For HR teams around the world, the past few years have perhaps been the most challenging they have ever experienced. Whilst we’re all now enjoying a state of ‘normality’, the opening up of the economy coincided with a migration of sorts…

Reducing staff turnover - How Big Data can help

Reducing staff turnover has always played a huge part in the strategic goals of successful organisations. In fact, a study in 2020 found that a whopping 87% of human resources leaders had placed staff retention as their top priority over the next few years.

However, the past 18 months have been, well, difficult to say the least. Not only did we have a global pandemic to deal with, many organisations here in the UK are now facing down a fractious economy and an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Despite the turmoil, it seems that the jobs market has remained strong – with the summer of 2021 seeing a record number of UK vacancies. For people looking for work, this is obviously fantastic news! For businesses though, it suggests they’re struggling to fill vacancies or keep hold of their own staff during a time when you’d think people would be wanting to hold onto their jobs for as long as possible…

The Great Resignation

The opening up of the UK economy coincided with a curious event, dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’. The pandemic, it seems, was the catalyst to many employees re-evaluating their jobs and taking the opportunity to take the next step on their career journey, or switch industries altogether.

Fast forward to 2023, and we now have a whole slew of negative workforce trends sweeping through workplaces – and this is despite a cooling labour market. The rise of ‘Resenteeism‘ and the social media movement of ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’ indicate that instead of leaving jobs, employees are more than happy to stay put – even if they dislike their current role!

It’s obviously a very delicate situation for employers right now and their hard-working HR teams. It’s a well-known fact that the cost of recruiting new staff often comes with a hefty price tag compared to retaining the best talent; not to mention the other negative effects a constant revolving door of staff can have on a workforce.

So, what can organisations do to help stem the flow of migrating staff and identify underlying issues that could be driving workforce disengagement?

Where Big Data comes in

Now, it should be mentioned that there’s no one single answer as to how you reduce your staff turnover; but Big Data can play a crucial role in identifying the potentially hidden warning signs of poor levels of staff retention or disengagement.

Big Data is essentially exactly what it says on the tin: it’s data made up of extremely large data sets that ideally, need computational analysis to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. It’s also mainly linked to analysing patterns in human behaviour, and this is where it can prove extremely valuable to HR teams – especially ones in organisations with large numbers of staff and large volumes of historic data.

Great HR software platforms will have sophisticated analytical tools that can make sense of an organisation’s own Big Data; helping businesses better understand their workforce’s capacity, any potential risks to that workforce, and the business’s overall performance. For HR teams, HR software that features analytical and insight tools can help identify patterns and trends in their organisation’s workforce – especially when it comes to staff retention.

How Big Data can help aid staff retention and identify disengagement

With the right analytical tools, HR software solutions can use Big Data to help HR teams start to identify any hidden issues that can lead to unwanted staff churn. Some of these factors may include:

• Understanding your own staff turnover rate compared to internal and industry averages

Across all industries, the rate of staff turnover in the UK is thought to be around 15% – but here’s the thing: a churn of 15% across the business may be fine and ‘average’, but not if it’s made up of 50% of the staff you want to keep, and only 2% of those you’d be happy to lose! So, being able to analyse the specifics at a granular level and really knowing your organisation’s own resignation rate is a good place to start evaluating whether you potentially have a problem.

In addition, using this type of data and comparing it to your own industry averages can help you to understand where your business sits against your competitors and peers.

There’s also another benefit to analysing your turnover rates compared to others, and that’s in attracting the best talent. Look at it this way: If you and a competitor are advertising for a specific candidate and offer the same level of renumeration and benefits, the clincher could be the average length of time someone stays with the business. After all, if your business has a revolving door reputation, you may not be an attractive proposition for talent you want to recruit…

• Your average workforce age & demographics

Understanding the average ages of the people you recruit and your current workforce can help you to appreciate the demographics of your employees more thoroughly. So, analysing your HR data can help you tailor any benefits or rewards packages your company offers to better suit your core demographics – meaning potentially better uptake and better employee engagement.

To give an example, analysing your HR data could reveal how many of your employees have young families who might require a different type of support or benefits package to, say, a more senior workforce who no longer have dependents. HR systems will often allow employees to provide details of their dependents, so HR teams can then use that data to report on and use as an important metric in any engagement strategy.

• salary, incentives or organisational role changes

Being able to analyse your company’s historical staff data can help you discover patterns and trends amongst employees who have left your organisation. By doing this, you can then look to apply those same characteristics to your current workforce – which might help you identify each employee’s level of risk of wanting to leave.

When we think about the question ‘why do employees leave a role?’, annual salary, incentives and career progression are often the most commonly-cited answers. But being able to also analyse historical data around these elements can help you identify whether these really are the real reasons at your business, or if there is something else contributing to your staff looking to move onto pastures new.

Of course, there is a caveat to this: and that’s historic data is exactly that – historic. Circumstances for people and businesses change; you can’t assume what you identify in your data is still relevant. For example, in the days before the pandemic, most office-based staff accepted they would work in an office, so the option of home working probably wouldn’t have been a major retention issue. Post-pandemic, is that the same?

Always something to keep in mind when looking at the bigger picture!

• Absences and sickness trends

Lastly, having a large volume of historic workforce data means that good HR software can use analytical tools to look for patterns of absences, including higher levels of absence in specific departments or peaks in certain types of illnesses.

When HR teams can identify patterns in staff absences, they can look to evaluate the potential causes behind it – meaning more effective workforce planning and forecasting. For example, are your employees taking absence leave because they’ve become disengaged in their role, or perhaps there are higher levels of sicknesses at certain times of the year? To give an example, your data may show your business has sporadic waves of sick days being taken during major sporting events – so, you may want to plan for this in the future to mitigate any drop in staff numbers leading to any potential losses in productivity.

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