment.

Taking advantage of automation in HR

From HR information systems to AI, technology is continually evolving to provide opportunities for organizations to save time and money through automation. HR must know what available technologies exist, how they can be used, how to evaluate and select vendors, how to efficiently implement adaptive tools—including training and communicating with employees—and how to evaluate the effectiveness of these tech investments.

These are new requirements that HR leaders haven’t had to deal with in the past. Today, though, they must stay attuned to the options available and must be adept at helping their organizations evaluate, select and implement these options. That’s not just a role for their IT colleagues, although they, of course, must play an important part. In fact, building strong relationships with IT colleagues is as important today as sustaining relationships with CFOs and leadership teams.

Where can automation be applied?

Many facets of HR operations can benefit from automation. For instance, chatbots can be used for customer service applications (internally and externally). Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, which has been widely covered by the media for its seemingly significant potential (and equally controversial) use cases, can be employed to create documents of all kinds: job descriptions, job postings, handbook chapters, policies and more.

Automation can be used to streamline HR workflows—for example, automating the onboarding process, or making training and development options (such as business-critical cybersecurity awareness modules) for new hires and staff on-demand and always accessible.

See also: Loving ChatGPT? Early adopters should move with caution

In this environment, HR leaders must also be able to assuage any concerns or fears employees may have about “AI robots taking over my job.” When HR leaders can help employees view automation as an asset or aid, rather than as a competitive enemy, they can help those workers grow and advance to take on more strategic roles within the business.

Every organization will approach its people analytics and automation opportunities differently. What will remain the same and continue trending for 2023 and beyond is the need for HR leaders to assume a more strategic role as they become “people people with a twist.”