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People analytics: what decisions should HR be making?

HR should bring data to every decision. This does not mean every decision should only be driven by data – but every decision should be informed by data.

Analytics should not only focus on dashboards and reports, or answer business questions that don’t matter. It should be used for decisions that make a difference – and to stakeholders who will benefit.

Let’s emphasise this through a few case studies.

As described in our book, Excellence in People Analytics, financial services firm FIS used people analytics to transform performance management into a development tool, which the team co-created with employees.

The project saw performance management shift from compliance-led into one of personal development and career opportunity. People analytics was used to establish a scientific understanding of performance management, and to develop new solutions collaboratively with managers and employees so that the ‘new’ solution was implemented with predictive elements.

For example, if an FIS manager spends time each quarter in feedback and coaching discussions with their employees, then that manager’s team will perform better against business KPIs and their people will stay in the company longer.

Using data for decision making:

HRBPs must be people analytics evangelists

Setting up a people analytics function at GSK

Data and HR: Watch out for the data disconnect

People analytics is also being used to help make executive decisions about culture. Microsoft, for example, uses a daily pulse survey to give executives a glimpse into the culture of the organisation and what employees are thinking.

This use of people analytics is moving the organisation in line with practical and societal culture.

It’s a useful tool for making decisions - around hybrid working and productivity for example, and for long-term cultural transformation, by shaping the company’s policy and views around major issues such as racial injustice.

People analytics can also be used to make decisions with direct financial outcomes.

National Australia Bank used a people analytics product to determine the type of manager a bank branch should have in order to deliver specific commercial outcomes, and Swarovski used analytics to select and develop training programs that predicted improved sales outcomes. 

People analytics can also have tremendous impact for HR teams.

At Santander Brasil, it enables HR and managers to anticipate the employees most likely to leave the company; and PepsiCo used analytics to move from workforce planning as a cost exercise on a spreadsheet to how to consider skills in local geographical markets.

HR leaders looking to create real impact with people analytics are encouraged to prioritise meeting with business executives to understand their perspectives, their challenges and then work on the most important topics.

In addition to business leaders, there are six other types of stakeholders whose aims and challenges should be considered: HR leaders, managers, employees and workers, functional leaders (such as legal, finance and marketing), technology and data owners, and employee representative groups (such as works councils).


Jonathan Ferrar, CEO and David Green VP & MD at Insight222 are co-authors of Excellence in People Analytics