Most (90 percent) HR practitioners see a chance to be more strategic, but half (49 percent) don’t know how to get started. Our advice? Let your people data lead the way. Your data can be turned into valuable insights that position you as a strategic partner to your leadership team and help you get a seat at the table. 

Here are 4 ways you can make more strategic decisions with your people data:

1. Get ahead of employee retention

Turnover is expensive. From the cost of backfilling the position, to the cost of vacancy and lost productivity, it’s worth investing in employee retention. Your people data can help.

Track employee turnover monthly, and watch for signals that you need to step in and make changes. Drill down to turnover by manager and department, as well as 90-day and first-year attrition. This can help you get to the root cause of turnover faster, and address it better. For instance, a high 90-day turnover rate may require better employee onboarding, while a manager with high turnover may need some training.

Ask departing employees to complete an exit survey to understand the reasons they’re leaving. It’s also helpful to supplement that data with feedback from employer review sites like Glassdoor. Watch for trends, especially across departments, managers, and demographics. If employees from a specific department are leaving for career progression elsewhere, for example, you may need to spend more time on career pathing and development.

2. Boost employee engagement

Low employee engagement can lead your top performers to leave, while driving others to simply do the bare minimum. On the other hand, engaged employees are committed to their work, will go above and beyond, and will stay at your company longer. Investing in engagement is a no-brainer, and people data can show you where to make improvements.

Surveys are a great source of this data, from regular Pulse surveys and less frequent, but longer, employee engagement surveys. Drill down to see how engagement differs by ethnicity, gender, manager, and department to see if you spot any trends. You may also gather more qualitative data from conversations with employees and managers, or employer review sites. For instance, if you learn that women have overall lower engagement levels, zoom in on their engagement survey answers to see where they’re dissatisfied. Then sync up with your women’s employee resource group to hold a discussion around ways to improve. 

You may want to take this a step further to connect the dots between engagement and other behaviors and attributes. For example:

  • Do employees who don’t take vacation time have lower engagement? Encourage people to take time off and recharge.
  • Do employees who receive frequent feedback have higher engagement? Build a culture of recognition, and encourage managers to provide feedback often.
  • Do remote employees have higher or lower engagement than their colleagues in the office? Consider a remote-friendly or remote-first work environment to even out the employee experience.

3. Improve diversity, equity, and inclusion

A diverse team can be a competitive advantage. Companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams  are 36 percent more likely to experience above-average profitability than those with the least diverse teams. And, companies with diverse management teams report innovation revenue 19 percentage points higher than their less diverse counterparts. Building a diverse, inclusive company isn’t just the right thing to do, it is a strategic improvement.

Your people data can help you drive more diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here are some examples:

  • Monitor company demographics. Look at representation among demographic groups at the company-level, at the department-level, and at each career level. Find the gaps and take steps to correct them. For example, mentoring and sponsoring people from underrepresented groups can contribute to a more diverse leadership team.
  • Track your turnover rate by demographic. Pair your turnover data with demographic data to determine if some groups have higher turnover rates than others. If so, find out why through conversations and surveys. Don’t forget about intersectionality. The way a White woman experiences the workplace can differ from the way a Black woman experiences the workplace. 
  • Monitor employee engagement by gender and ethnicity. Pairing employee engagement data with your demographic data may also identify gaps in engagement by group. 
  • Run a pay equity analysis. Black, Native American, and Latinx women earn 25 percent less than White men. A pay equity analysis may identify a potential uncontrolled wage gap, in which people from underrepresented groups largely occupy low-paying roles. Or, it may identify a controlled wage gap in which colleagues are paid differently, even with the same roles, qualifications, and tenure.
  • Find holes in your recruitment pipeline. Review your recruitment process to see if there are places people from underrepresented groups are falling out. Gendered job descriptions may hold women back from applying, or your resume screening process may cause people from ethnic minorities to be screened out. Identifying these holes can help you take the appropriate steps to build and maintain a diverse pipeline.

4. Optimize your recruitment process

Your people data can help you build a more efficient recruitment process. Begin by taking a look at your top performers, and determine what they have in common:

  • Where were they sourced? For example, were they an employee referral, did they come from a recruiting agency, or were they proactively sourced by someone on your People team? Double down on your best recruiting channels. It can also be helpful to dig into candidate source by role, as it may differ.
  • What type of companies did they work at in the past? Do your top performers come from large or small companies? Have they worked at nonprofits or for-profit companies? Do they come from companies in your industry, or from other industries? Do they come from local, national, or multinational companies? Knowing this information can help you better target your ideal candidates. 
  • What kind of education do they have? Did your top performers attend a specific school or bootcamp? Do they have degrees and, if so, in what? A partnership with a local high school, college, or bootcamp may help you build a strong talent pipeline.
  • What are their hobbies? Hobbies can be an interesting way to spot personality traits that may lead to higher success. Perhaps your best customer success reps are into yoga and meditation. Or your highest-performing salespeople were on the speech and debate team in school. Knowing this can help you target others with similar interests.

Also take note of what your top performers don’t have in common. For instance, if they have a wide variety of educational backgrounds, maybe it’s time to remove education requirements from your job descriptions. Or if they’ve worked a wide variety of companies, that diversity may be the secret to your team’s success. 

Then dig into data around your time to fill, cost per hire, and average tenure to look for patterns. For instance, if one department or role tends to have higher turnover, you may want to build redundancies into your hiring plan to account for that. Or, if you need to hire quickly for a mission-critical role, it helps if you already know that a certain agency or job board is likely to have the talent you need.

Final thoughts on getting the most from your people data

Data is a powerful tool that allows you to make more informed decisions around many aspects of your workforce. Decide what’s important to you, track the relevant data, and analyze it regularly. This will allow you to build a more strategic People function.


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4 Ways to Leverage People Data to be More Strategic