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Not long ago in higher education human resource offices, no one talked about how to leverage HR data to make business decisions. Today, the tide has turned. It seems most meetings and conversations focus on how to use HR data to make business decisions that will advance strategic initiatives or to identify ways to be more agile. Of course, the overarching objectives are to save money and improve employee engagement, retention and recruitment. About a year ago, I was asked to lead a team that would be responsible for establishing a workforce analytics unit at NC State University. As my team and I began our journey, I knew we would be operating in the gray.
"We instituted our HR data strategy almost six months ago. The first thing I did, with support of HR leadership, was outline a two-year plan"
Immediately, I was curious to understand what other higher Ed HR offices were doing with data. I attended a conference comprising HR and information technology employees from hundreds of higher ed institutions. I expected many of the institutions to present different ways to make data-driven decisions in higher education HR offices. To my surprise, of the over 300 sessions listed on the conference agenda, less than a handful addressed data analytics or data-based decision-making. At a time when data is at the center of most HR business discussions, I found the lack of information about HR data initiatives odd. I began networking to determine what others were doing with their HR data. I learned only some of my peers and colleagues were using HR data to steer strategic initiatives or business decisions. Of the institutions that were using data, most had been doing so for no more than a year. When I returned from the conference, I was still a bit surprised there was so much untapped data potential in the industry. I was even more determined to capitalize on the opportunity to establish a workforce analytics unit.
We instituted our HR data strategy almost six months ago. The first thing I did, with support of HR leadership, was outline a two-year plan. Since then, we’ve secured software for data integration and visual analytics. We’ve also met with HR leadership and their teams to begin shifting the culture toward making data-driven decisions. We have also identified metrics and analytical methods that will support our internal balanced scorecard and dashboards. As a part of the cultural shift, we’re promoting data democratization within each HR unit. The goal of data democratization is to remove bottlenecks to obtaining data and to help promote a culture of using data to make better business decisions. I believe the cultural shift will be easier for everyone involved if the HR data is readily available to access and decipher. Moreover, data democratization allows leadership and staff to become invested in establishing a workforce analytics initiative.
As we transition into 2020, my team and I will begin establishing ways to promote the use of HR data to advance business decisions within our colleges and divisions. The last year of implementing the foundational aspects of our workforce analytics strategy has been an exciting and rewarding experience. We look forward to the opportunities and challenges that await.
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