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The Analytics Dilemma for HR

Katherine Jones, Ph.D., Partner and Director of Talent Research, Mercer

Katherine Jones, Ph.D., Partner and Director of Talent Research, Mercer

Few issues have beleaguered HR professionals like the demand to be more analytical. The calls to analyze massive data sets and take advantage of Big Data have been nearly impossible to answer, and for good reason. In struggling with disparate technologies, many of which provide no analytic capabilities or provide data through different, incompatible data models, the task often appears insurmountable.

But HR departments appear to have made progress on many fronts. Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends report surveyed more than 1,700 HR professionals across the globe on their perceptions, challenges, and strategies for the future. Only 5 percent of HR professionals globally reported that analytics were not used in HR decisions at all (25 percent from Japan and 8 percent in Brazil), and 72 percent indicated they have moved past the basic reporting stage. While few today are using predictive analytics (7 percent), the most recent HR and talent management technologies support these practices.

However, year over year, the results are the same: almost one-quarter of HR departments are stuck in basic reporting, including the majority of those in Australia and Japan. Organizations in Brazil, Canada, France, and Singapore are most likely to use advanced analytics in HR. Most significantly, however, 73 percent of executives found their HR team unable to provide them with actionable analytics to improve their decision making.

“Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends report surveyed more than 1,700 HR professionals across the globe on their perceptions, challenges, and strategies for the future”

Reported Stages of Analytics Use by Global HR Professionals

Use of HR analytics is much the same in 2017 as it was in 2016, demonstrating little progress from year to year.

Little Year over Year Growth in HR Analytics 


HR professionals globally report that they do collect data, as noted in the chart below. Most use it for reporting rather than analytics. 

HR Data Collected Today


This suggests a disconnect between HR and their executives, as the C-suite often seeks different answers from their HR team.

The Analytics Disconnect: What Executives Want and What HR Provides Today


Interestingly, given the proclaimed focus on retention, few HR departments analyze which employees in their organization are at risk of burnout (29 percent) or which are considering leaving in the next six to 12 months (31 percent).

Analysis

HR professionals have been besieged with the need for more talent-related analytics over the past few years. They were told they needed to understand and use rapidly-changing data in their analysis of corporate health, using high volumes of data in both structured and unstructured formats. However, few companies collect true “Big Data” about their personnel. While executives seek more analytics from HR, the majority of departments are furnished with what could best be defined as “middle-sized data.” Nevertheless, it would indeed behoove HR professionals to address these requests from executives, move beyond the basic reporting of easily-derived data points, and make full use of the analytic technologies available to them today. 

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