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Strategic data: unlocking HR's secret weapon

Businesses are failing to recognise the importance of data managed by HR teams. Equally HR professionals are not yet skilled enough in data to harness its power and help secure their future strategic function within an organisation. Something has to change.

HR holds some of the most critical data within any organisation. This includes everything from data on employee engagement to identifying the correlations between sick leave and workload. If used correctly, this data can make a huge difference to an organisation’s performance.

But, businesses aren’t currently utilising it to its full potential. As a result, HR departments are missing a chance to prove their worth beyond the traditional functions they are recognised for. The consequences are even wider reaching than this. If changes aren’t made businesses are going to struggle to keep up with the demands of the modern customer.

The good news is that there is a solution but there are steps that need to be addressed first.

HR has the answers

A recent study from Fosway found that one of the biggest issues for HR professionals is a lack of skilled resources. That’s also the case for the HR departments themselves: they don’t feel they have the right resources to make use of data. In fact, 90% of those surveyed believe that this is having an impact on company progress.

By not using data from HR and working with department heads to analyse and act on it, businesses are falling short of basic modern day business requirements.

Productivity, staff turnover and retaining talent has never been so important in what is likely one of the most competitive job markets for a long time. HR owns the key to understanding employee behaviour and by consulting with business leaders armed with insight in these areas, teams can quickly make positive changes.

HR has access to data on sick leave that can be analysed to identify whether there are external and internal factors that are impacting absenteeism. By assessing the findings and working out any correlations, the team can work with departments to ensure policies are put in place and the problems are resolved. With British firms losing £77 billion annually in lost productivity due to sick days, this could have a significant impact on the business.

This isn’t just beneficial in the obvious sense of making the workplace more efficient, but it can also contribute to the overall morale of the HR department, boosting employee engagement and productivity.

Promising outlook

Business leaders are starting to recognise the benefits of reforming HR, but this is only half the battle. In order to make a difference and utilise the data that HR has to offer, organisations have to invest both time and budget. This investment has to have an emphasis on high-quality data as well as ensuring smooth integration between HR and the wider business.

If these issues aren’t addressed, it becomes almost impossible for organisations to tap in to the latent potential that rests within many HR departments. What’s promising is that 76% of organisations are planning on increasing investment into HR technology.

HR has traditionally lagged behind other departments such as marketing or sales, partly because it’s taken some time for business leaders to see the value beyond its traditional role.

Now that businesses are recognising the need for change, we can expect to see valuable advances within HR tech, resulting in even better application of data and analytics.

Bridging the gap with the wider organisation

It’s promising to see business leaders recognising the value of HR, but for it to be used to its full potential, it has to be matched with buy-in from all departments.

Coaching the wider organisation of these benefits falls on HR professionals themselves, they have to educate the wider organisation on how to interpret and use HR data.

For example, an organisation doesn’t need an HR specific data analyst but the department should work closely with internal data analysts to ensure that they are finding and sharing useful data for the entire organisation.

Shift to a strategic business function

The future of work is ever changing and, with advancements in technology, the role of the HR professional is likely to look completely different over the next few years.

Business and department leaders are going to increasingly rely on data and analytics provided by HR teams to inform how they attract, structure, manage and engage employees.

To ensure this process happens smoothly and HR cements itself as a strategic business function, it has to earn the trust of (and work with) business leaders across the organisation. Simply recognising that HR departments hold this critical data and actually taking advantage of it are two very different matters.

Any organisation that doesn’t take this approach will be opening the door for its competition.