HR under-utilizing data analytics in workforce planning

While HR leaders want to be “ahead of the curve” with their approach to technology, many lack the data or expertise needed to measure whether their benefits spend is helping achieve organizational goals, according to the “Innovation generation—the big HR tech disconnect 2019/20 report” by Thomsons Online Benefits.

For example, the study found that more than half of the 380 HR professionals in multinational organizations surveyed are not using employee data to help forecast potential retirement scenarios and liabilities.
Related: Analytics tools becoming key to HR management

“This, in turn, can have a significant impact on workforce planning (knowing when employees are likely to retire is vital), learning and development (longer working lives mean more reskilling and upskilling), health care costs (older workforces are more expensive to cover), as well as pension provision,” the authors write.
Employers still rely heavily on survey results and demographic data, but more insights can be gleaned by also analyzing benefits take-up, program data and building-generated data, according to the report. However, just under half (48 percent) of employers currently do not report on benefit take-up levels.

“So even though employee engagement is a top priority for organizations, it’s clear they are missing a trick in not linking benefits take-up-among other factors such as employee sentiment and wellbeing-to engagement employee data effectively,” the authors write.

The study found that organizations that use employee data to report on business issues are more than twice as likely to be “very satisfied” with their return of investment on benefits spend than those that don’t. A majority of those (64 percent) have used people data insights to improve employee engagement; 47 percent have improved employee productivity; 59 percent have improved their benefits program by looking at employees’ interactions with their benefits platform.
More employers (68 percent) are building analytics teams within their HR department. A third (35 percent) of all of the respondents surveyed have upskilled existing HR team members and 21 percent have hired in external talent. Over the next year, 32 percent plan to upskill HR team members and 17 percent who plan to hire in external talent.

“Ensuring that teams, either within the organization or externally, can really harness the power of employee data is inevitably the next step,” the authors write. “And it’s positive to see that many organizations are preparing to do this, whether that be to outsource these capabilities to third parties or upskilling existing teams.”

While more than a few employers still lack sufficient HR analytical capabilities, the authors of Thomsons’ report are optimistic: within the next three years there will be “exponential growth” in the amount of data being collected and analyzed by virtually every organization.

“From benefit take-up levels to employee well-being, HR and benefits professionals will (often for the first time) have the insights and analytics they need to truly transform their benefits proposition, tailoring it to the individual as a means of driving and rewarding performance,” the authors write.

However, to be more proactive in spotting issues before they impact talent strategies and organizational goals, more employers will need to develop predictive analytics capabilities – right now, only 12 percent are doing so.

But that could be due to disparate HR systems that don’t talk to each other, many of which have no analytics capabilities, or capabilities that aren’t centralized “to provide a single source of truth,” according to the report.

“Without a redesign of the technology that underpins the entire benefits function, the risk is that while new tools and apps and data analytics will deliver better benefits, better employee engagement scores and a better return on investment, organizations will still fail to unlock the true potential of technology to transform the employee experience,” the authors conclude.


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