A few times a year I have the pleasure of facilitating continuing professional development workshops on workforce analytics. A few weeks ago, I received in my inbox the kind of feedback everyone who does this sort of thing hopes for – a story of how the workshop, its ideas, and its tools made their way to practical use in an organization.
It’s a story worth sharing. I think it can help the many people who are looking for a way to get started with their workforce data but don’t know where to start. This organization, for the record, does not run PeopleInsight nor any other advanced platform for business intelligence.
It shows how a smaller organization (<500 employees) can work with their existing systems, data & desktop tools - combined with initiative, analytical capabilities, and a focus on key areas of interest (we call them juicy business issues), to reach real business outcomes.
Here’s the set-up: the Controller in this manufacturing organization had an interest in using the available data to gain visibility into the workforce, and identify areas where the organization was doing well and where attention was needed. To get started, the Controller took part in my workforce analytics workshop to learn some of the basics. After participating in the workshop and making a plan to get started, the Controller got to it – he simply got going with the data, the systems (spreadsheets) and the people he had.
This is key - he got to work. As a side-bar, simply staying stuck in the thinking and planning is a huge barrier - you can’t get going with analytics if you don’t get going!
This story is an authentic account of a journey into workforce analytics - a DIY approach that I believe many can learn from. Here’s the story, in the words of the Controller:
“Well we started by digging into the data we had and started with the easiest area, DEMOGRAPHICS. Got a bit of a surprise right away... Even though we kind-of-knew that one critical segment is the oldest, we were surprised to realize that about half of them are 65 or older. Umm, that could be a problem. No one coming up the channel. We now had an identified area for focus.
Second was easy too. We looked at ABSENTEEISM. We looked at absenteeism by age, gender, department, position, length of tenure, education, marital status, children and pretty much anything else I could come up with that might have an impact. A few surprises came up that painted a much clearer picture of the situation. Surprisingly, the oldest employees had the lowest absenteeism rate. There was no difference between men and women, position, or much of anything else. What did pop up was four important factors with an impact on absenteeism: department, engagement, leadership, and vacation & sick policies. Fixed these and cut our absenteeism in half.
Third was a look at our HIRING. We went back 12 years (the data we had available) and looked at our hires, and how successful the hire was based on tenure. Then we applied the analysis to find out the source of the hire… employee referral, headhunter, job ad, or unsolicited application. The results were staggering to say the least! We took the analysis a step further and applied costs to the recruitment source. We found that hiring candidates from recruiters was the least effective source, only 25% stayed 2 years or more, 40% solicited and unsolicited remained, while employee referrals have 75% retention. With employee referrals, virtually all of them are still here and are our “best” employees. When we apply the costing, it is clear that payment of employee referral bonus is money well spent versus 4 headhunters to get one employee. Based on the insight and the associated costs, we built a strong employee referral program with bonuses paid out and we’ve cut all headhunter relationships.
Fourth was EMPLOYEE RETENTION AND INTEGRATION. Here we looked at employees that stayed versus those that did not stay. What we found here was our “on-boarding/orientation” program was missing the objective of making the employee engaged and productive quickly. We made changes to the integration program that have, so far, touch wood, had a positive impact. The employees that have gone through the new program, find it valuable, are happy to be here and, all have become productive employees very quickly.”
So there you have it, I think that is a fabulous example of what can be accomplished by getting started with what you have in terms of people, data and systems, and having a focus on some key business areas. It’s a great story with some real outcomes and significant and material ($$) impacts across 4 key business areas - succession, absenteeism, hiring and onboarding/integration.
No matter if you are trying to build an analytics capability yourself or partnering with an analytics provider, there is good advice here to follow - get started with the data that you have (there’s gold in there), and select a couple of juicy business problems to solve, ones with material impact to the business. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Read more stories of people analytics success: