HR practitioners are increasingly relying on data analytics to drive their efforts, yet investment in the tools they require has often lagged behind that of other departments. There is a common misconception among those that hold the purse strings that because HR deals with people, they neither need nor are equipped to deal with large-scale data efforts and have gone to the back of the queue as a result. However, human capital is a key source of competitive advantage and they stand to benefit significantly from the technological advances in the data space that have arrived in recent years.
We asked six HR analytics experts from some of the world's leading organizations which technologies they believed were set to change their role in the near future.
Stephen Chesley, Senior Workforce Planning Specialist at NASA
Communication channels will be mined more in the future. This includes message content, tone and frequency. The reliance on cloud computing (renting/buying time on a platform rather than buying/up-keeping one’s own platform) will also heavily impact the analytics space in the future. The idea of using all available data (from wearable devices, web crawlers, etc.) is tempting but could cross the creepiness-factor’ line. I hope we don’t move too far in that direction.
Faranak Raissi, Senior Director of Integrated Talent Management at Gap
I think one of the key things is making more technologies accessible through mobile devices (e.g. LMS, HR platforms) because more and more people are doing things on the phones vs. laptops. I think also moving away from traditional methods of collecting feedback (e.g. in performance reviews with the manager writing the review) to more crowd sourcing type technologies. Lastly, I think the ability to create linkage analysis across the various data platforms and use data visualization tools like Visier will also help us in being able to make analytics more readily available to HR and managers.
Jade L Peters-Votava, Senior Lead of Workforce Analytics at TransUnion
I am always a fan of using more interesting types of data to analyze and think about. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to prove itself very soon as more professionals are understanding the benefits. I also would love to see more pulse surveys going on. Less traditional than getting an email and taking the survey... but having pop-ups on your computer that assess your mood and well-being.
Michael Gethers, Data Scientist at Salesforce
The future of workforce analytics is wide open and could go in any number of different directions. What I expect, though, is that we’ll see a shift away from active data collection (i.e. surveys, scorecards, anything that requires manual data input) toward passive, non-intrusive data collection (collection that happens in the background and does not influence the day-to-day life of the employee). This is where the big data boom began, as passive data collection was built into everyday products and services, and I think we’ll see HR departments follow that lead. This data can be collected more quickly, more accurately, and less abrasively than its active counterpart, but requires more of an initial investment in infrastructure to get it up and running. I think that as more companies commit to data science in the workforce analytics space, that will be seen as less of a prohibitive barrier to entry and more of a small upfront cost associated with massive downstream potential.
Wearable devices seem to be particularly intrusive, and I have to believe that a company initiative that involved the collection of data from them (even voluntarily) would be met with significant resistance. But it is important to remember that people’s willingness to offer up their personal data is almost entirely predicated on trust: trust that that data will not be used with nefarious intent, and trust that they will actually derive some personal benefit from surrendering it. If a company is able to build that trust with its employees regarding wearable devices, then it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that this could be another opportunity for passive data collection.
Martin Oest, Director of True Picture Europe & Former Head of Strategic Workforce Planning & HR Analytics at Metropolitan Police
Just now it seems to be a rush of technologies trying to profit from the growing realization that the people in organizations are their most valuable asset.
In the short term there are and will be startups in specialist areas, like in team or network analysis, engagement, performance, strategic workforce planning etc and the cloud-based HR management systems (delivering most of the data). These two areas will in the near future see the consolidation into larger systems and service offerings.
Next is the centralization of the capability to understand the organization and view its possible futures. And it will include people as well as finance and productivity, becoming both holistic and business led.
The use of AI and machine learning will also become standard practice when looking at the future organization.
Finally, the costs of these technologies will reduce which will in itself help spread the use and demands for analytics as smaller organizations will be able to afford to deploy this.
Gustavo Canton, Senior Director of Research at Walmart
Mobile has become the new canvas. Our associates and customers spend countless hours with their mobile devices so our team is putting more emphasis in developing self-service apps to answer basic reporting questions. The rise of the artificial intelligence type softwares will become a big trend as well not only for their ability to answer questions in a timely manner but it will allow companies to create an insights, data repository system so that the knowledge is always readily available. Imagine having a Google-like search engine that will answer 90% of the business questions without the assistance of an analyst and where you get answers in a matter of minutes.