Lessons from HR Tech 2014: How to Engage HR with Data Analytics


This year’s Human Resource (HR) Technology conference was jam-packed with more than 300 exhibitors and 60 breakout sessions. Almost every general session focused on data: collecting data through social media, integrating data across the enterprise, data-driven decision-making, big data, data analytics, predictive data analytics, and on and on. For HR professionals, these are exciting and daunting developments.

As we expect organizations to increasingly manage human capital based on data instead of intuition, we will need to make ways for HR to engage with data analytics and consciously create a data-driven culture that asks, “How did the data lead you to this conclusion?”

Here are some of the lessons learned from this year’s HR Tech Conference:

  • Invest in building your analytics competency. Hire and train for this specialized skillset. Historically, data analysis has not been a key requirement for HR professionals, so you may need to invest in professional development and/or look outside HR for these skills.
  • Develop your analytic focus. Hone in on the key metrics that your organization needs and let go of the others. Start by prioritizing the top three to five business issues that talent impacts and look to answer these questions:
    • What are the key metrics that would tell me whether we’re gaining or losing ground on this business issue and why?
    • Where within (or outside of) the organization does this information exist?
  • Use data as a means to make informed decisions. Serve up the data necessary for business managers to make decisions on business growth and measure the effectiveness of human capital investment, including compensation and professional development. For example, analyzing data about your best performers may allow you to proactively seek out that type of candidate by changing your recruiting profile. Sometimes you have to dig deep into the data. A dashboard showing higher turnover in a particular location doesn’t tell the whole story. In order to respond correctly, you need analytic tools that allow you to drill down into the data so that you can understand whether it’s a compensation issue, local management problem or something else causing the turnover.
  • Build analytics into your HR technology strategy. Ensure that your HR technology strategy includes both embedded data analytics that bring forward relevant data within a given process workflow and enterprise data analytics that allow you to bring in critical information that lives outside of your HR systems. Data is abundant. In addition to enterprise systems, we have social media, online shopping and career sites that can give us access to more data than ever before about our employees and potential hires. As featured in Bill Kutik’s latest newsletter, a number of solid developments in technology solutions use both internal and external data to fuel predictive analytics, particularly in talent management.

Last year, the theme of the HR Tech conference was “user experience,” focused on making the applications friendly and easy-to-use for HR managers and employees. If organizations are going to successfully manage human capital based on data, let’s hope next year will be the year to make these same usability leaps in data analytics.

About the author

Deb leads ISG’s Human Resources Technology practice, drawing upon extensive in shared services, outsourcing and HR management to help clients define and implement their HR technology and service delivery strategies. Deb helps enterprises assess the business case for Human Capital Management software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, understand the capabilities and experience of leading HR SaaS providers and integrators, and formulate and execute effective negotiation strategies for HR SaaS software and implementation. She has authored ISG’s annual survey on HR Technology and Service Delivery Trends since 2014. Deb has 29 years of experience and has been involved in more than 150 HR engagements across HR administration, payroll, benefits, talent acquisition and HR technologies.