Driving Forces Behind People Analytics; Leveraging People Data within Organizations; Future of Data-driven Talent Practices; Turning Data into Insights

People analytics is becoming an increasingly popular tool for organizations to analyze their workforce, providing data driven solutions for engagement, productivity, development, and more… We asked our Head of Business Analytics, Joe Mato, to share with us his thoughts on the future of data-driven practices, leveraging people data within organizations, and his advice on turning data into insights.

This is quickly becoming a top priority for HR and business leaders, what forces are driving this growth?

People data, to me, often feels like one of the last remaining under-leveraged resources in a business that we can derive value from (not to say it’s the only one) – only 9% of organizations report they are confident they understand what drives talent performance within their organizations and even less feel they have usable data (Deloitte 2017). People data is not far from the analytical efforts made in Finance or Supply Chain in the past. The goal being to control as much of the business stream as possible in order to mitigate risk and gain a competitive advantage. Employee costs are generally the largest line item for an organization, so it makes sense that we see a large return on investment in people, with the right efforts.

A competitive global talent market is one of the largest driving forces, in my opinion. The demand for specific skill sets in the digital age is pushing companies to be more creative with how they find, engage, and retain talent. Essentially, there are not enough qualified people in the global workforce to support the needs of many companies today. That gap will slowly close as educational opportunities grow to support the new type of work in today’s world, but it is a slow progression and we are constantly chasing new technology. As tools become more sophisticated and user-friendly, it becomes easier for organizations to start using their data to get in the game.

In terms of managing an organization’s workforce, having at least a basic understanding of the characteristics of your team is a starting point. This understanding plays a large part in diversity and inclusion efforts, which are another driving factor today. Engaging employees with different perspectives, such as multiple generations, within the same workforce is a challenge. Knowing who you have and what their needs are will continue to be essential in providing the best work environment possible to support performance.

From a bottom line perspective, it makes more sense for a company to invest in finding a great candidate and then retaining and developing them as an employee. Well-maintained data and objectives can be part of the foundation of understanding and supporting your workforce.

What is the significance of people data, and how can it help organizations lead and manage their people?

Over 80% of executives view people analytics as important and more than 70% are actively integrating data to aid in decision-making (Deloitte). Data related to people in an organization can provide very powerful, actionable insights for leadership. For example, from a Talent Acquisition perspective, data can be leveraged to help seek out not only the most experienced or acclaimed candidate from a resume perspective, but also help apply judgement on how the person may or may not fit into a company’s culture based on their past experiences. In an example such as this, data may help you understand where to prioritize your recruiting efforts for longer term success with an employee.

From a workforce management perspective, people data can help provide vision to strengths and vulnerabilities. For example, identify high performing or high potential employees who you may want to focus development and engagement plans on in order to retain that level of talent. It can provide insights into vulnerabilities such as attrition in critical roles or with key employees. Companies can also audit their internal skill set versus what is currently needed or will be needed in the future. Considering that 40% of the variance between high-performing and low-performing companies is linked to the development of leaders and workforce management (Deloitte), identifying these opportunities can help get ahead of the curve in a battle for talent.

What do you think the shift towards data driven practices will mean for the world of work?

I think utilizing people data provides a benefit for both the employee and the company. For the employee, maintaining your talent information and your digital presence can help highlight you as an individual, even in a large workforce. It can be a lead to opportunities that may have been missed before. From an organization’s perspective people data helps provide focus in your talent practices. Being able to quantify and qualify the characteristics of your workforce can give you a better understanding of strengths to leverage and risks to mitigate. In a world where diversity and inclusion are showing more and more value, and employees want more flexibility and individuality, getting to know your workforce is the first step in taking meaningful action to support it.

People data/analytics is one part of the equation, but what is your advice for turning data into insights?

Most analytics enthusiasts will tell you to start with a question that the business wants to answer. I would suggest getting as much context around why leaders are interested in that question as you can. Ask questions to test that what a leader thinks they want is actually what will support their decision making. Being a consultant is often a big part of analytics. There can be a lot of data related to employees in an organization and sifting through it is a heavy effort in many cases. By having an understanding of what the true question is and what type of data is needed to provide insights, it will give you a more focused approach while removing all the extra noise.

Presuming you have the necessary data to provide some relevant insights, remember that your initial result may or may not be accurate to reality. Data integrity is something many companies struggle with, especially when starting down the people analytics path. The last thing you want to do is present something as fact and have it fall flat for a leader. That’s a quick way to lose credibility and hinder your efforts. Sharing and validating your findings with colleagues who work close to the situation is always a best practice. Often times these conversations will be what truly provides the insight and they may lead to more questions, more data, and more analyses.


Audrey McGuckin helps companies focus their energy on what matters most – people. We work with you to map the journey to unleash the collective power of your organization by aligning leaders, culture and people strategies so that you maximize your chances of realizing your goals. Reach out to learn more at audrey@audreymguckin.com or contact us at (727)-793-4236.