If a recent report from HayGroup is to be believed, HR is on the cusp of a revolution.  Social, technological, demographic and environmental trends are radically transforming both the way organisations are structured and the way people are managed.  HR, suggests Hay, is in a prime position to help organisations predict and navigate the changes ahead – although the consensus among business leaders is that there is still some way to go before the profession starts playing a truly pivotal role.

One of the things that will be key to this shift in influence and standing is HR’s ability to make strategic use of the people-related data that is now at its fingertips.  HR software has come on enormously in recent years and the latest generation systems can give organisations access to accurate and insightful data about everything from absence and performance to retention and engagement.

But having the data is not enough in itself – HR people need to develop the skills to ‘tell the story’ behind the facts and figures and to help organisations use people-related intelligence to support their long term business strategies.

The Hay report suggests that HR practitioners will go through a transition similar to that already experienced by their colleagues in finance – where the focus has shifted from just reporting the numbers to providing insights and informing decision-making.

So how exactly can this ‘big data’ and new-generation technology we keep hearing about help HR embed new ways of working and transform itself into the “highly responsive, solutions-focused and proactive” advisers the corporate world needs?

It frees up HR time

Significant amounts of HR time are still swallowed up by mundane administrative tasks that could easily be automated.  If the HR team are freed from the shackles of managing annual leave, monitoring sickness and nagging managers about overdue performance reviews, they will have more time to concentrate on the strategic aspects of their role.

It empowers line managers

If line managers have up-to-date information about their people easily to hand, they will be able to manage their teams more effectively.  They can identify skills gaps and put development in place before it becomes a problem.  They can spot trends emerging in areas like sickness absence and put plans in place to tackle them head on.  Giving line managers the tools to manage their teams also reinforces the message that managing people isn’t an addition to the day job, it is the day job.  And of course it makes it less likely people-related issues that could have been avoided will end up on HR’s doorstep.

It informs key business decisions

HR analytics can be used to create insights and inform key decisions about everything from resourcing to retention.  The latest generation systems have business intelligence built in and help organisations to bring together and make sense of information much easily than in the past.   Equipped with this information, HR is in a position to inform and drive change, rather than simply implementing it.

It drives collaboration and innovation

The way work is organised is changing radically.  In our 24/7 global culture, enabling more collaborative ways of working has never been more important.  We are seeing a rise in virtual teams, for example, as well as fluid teams that are put together to support short-term initiatives then disbanded.  The latest generation HR solutions incorporate social platforms that allow people to access information, share ideas and input into projects outside of their normal domain.  They make for a more vibrant, connected workforce – and create an environment where innovation can flourish.

It builds engagement

These same social portals also allow the business to build engagement with employees.  They can ask for feedback on a regular basis, for example, instead of relying on the static, annual staff survey.  They can seek input on initiatives that are being planned and respond rapidly to dispel rumours or respond to any concerns raised by staff.  Research has shown that companies that have high engagement and enablement (where employees feel they have access to the tools and collaborative frameworks they need to get things done) significantly out-perform their competitors.

Is HR evolving in your organisation?  Is your business making strategic use of its HR data?  Let us know how HR analytics are helping you.


Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.