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Dave Foxall Human Capital Analytics Software Deployment Approach – Part 2

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 By Dave Foxall

Leveraging HCA Technology By Managing Analytical Talent

Human capital analytics (HCA) software offers an organization a clear window into the use of its most expensive (and often most valuable) resource: its people. In fact, according to the 2010 report Human Capital Analytics: "Properly used to analyze an organization's talent and programs in light of clear business goals, talent and organization analytics can deliver a host of important benefits. Companies can derive workforce insights that can increase sales and profitability. They can improve their ability to retain top performers in the workforce, and they can better understand the leadership behaviors and cultural attributes that can drive desired business results." Regardless of these potential positives however, organizations should be aware that without the appropriate processes and management underpinnings, the benefits of HR analytics software are extremely limited.

Part 1 of this HR analytics article looked at the need for a consistent and broadly-understood approach to Human Capital Analytics software use within an organization; including the need for building upon a 3-stage analysis process foundation. Part 2 expands on those concepts and covers the organizational needs and means to properly manage those employees charged with running the analytics program.

Human Capital Analytics Technology: An Analytical Talent Strategy

In many organizations, analysts (or at least those with analytical skills) are often scattered throughout the structure and rarely managed as a defined segment or talent pool. Without acknowledging the skills required to fully understand, develop and produce analytics, the organization's use of Human Capital Analytics software will be limited to pre-set vendor-defined routines which may or may not suit the individual business requirements. A recent research report, How to Build a Talent-Powered Analytical Organization, outlines a simple 4-step strategy:

  1. Defining analytical talent needs: What types of analysts do you need?
  2. Discover new sources of analytical talent: Where do you find top analysts?
  3. Develop analytical talent: What skills do analysts need and how do you build them?
  4. Deploy analytical talent: How do you create the best possible match between analysts' skills and business demands?

By focusing on these four key areas and placing HR analysis software use within this context, an organization can begin to develop true analytical expertise.

Human Capital Analytics Technology: An Analytical Talent Typology

Accenture identifies four basic categories of analytical talent based on their levels of expertise and involvement.

  • Analytical Champions are senior executives – usually at the C-level – who rely on rigorous data and analysis to run their business units. They are responsible for aligning analytics with business strategy. Champions are the leading advocates and advisers on how analytical techniques and technologies (including Human Capital Analytical software) can be used to guide decision making. An appreciation of analytics, rather than a wealth of technical know-how, is the central requirement for this role.
  • Analytical Professionals possess the deepest quantitative and technical skills. They are the architects, developing models and methodologies used by others in the organization. These jobs may require an advanced degree in a quantitative field, such as statistics, mathematics, economics or operations research.
  • Analytical Semi-professionals are responsible for applying the models developed by professionals. The majority of financial and marketing analysts will be 'semi-pros' and with the steady adoption of human capital analytics, more and more HR personnel will develop and/or require a similar degree of expertise. Semi-pros are the primary users of Human Capital Analytics software and their primary role is at the interface between analytics and the rest of the business, acting as liaisons and interpreters.
  • Analytical Amateurs need an understanding of analytics in the everyday performance of their jobs and are often customer-facing or managerial in role. They may conduct data entry and manipulation and are the end users, acting on the output of the analytics software. "Amateur" does not imply "junior".

The number and type of analytical personnel needed by an organization will obviously depend on its size, sophistication and data volumes, but companies should also be cognizant that dedicated employees will further range based on the nature of the business, the maturity of the businesses' analytics usage, and any applicable future strategies. Understanding these different types in their specific organizational contexts will, in turn, influence talent acquisition, deployment and retention strategies.

Human Capital Analytics Technology: Analytical Talent Deployment

Jumping off from the last point, companies need to be aware that, in addition to having the right analytical talent within the workforce (to effectively leverage human capital analytics applications), an organization must also deploy that talent in such a way as to be able to access the right skills at the right time; simultaneously maintaining engagement and retention of the analytics talent pool. This approach has been identified through recent research as following five basic deployment patterns; each with varying degrees of optimality.

  • Centralized – One central group which serves a variety of functions and business units and works on diverse projects. This unit also sets the analytical direction of the organization. Analysts are easily deployed to projects with strategic priority. The pitfall is that it can create distance between analysts and the business.
  • Center of excellence – Allocated to units throughout the organization, analytical activities are coordinated from a central point, building a community of analysts sharing knowledge and best practices.
  • Consulting – Working together in a central group, analysts act as internal consultants. This consolidation approach, enables organization-wide coordination of analytical activities.
  • Functional – Located in the functions where the majority of analytical activity takes place, such as marketing and supply chain (at this point in Human Capital Analytics development, it is still rare to find dedicated HR analysts).
  • Decentralized – Analysts are spread throughout the organization with little or no coordination, making it difficult to set strategic analytical priorities and to develop and deploy staff effectively.

Further, survey data from Accenture suggests that each of these deployment patterns can lead to further talent segmentation. For instance, the centralized approach tends to work best for analyst engagement. On the other hand, the center of excellence model tends to provide the best results for talent retention. While the best model will depend entirely on individual company structures and desired outputs, Accenture offers the following advice to organizations new to analytics: "a first step might be to create a community of interest, to provide support and share examples of best practices. Once you've built a critical mass of experts and demand for analytics grows, you can look at other organizational models".

Leveraging Human Capital Analytics Software – The Bottom Line

To paraphrase an old adage, "software is an excellent servant but a poor master" and any human capital analytics technology solution is no different. Indeed, Human Capital Analytics applications should be viewed as an enabler of a human capital analytics strategy, not its sole foundation. The organization must be ready and able to embrace and utilize HR analytics and metrics software as well as strategy, and much of that readiness stems from having considered the wider context in which HR analytics resides. Proper analytical processes must be laid down and understood; and the talent required to operate those processes (and the Human Capital Analytics software itself) must be developed and retained. To revisit the McBassi & Co quote from part 1– "HR analytics holds the promise of both elevating the status of the HR profession and serving as a source of competitive advantage for organizations that put it to good use"…but only when properly planned and deployed with organizations achieve their forecasted results. End

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Without acknowledging the skills required to fully understand, develop, and produce analytics, the organization's use of Human Capital Analytics software will be restricted to pre-set vendor-defined routines which may or may not suit the individual business requirements.


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