HR Reporting: If you change nothing, nothing will change

imagesIn the last week I was a witness to something special. A large number of European HR Managers from multiple organizations and sectors stood up for their need of effective reporting and use of data.

We all agree. In the very near future, there will be a wider use of predictive analytics and better HR strategic decisions supported by reporting. We know it exists, and it is there to help. We think about the benefits: using HR data to help drive business decisions regarding talent within your organization by the use of analytics and reports.

As I started my career in AIESEC, I had to deal with numbers regularly, manage a talent product pipeline across a large number of markets, and as I was involved with customers, I learned the use the information I had to demonstrate ROI; So I have always been amazed at the lack of data that is used in HR outside of Recruiting and headcount reports.

If you talk to IT professionals, they will tell you all about their organization’s reporting strategies. They understand the tools, data and outcomes. But, if you talk to HR and payroll professionals, they tell you that HR doesn’t have a strategy. HR is different, they say. Demands for HR reports tend to be more ad hoc or more reliant upon real-time data (rather than warehoused data that is used in many reporting strategies).

Reporting strategies are unique from organization to organization, and HR reporting is no different. There are specific business-based needs, demands and limitations that drive the strategy.

And yet there are fears; What will our unions say? What is the impact on the privacy of our employees? How can we ensure data is used fairly and will not be used in a negative way? Who should be able to access it? Who should be able to keep it? Being able to get the data and see the data is one thing. Having the ability to use data to help development, design and build HR strategies is completely different.

Maybe there is a fear within HR, real or not, that because talent management deals with “people,” using such “big data” will somehow minimize the person or people behind the number – a fear that HR can’t develop real HR strategy with executives outside of HR because “those leaders” only see numbers and dollars sign. What HR is missing is the ability to construct a conversation to help leaders hear the HR story by using the numbers behind the people.

The Circle… If You Change Nothing, Nothing will Change

Many organizations fail to see the HR value proposition. This doesn’t happen because HR teams are not having good ideas or their concepts would not bring great value to the organization but simply because the HR managers fail to build a business case as they do not have enough “clear data” to support their request or perhaps because they are not speaking in their native Finance or Operation tongues otherwise known as the language of ROI, Cost Savings and increase productivity.

HR departments seem to have a lack of tools to gather such data, which normally reside across 4-5 different systems. As a result they may try to find other reporting departments to assist in pulling data for them. Again, however, due to speaking different languages than other departments, the reports, charts or raw data may not fully meet their needs or paint the full picture needed to support their initiatives. A change is necessary, so how can an organization break the cycle?

Understand your initiative and the impact it has on the organization

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How are you going to solve it?
  • What is it needed?
  • What is the benefit?

Be Proactive and Learn the Business Language

  • ROI, Cost Saving, Increase Productivity, Business Requirement Gathering and other company specific resources are going to be key when planning for the next meeting with the business.
  • Think of the larger organizational impact of the program or initiative related to the workforce (i.e. how does this impact our company’s revenue and sales)?

Ask for help

  • As an HR professional, you have relationships across the organization. Leverage those relationships by asking your peers, those who you see are successful getting funding for their projects, what’s their secret.
  • Use this guidance to gather data to support your project and understand what answers you can provide to truly demonstrate the value of your initiative and organizational impact.

As HR professionals move forward into the new world of “big data” and analytics, it is important for us to remember there are people behind the numbers, and HR will always be about the people.

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