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Q&A: How people analytics turns data into meaningful insights

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Sajjad Parmar, Head of Reward APAC, eBay, believes before implementing a people analytics model, leaders need to ask the ‘why’ before working on the ‘what’. He shares his take on how companies are taking this approach today, in an interview with Priya Sunil.

Q What are the typical business needs which drive a firm’s people analytics model?

Having the right talent gives companies a competitive advantage. Much of the research on what worries CEOs is around having the right talent in the organisation and the skills to do critical jobs. If so, then getting the right talent, managing and engaging them will have a massive impact on companies’ ability to not only do well and grow, but to also sustain for the long term.

Every decision around people becomes important, especially when we think about the constant challenge around acquiring the best people for your organisation. A lot of decisions we make on people are based on data and facts – so, the better we get at decisions based on insights, the better the outcomes.

If people are a company’s biggest asset, then companies need to make sure what they do will have the best impact on both the company and their employees.

The adoption of people analytics arises from the need to do what is right for the business and its people; increase fairness and transparency; and looking at factors and variables that sometimes we, as humans, normally do not think about or appreciate.

After all, if we base our business decisions on business analytics, why shouldn’t we make people decisions based on people analytics?

Q In implementing a suitable analytics model, what challenges do companies tend to face?

There is no one-size-fits-all. Each company is unique and in different stages of maturity in its journey. While there are some standard analytics models that I think every company should look at, I do believe that each company must evaluate what kind of insights it needs to drive business performance through its talent, that is, the kind of talent management problems they have and what the key HR challenges are. The analytics model and framework need to then ensure they are meeting these needs.

There are two fundamental challenges that can come your way. First, the availability and accuracy of data. If we think about the availability of data, we assume that companies have data but, what about the quality of data? If the data going in is poor, incomplete and inaccurate, you cannot expect deep insights to come out of it.

Second is technology and the expertise to convert this data into insights. We have plenty of amazing tools and technology now that allow you to convert massive data sets into easy-to-understand visual tools. Thus, if you don’t have people with expertise in understanding data and technology, it will be a struggle. That is why you see this exponential increase in demand for data scientists and engineers, and numerous companies now coming up with analytics tools, given the high demand for such tools.

Q What advice would you give to firms looking to work on their people analytics model?

My first advice is to ask yourself this: What exactly am I looking to solve through the use of people analytics? There is no point in having a very fancy framework that gives 100 amazing visual reports if you don’t know how these reports will solve your business and HR challenges. Companies need to link the business strategy to the HR strategy, identify the issues, and then see what kind of data and insights will help them solve those.

You cannot solve all problems through data, but you can still get a lot out of it. The analytics approach has to be proactive rather than reactive.

You also need to ask the ‘why’ before you work on the ‘what’. Get people who understand data and can help create meaningful insights from the millions of data points.

Based on my personal experience, you can look at one data set in a variety of ways, which allows room for creativity – this field is not limited by any means. Ultimately, regardless of what model you choose, it must lead back to the original challenge you are trying to solve.

Last, as this is an evolving field, more technology and tools mean more data is created. You need a framework that allows companies to constantly monitor, adapt and evolve their analytics capability and reach. What works now will not work in two years’ time, even in how companies are thinking through their approach and constantly linking their analytics models to solve business and people challenges.


This interview was published as part of a feature in Human Resources Online’s January-February 2020 edition of the Singapore magazine and will soon be published in the Q1 edition of the Malaysia magazine. Read the full story in the magazine below:

 

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HR Masterclass Series: High-level HR strategy training workshops
with topics ranging from Analytics, to HR Business Partnering, Coaching, Leadership, Agile Talent and more.
Review the 2020 masterclasses here »

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