“One big reason why so few companies have a mature people analytics capability is the lack of data literacy in HR, says Madhura Chakrabarti

People analytics has emerged as an essential competency for professionals across the HR function. One major reason: profitability. Last year, a Bersin research study, which included a survey of 900 HR and business leaders across a wide range of companies, found that organisations with the highest level of people analytics maturity reported a three-year average profit that was 82 per cent higher than those with the lowest level of maturity. Unfortunately, our research also revealed that only two per cent of the organisations surveyed has reached the highest level of people analytics maturity.

One big reason why so few companies have a mature people analytics capability is the lack of data literacy in HR. Many HR departments have core people analytics teams, but the expertise they contain is siloed. Our research found that the HR staff in nearly 60 per cent of organisations do not yet have basic data literacy skills.

One demonstrated solution is upskilling. HR practitioners need knowledge and skills to use data and analytics. When we looked at how organisations with the highest level of people analytics maturity attained that status, we found that their success at scaling data literacy across HR was supported by five action principles:

1. Adopting a performance mindset

If the primary focus of your HR department is still on learning itself, it’s time to refocus your attention. Today, HR’s primary focus should be on the outcomes that learning produces: that is, its effectiveness at enhancing employee performance and the achievement of business goals. This is the mindset that big data and analytics best supports. It ensures that HR practitioners are able to use people analytics to holistically assess and address business issues.

“HR practitioners need knowledge and skills to use data and analytics”

2. Starting now, using available resources 

When it comes to data literacy skills, think content curation versus creation. There are many available sources of data and analytics content for training purposes, including external sources such as video tutorials and online courses; and often, in-house sources, such as training programs that were created for other functions, such as marketing. Identify the most relevant training selections, and then, rapidly roll them out to your HR staff.

3. Making analytics education interesting and easily accessible 

HR professionals aren’t usually quants, so many of them won’t be fascinated by data and analytics per se. That means that training content will need to be emotionally engaging and easily accessible. To help make it engaging, make sure that your staff knows how data literacy upskilling can enhance their ability to excel in their current positions, help them qualify for promotions, and/or support their long-term career objectives. To make it accessible, deliver the content in readily available and easily digestible bites—as podcasts, live-streaming videos, interactive webcasts, brown-bag lecture series, or perhaps, regular emails from HR leaders and other people analytics experts.

4. Maintaining focus on the core analytics team 

The core analytics team can be a valuable resource in people analytics upskilling at scale, but first, its experts may need some education, too. A well-rounded team will need a baseline of shared knowledge and understanding in critical areas such as statistics, client management, storytelling, and finance before it can help educate the rest of the HR department. One efficient way to establish this baseline is with peer-to-peer classes, in which individual team members take turns introducing the basic concepts in their areas of expertise.

People analytics isn’t an artifact in an HR leader’s cabinet of curiosities to be trotted out to measure initiatives or justify head counts”

5. Ensuring learning encompasses real business challenges 

People analytics isn’t an artifact in an HR leader’s cabinet of curiosities to be trotted out to measure initiatives or justify head counts. Instead, it should provide the insights that HR professionals need to act as consultants and to seek out opportunities to benefit the entire company. You can achieve this by incorporating real-world business challenges into your upskilling activities. This will help your staff learn on the job and help your company at the same time.

Upskilling HR using these five principles can jumpstart your drive for people analytics maturity. But don’t wait—our research suggests that the pay off in corporate profitability can be significant.

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