Making the most of people data: proving the value of people analytics in the UK, Ireland and US

By Melanie Green, Research Adviser at the CIPD

With more opportunity to collect and use people data than ever before, the importance of deploying workforce data responsibly, importantly and effectively, has never been greater. Ultimately, it can be used to tackle business problems, shine a light on HR practice and demonstrate the value of people. CIPD’s recent research, in association with Workday, finds that organisations that use and value people data and analytics also have strong business outcomes.

Building on this work, we’ve explored global use of people data in four focus reports, People analytics: international perspectives on people data, in association with Workday. We asked business professionals in the Middle-East and North Africa (MENA), South-East Asia (SE-Asia), the UK and Ireland and the US, how people analytics are used in their organisations. Our findings highlighted some regional differences.

Are business professionals in the UK, Ireland and the US making the most of the opportunities people data poses? Our findings suggest there’s plenty of potential, but more needs to be done to tap into this and make people data a valued part of everyday business and HR practice.

Professionals in the UK and Ireland and the US have access to data- but don’t always use it

Positively, UK organisations are leading the way in data availability, with 57% of professionals in the survey reporting they have access to workforce data. Comparatively few US respondents had access to people data (41%).

But, having data available doesn’t guarantee it will be used, with 21% of UK respondents indicating they use people data less than once a month. Whilst up to 6 in 10 professionals have access to people data, few are likely to use it as part of their daily work. In a similar vein, few US professionals say they use people data daily (21%).

We asked HR professionals how they use data, which gives us some clues as to how people professionals in these regions interact with people data. Only 2 in 10 UK HR professionals produce workforce data – they are more likely to analyse or consume the data available to them.

A similar story emerges in the US, with respondents more likely to be analysts or consumers of people data. In other words, few HR professional own the process of generating people data – so likely work with other functions to gather this data. For the majority of UK, Ireland and US professionals, it seems that analysing people data is often an ad-hoc activity in response to requests for data, or at set times for reporting, rather than business as usual.

But generally, UK and Ireland and US professionals trust the data they receive

Positively, those that use people data tend to trust the predictions it makes, with only 2 in 10 business non-HR professionals in the UK, Ireland and the US suggesting their workforce data is too good to be true, therefore untrustworthy (19% and 20% respectively). A further 4 in 10 professionals agreed that HR and data analytics aided their decision making, highlighting that many are gaining value from people data, but more can be done to ensure this data is actively used to tackle business issues.

Interestingly, non-HR professionals in other regions – namely MENA and SE Asia – were more likely to think people data predictions are too good to be true, despite reporting that they gain more value from analytics overall.

To get the most from people data, confidence, capability and value must increase

Confidence and capability in conducting people analytics also tends to be lower in the UK and Ireland and US comparatively to MENA and SE Asia. This is especially apparent when it comes to more advanced forms of analytics. That being said, over 7 in 10 UK and US HR professionals are confident in using basic data analysis (71% and 76% respectively) – a similar level of confidence to MENA and SE Asia. Far fewer professionals use this in daily practice however (for example, 4 in 10 UK HR professionals always or often use basic techniques). Tapping into this confidence, and encouraging use of even basic analytics can only boost the way organisations use people data.

Finally, more can be done to both prove, and improve, the value of people analytics in the UK and Ireland and the US. Simply making use of data is part of this, but with people data critical for evidence-based decision making and HR practice, HR and business leaders need to prioritise people data as a business as usual activity, and champion the importance of people analytics for better business outcomes.

Find out more on how professionals globally are using people data to understand risk and prepare for the future of work in our international focus reports here.

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