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HR struggling to get grip on data amid workforce challenges

UK organisations are struggling to get a grip on people data despite significant workforce challenges, the CIPD has warned.

Its new report, Effective workforce reporting: Improving people data for business leaders, found there was a mismatch between workforce challenges and the number of data-led discussions among leaders about these issues.

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HR and business leaders said their top areas of concern were skills and labour shortages, inflation costs, wages and wage inflation, and employee health and wellbeing.

Yet just under half (46%) of organisations collected data on recruitment and retention, and just 33% said it was regularly reviewed.

It was a similar picture for diversity data, where 46% collected data, yet only 24% reviewed it.

Similar ratios were also reported for employee wellbeing data organisations and training and development.

Tim Grimes, co-founder of flexible jobs platform WorkYourWay, said HR's failure to use data meant it was making decisions in the dark.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "If organisations continue to turn a blind eye to the reasons behind a lack of diversity and inclusion, or if companies just throw more resources at hiring instead of spending time understanding retention and labour shortages, they'll be having the same issues year in and year out, with no end in sight or tangible improvement." 

Employee engagement surveys were the most common way of tapping into employee voice, as cited by 58% of leaders surveyed. 

This was followed by views gathered through management one-to-ones or in annual reviews (45%).

Grimes said it can be hard for HR to gather quality data.

He added:"Organisations must start with existing employee data, such as current working patterns and staff resignations - understand the data and correlate it back to your business needs. Then leaders must look beyond their business and use external data to understand the competitive landscape and wider talent market. 

"The organisations that utilise both data sets will be able to push new boundaries and drive real change. When you crunch the numbers you start to really look after your people."

Business leaders from larger organisations were both more likely to collect information and review this information regularly than those in smaller organisations.

Katie Jacobs, CIPD senior stakeholder lead, said HR professionals can sometimes fall into the trap of creating an industry around data.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Businesses and HR teams sometimes collect people data for the sake of it, presenting it without context and not considering how it connects to business priorities.

"HR professionals need to be systems thinkers, thinking holistically about what the information is telling them, how it links to organisational objectives and outcomes, and what actionable insights can be gained from reporting on and reviewing it.”

The CIPD’s survey also found most business leaders (58%) expect non-financial measures to rise in importance over the next three years, with customer satisfaction (35%), employee retention (31%), and governance and compliance (28%) issues topping the list of the most important non-financial metrics to track.

YouGov worked with the CIPD to survey 1560 senior HR professionals and business leaders during August and September 2022.