People & Leadership

People analytics: 3 steps to connect HR and the C-suite through data

HR leaders aren’t sharing data that the C-suite wants to see, Sage research reveals. We explore why and what can be done to change things.

HR leaders have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take on a different kind of role – one of experimentation, testing and driving change.

The best news is that the C-suite, along with the rest of the organisation, saw the value and contribution HR delivered during the pandemic and are primed for HR to continue leading the way.

In fact, 57% of C-suite executives cited HR and People leaders as being equal leadership partners in recent Sage research.

Meanwhile, 60% of employees noticed changes in HR’s role, such as being more strategic and people-focused.

HR leaders back this up with 72% telling us the pandemic helped them to demonstrate their significance and increase understanding of HR’s role.

As the new world of work continues to evolve, business leaders are turning to HR to reorganise, rearchitect and reimagine the way the organisation works.

Visibility of the entire workforce through real-time information is key to providing business leaders with actionable insights to successfully navigate these new challenges.

Specifically, HR needs accurate people data and analytics to make informed, credible decisions and recommendations while confidently testing new ways of working.

In this article, we cover the steps you can take to make this happen.

Here’s what we cover:

What is People analytics and why is it so important?

People analytics means applying data-driven approaches to improve the visibility of the workforce and to better understand people and their behaviour.

However, it’s not just about capturing and reporting data.

It’s about generating actionable insights, testing hypotheses, and identifying solutions that are used to inform business decision making.

The immediate future for HR is one of dynamic leadership, creative experimentation and testing new ways of doing things.

But do you have People data and analytics that support you to be the data-driven leaders of change your organisation needs you to be?

Below, discover our three steps to creating a strong People data and analytics foundation to allow you to innovate, experiment and drive change across your business (this is a summary of an ebook on this topic – which you can download and read in full).

Step 1: Build a high-quality data foundation that business leaders can trust

From data collection and data reporting, to People analysis and People insights, a high-quality data foundation is critical for all stages of the HR analytics journey.

Historically, HR and People data hasn’t always been fully trusted.

It may have been cobbled together from disparate sources, which allowed room for human error, and the days and weeks it took to collate the information meant it was already out of date by the time it was ready to be analysed.

Luckily, the advance in cloud technology has changed all this.

People data can be easily collected and securely stored on a single cloud-based HR system that the whole organisation can trust, essentially creating a high-quality data foundation that you can build upon to advance along the HR analytics journey.

Practical tips for achieving a high-quality data foundation

Adopt a single system of record to build trust.

Look for one with automated real-time dashboards that allow you to share the latest data on demand to the C-suite and other department heads.

Build in data guardrails with automation – for example, by using data validation rules to ensure National Insurance numbers or phone numbers are entered correctly.

Don’t go it alone on data governance.

Call on colleagues in legal for clarity on data governance and ask colleagues in IT to ensure the right processes are in place for your chosen system.

Step 2: Be strategic about what is shared with different stakeholders

HR can only turn data into insights and demonstrate proactive data-driven leadership by understanding what problems different leaders are trying to solve or decisions they are trying to make.

When we asked C-suite leaders what HR data and information they would find most valuable for informing decisions, we found a clear gap between the data executives want from HR and the data they’re actually getting.

For example, 94% of the C-suite said it would be useful to have headcount data, but only 32% are getting this from HR today.

At the same time, the C-suite is receiving more ‘lagging’ metrics, than ‘leading’ metrics, meaning the type of data they’re getting is backwards rather than forwards looking.

As HR and People leaders, engage with C-suite leaders and ask which leading data points they would find most useful for making decisions faster and with more confidence.

Practical tips for being more strategic with the data you share

Firstly, don’t wait to be asked.

Be proactive and set up quarterly wash-up sessions with individual members of the C-suite to check how beneficial the current People data and analytics is.

Ask how they use the current information? What other information would they like? What’s critical and what’s a nice to have?

Help them to help themselves.

Tailored, automatically updated dashboards empower stakeholders by giving them instant 24/7 access to the reports and metrics they need for their specific role.

It also lessens the admin load for you and your HR team.

Also, innovate to engage – call on the experts within your organisation (marketing, product design, sales, etc) for a fresh perspective to engage with business leadership more effectively and deliver a customer-level quality of experience for internal stakeholders.

Step 3: Use People analytics to drive business strategy

Our research found there still remains an expectation gap around the role of HR in organisations.

More than half of the C-suite say HR is not playing a leading role in operational excellence (62%), skilling and upskilling (55%) and company culture (54%).

Remarkably, HR and People leaders agree.

Yet if HR can show in a data-driven, evidence-based way, how the HR strategy and objectives are aligned with and contributing to the overall business strategy, this will go a long way to closing the expectation gap.

It will also further demonstrate HR’s organisational leadership and ability to drive change.

Using People analytics, HR leaders are better able to understand the impact of new ways of working and certain policies, such as employee wellbeing and performance.

Gathering feedback and following patterns closely, HR can use People data in discussions with other leaders and use their analytical skills to interpret what’s happening.

Practical tips to using People analytics to drive strategy

Ensure the whole HR team understands the goals of the business.

Block out time for education and updates so your HR team knows the business strategy inside out.

Pulse surveys can be used to check everyone really appreciates what the company is trying to achieve, understands the industry they operate in, and knows how to adapt to contingencies.

Don’t try and do all the thinking alone.

Having the whole team up to speed lightens the cognitive load on HR leaders and lets you bring more people and viewpoints into the strategy conversations.

Being part of the bigger picture is also a motivating force for team members.

Remember to stay open minded and agile when connecting HR and business key performance indicators (KPIs). Be willing to flex and try to see challenges from multiple perspectives within the organisation.

This will help you be more creative about how you and your team can best meet the business objectives.

Delivering greater value to the C-suite and driving business priorities

With the right data at their fingertips, HR leaders can be bold, innovative and experiment with new ways of working to help make positive change quickly and effectively.

A strong data foundation and powerful People analytics are key for how HR can fulfil its potential and become data-driven agents of positive organisational change.