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The Essential Steps You Need to Follow When Analysing HR Data

November 23, 2021 No Comments

Featured article by Paul Bauer


To create truly effective and long-term workforce strategies, you need to have a good volume of HR data to work with and guide your reasoning.

If you’re an established large company employing, say, more than 500 or so staff, you’ve likely got stacks of HR data to work with – which is great! But here’s the thing: simply collecting data is not enough when it comes to getting the best from your workforce; you need to know how to make sense of that data to make a positive impact on your organisation – and this is where many HR teams can find things tough going.

Trying to find out what may be affecting your workforce using large volumes of complex data can cause already-stretched hard-working HR teams a real headache. The main issue is bringing so much information in from several different places – especially if your business is a large organisation with many sites or departments.

Acquiring, sanitising, merging, and effectively analysing data from multiple sources – as well as from multiple business functions – is not only logistically challenging, it’s only half the job…

So, what are the steps you must take to make sense of your HR data, and conduct your analysis effectively?

Step 1: Collect your data

Whilst this part will be labour-intensive, it’s also possibly the easiest part of the process; as HR departments by their very nature collect all kinds of vital info on your workforce every day!

Every time you register a sick day, authorise a holiday or receive a new job application on your company’s HR system, you’re gathering relevant and useful HR information that can help you start to identify the all-important patterns in your workforce data that can then lead you to work out the causations behind them.

And don’t forget the more data you have, the better!

Step 2: Organise your data

When you’re collecting your company’s HR data, being organised is essential. Think about how your data will be stored and how you’ll make it easy to read and analyse: ideally, avoid paper printouts (not particularly efficient!) and stick to one method of collection and storage, too.

If you have an intuitive HR system that has powerful analytic tools, this should make the whole process of data collation and analysis a lot easier and quicker over the course of the process.

Step 3: Learn to understand what your HR data is saying about your workforce

This is where things can start to get trickier as learning to understand what your HR data is really telling you can be tough – especially if you must do it manually! However, this step cannot be underestimated.

Analysing your data is critical to supporting workforce strategies because it can help you to recognise where problems might be festering within your workforce. For example, let’s imagine that your data is suggesting there are higher rates of staff absence amongst one department compared to others in your organisation.

If your HR system has advanced analytic tools, you could take a deep dive into your data to see if you can uncover not only patterns behind the absences but also use that information to guide and support the strategy or intervention you feel is appropriate to resolve it.

Step 4: Explore all possibilities

Good analysis is all about using hard information to support all the possible reasons behind your data results and removing inaccurate assumptions. Let’s take the example earlier – your company’s data is indicating a higher rate of absence in a specific department. Your data won’t tell you the actual causes, but it will allow you to look at specific patterns that could indicate the causality.

For instance, your HR data might show that your employees in the affected department generally have very good attendance records; but the reason for the higher rates of absence compared to the rest of your business is because just 5% of that department are taking huge amounts of time off sick – which is skewing the overall top-line figure. It’s all about drilling down into the data itself to investigate thoroughly.

The more you drill down into your data, the better your understanding of the problem will become. Are the 5% doing the same job role? Are they friends? Has their time off coincided with a change in personnel? How does your data compare with industry averages? These are all valid questions you should be asking, as the answers can help shape your strategy to resolve it.

Step 5: Make the data easy to visualise and easy for others to instantly understand

Once you’re able to spot and visualise any patterns and trends in your workforce data, you can start to use that information to make more accurate decisions. However, remember that outside of HR, key stakeholders within your business may not be good with hardcore data, facts and figures: so, make your data analysis easy to visualise and easy to understand to get that crucial stakeholder buy-in to support any strategies you propose.

Step 6: Develop a strategy to combat the problem using your data

Now you’ve been able to visualise the patterns and trends in your data, you can now start thinking about what strategies you can implement to resolve them. This is the part where you’ll need to implement some critical thinking based on the data and evidence you’ve found.

In the example we’ve used, let’s say you’ve run your data through a Bradford Factor calculator already, and it’s suggested that these are not problem patterns – they’re legitimate instances of illness. How can you prevent these illnesses from continuing to cause high rates of absence? Start by thinking about what you ultimately want to achieve. Then, look for expert advice and best practice solutions in the area you’re trying to improve. Lastly, decide on a strategy to implement, and then hit the metaphorical ‘Go’ button with your strategy!

Step 7: Don’t stop!

Once you’ve implemented your chosen strategy, continue to analyse your HR data to see what effects it has on the problem you’ve identified. This part will take some time to achieve and ideally, you should collect data for the same length of time as you initially analysed. This will give you a true indication as to whether your actions have had the desired effect, or you need to look at amending or changing your strategy.

Whilst the results of strategies can be difficult to forecast, by analysing your data correctly in the first instance, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s really going on in your workforce, and will have the hard facts to guide your decision making, too – rather than just more predictions or conjecture.

Paul Bauer Pic

About the Author

Hailing from the new city of Milton Keynes, Paul has been forging a successful career in marketing for over 15 years, working across the technology, employee benefits and professional services sectors.

In 2021, Paul joined Cezanne HR – the UK’s leading Cloud HR software provider – as their new Head of Content.

A keen writer and digital marketer, Paul has won several industry-based awards and achieved demonstrable successes in helping businesses engage with both their customers and own employees in meaningful, measurable ways.

Alongside his love of writing, Paul is a keen DJ and can often be found creating new music mixes and soundscapes, all from the comfort of his home office.

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