Three of the biggest are:
- Crunching data, and along with this data credibility, quality, validity
- Pulling data together, analyzing and visualizing the data (this is the “data + judgement = problem solving” space)
- Communicating with your different stakeholders (storytelling).
We can probably all agree, number 1 is the biggest time sink, the least fun, and the one area that you’d be better to hand over to someone else. Just think, without the heaviness of data crunching and manual manipulations, how much time you could spend at the value-add levels of 2 and 3. We’ve got the balance all wrong.
Let’s take a look at each of these:
1. Crunching data
Let’s be honest, while this is a critical piece – and the foundation to everything that comes after – it is also the least glamorous. Under this umbrella comes the work of data-clean up and validation, which is never the top of anyone’s list of joys. Here’s an article by Erik van Vulpen of Analytics in HR that can help: 6-Step Guide to Cleaning your HR Analytics Data.
No matter what the state of your data (no one has perfect data!), when you’re trying to connect data from different systems, it’s hard work – especially if you’re doing things manually. Without a repeatable process, you can get bogged down in the data trying to meet the requests of your different stakeholders. You get stuck in data preparation and building analytics, almost from the ground-up every time. This can end up hijacking a huge chunk of your time and the results aren’t always what you’d like them to be. Pressed for time, you end up producing simple charts and graphs that you lack full confidence in. Sometimes, the end result is even cross-tabs or lists.
There’s absolutely no denying that data crunching is essential work, but wouldn’t you/your team/your company be better served if you could spend more time at the level of #2 and #3 – analyzing and presenting data to the business in a compelling way? Unless you have a real love for the nitty-gritty of data manipulation, I’m guessing your answer is yes.
Many, in the mid-market are opting for partnering with a solution provider so their smart, savvy HR people can be freed from spreadsheets and can immerse themselves in smart, savvy work (analyzing, reporting, problem solving). They see the value in a tool that takes care of the grunt work and gives them the flexibility to respond to changing business needs on an ongoing basis.
2. Connecting, Analyzing the Data
This is the fun part – this is where the smart, savvy people in HR Ops should be spending some serious time. This is where the data is pulled together, analyzed and visualized. This is where HR analysts provide context to the numbers. This is where data + judgement come together and produce results for the business.
A lot of what goes on at this level is in the realm of business acumen and knowing what questions to ask of the data. The right question sets the direction for analysis and communicating findings to stakeholders.
Here’s an article from Manoj Kumar, HSBC’s Head of HR Analytics, about the importance of asking the right questions when analyzing the data.
3. Communicating (Storytelling) with Your Different Stakeholders
We’ve talked about this a lot in the past and it’s still one of the key roles in HR Ops – the need to be able to tell a meaningful story – one that is data-driven and business-focused.
“If you don’t tell the story in a compelling way that resonates with your audience then it is highly likely that no action will be taken. That means all your hard work in collecting, cleaning and analysing data will be a waste of time. How utterly demoralising.”
In addition to David’s post, here are 2 other resources that are sure to inspire your storytelling with data:
- Tom Davenport’s article on Deloitte University Press: Why data storytelling is so important – and why we’re so bad at it.
- Prasad Setty of Google, People Analytics, video: The Science of Storytelling (video)
The bottom line is that storytelling is a critical piece to the success of HR Ops.
To sum things up, the way I see it, we’ve got the balance all wrong in HR Ops and analytics. We should be spending more time doing analysis and communicating, and less (much less) time doing the heavy-lifting of muscling around in spreadsheets, and complex aggregating of data. There is no easy fix, but there are a growing number of companies out there (ours included) that focus exclusively at the data crunching end of the scale. With expertise in HR data sourcing/mapping (ETL) and HR analytics, we help by taking care of the behind-the-scenes work, so you can focus on what matters. Spend your time doing smart, meaningful work that makes a difference, and leave the heavy-lifting, and (let's face it) unglamorous data-crunching to an analytics partner.
Doesn’t it make sense to at least investigate this as an option? You don’t have anything to lose – but the right partner can free you to focus on the parts of your role that really matter - to you and to the business.