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How Data Science Will Change People Ops

by Jen Dewar

Mar 21, 2019

Data-driven HR has been a hot topic for many years, as People teams learn to do more with the challenging talent landscape and limited resources they have at their disposal, through data. But data-driven HR arguably doesn’t go far enough. It simply provides you with answers to the questions you have. Data science, on the other hand, can answer questions you don’t even know you have.

For instance, you may want to know what causes turnover in your organization, so you leverage exit survey data to learn from your departing employees. You may learn that a significant portion of employees say they’re leaving for career advancement elsewhere. But when you utilize data science to dig deeper, you find that most departing employees haven’t received feedback and recognition in over 90 days, and haven’t taken a vacation in over six months. Or, you may find that their stock options are almost fully vested, and that they haven’t received a salary increase that aligns with current market rates. These subtle indicators can tell you a more complete story, but you may not have thought to look for them—or may not have the bandwidth to consider all of the factors related to turnover.

Data science is all about looking at your data from multiple angles to gain gain useful insights from it. A Core HR platform brings this data together, alongside external data, to help you make more informed decisions.

Here are three ways data science will change People Ops:

1. Data Science will help People Ops to strategically advise company leadership

CEOs cited the ability to attract and retain talent, as well as develop the next generation of leaders, as top internal concerns for 2019. Data science can help in each of these areas.

For instance, data science can uncover factors that are most indicative of a high- or low-quality hire, so you can recruit more strategically. Then, it can uncover the factors that make employees more likely to stay, and those that make them more likely to leave. You can use this information to provide strategic recommendations to your leadership team around recruitment and retention initiatives.

Data science can also identify the characteristics of your best leaders, and surface internal candidates who would fit the bill. Through succession planning, career pathing, and employee development, your organization will have strong internal candidates ready to move into key leadership positions as they become available.

These types of foresight are invaluable to company leadership, who will come to view People Ops as a strategic advisor to the organization. As your company grows, you can provide information about whether you’re developing the talent you will need in the future, or will need to buy it. You can also provide important information around attrition, so your leadership team can build realistic headcount plans and growth goals.

2. Data science will empower your hiring managers to engage and retain employees

Managers are experts in their fields, but not necessarily in employee engagement and retention. Data science can provide key insights and recommendations to empower them to build and maintain strong teams.

Managers have a lot on their plates, and may inadvertently neglect the engagement and retention measures uncovered through data science. The right HR technology can help, with nudges and predictive talent alerts to provide managers with trends or warning signs they may not notice on their own.

For example, the manager may receive an alert if one of their employees hasn’t taken any vacation time or received peer recognition in the past 3-6 months. Surfacing these opportunities empowers managers to proactively take action to better engage and retain their team. Employees who don’t feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year, so these gentle reminders can make a significant impact at your organization.

Furthermore, utilizing data science can help managers identify high-potential employees they may have otherwise overlooked for development and promotions. When the most visible and outgoing employees are often the ones who get fast-tracked, data science is a less biased approach that can help identify less visible high performers. This may include employees from underrepresented groups, or remote employees.

3. Data science will help you build a stronger employee experience

When there are 7 million job openings, 6.5 million people unemployed, and a noticeable skill gap, your top employees have many opportunities available to them. Employee experience is crucial for keeping them at your organization.

Data science allows you connect information from your various systems, such as feedback and performance tools, and external data to provide insights to improve your employee experience. For instance, you can marry employee engagement surveys to your performance data to make decisions around promotions. Things like career pathing and employee development have an impact on the employee experience.

Employee experience also feeds back into your employer brand, affecting your ability to attract talent in the future—for better, or for worse. If you’re unconsciously overlooking employees from underrepresented groups for promotions, or if your workplace doesn’t have family-friendly benefits, employees will leave and share their experiences. If you can’t retain your workforce, you can’t expect to easily attract their replacements either.

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Jen Dewar

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in the HR technology space with a focus on developing educational content for HR professionals and recruiters. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, lifelong learning and development, and treating people like people throughout the candidate and employee experiences. Outside of work, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or hanging out at home with her husband and son.