The Future of Work is top of mind for business leaders. They are trying to prepare for a future that is increasingly hard to predict.

Rapid changes in technology require different skills. At the same time, we have significant changes in workforce demographics. It is becoming apparent that the definition of work itself needs to change.

Evolving work means evolving HR. Becoming data savvy is important for HR professionals to gain credibility with corporate leaders. Why is HR data important? Data helps understand our performance. And HR needs must be the expert in its the people data.

HR needs to own its data and be proficient at analyzing and using it. HR needs to make decisions based on data.

However, there might be reluctance at first to act on data presented by HR. Why? Probably many leaders have baggage associated with bad experiences. Even when there is good HR data, executives might fail to believe. Don’t give up. Think of ways to deliver better data stories to your leadership.

Ways to deliver better HR data:

  1. Frame data around competition.

Executives love competitive data but they rarely have it. They listen to anything related to competition. Compensation data is one area where competitive data can be gleaned relatively easily within the HR community. Use it as a first foray to establish your data credibility. With my clients, I usually suggest creating salary ranges and establishing compensation guidelines for internal equity.

  1. Frame data around your own business.

Use employee performance and retention data and correlate it with business performance indicators. Having the right HRIS is key to collect the right data and analyze it. This is one area where I see many midsize businesses struggle. They simply don’t have a robust HR system and pulling HR data is a project in and of itself.

Use HR data is to analyze turnover across the organization (by location, manager, department) to understand how the story shapes across the organization. Connecting turnover and absenteeism by department or location can help pinpoint management problems.

  1. Don’t create HR metrics.

HR shouldn’t report on metrics that are not directly connected to business results. Instead, use business metrics and connect them to HR data: net income, revenue, productivity per employee. Look at connecting engagement data with business results.

Consider introducing those measures to pick interest of your management team:

  • Hiring Manager Batting Average measuring how well those who recruit succeed at hiring the right talent that stays.
  • Most Valuable Employee/Team based on revenue generated by individual employee or groups of employees.
  1. Stop reporting the past and start predicting the future.

Just like Sales projects expected sales and Finance projects revenue, HR needs to use predictive analytics to show what the next months have in store for the workforce and how it will impact business (and vice versa, of course!).

For example, report turnover data that are focused on the past AND project expected workforce changes (e.g. pyramid of ages, retirement over next 5 years).

  1. Illustrate the data with the real story of what happens with employees.

Use examples of how programs impact the lives of employees. Everyone loves stories. They stay with you. Look for ways to show how your college tuition reimbursement is improving retention and developing the workforce needed to move the business forward. Examples I have seen: a CPA office linking business growth to employee earning a CPA certification or a bachelor degree.

How to build your data expertise?

Sharpen your data skills and knowledge of analytics concepts and tools available in-house. Sometimes it means starting with Excel. Progressively build your business case for better HR data with dedicated applications.

Enroll the support of other departments to support the data story. In my early HR days at Procter & Gamble, the European Recruitment project brought in Marketing to help understand student expectations and frame the P&G employer brand. Working together also brings an insight on what’s going on in other departments!

HR has an important role to play to help executives see the future and create it for their organization. Embrace data in 2019!