Opportunity to lift productivity and performance lies with HR

by Elizabeth Barnard18 Jul 2012

Better integration of ‘big data’ in understanding the workforce is a key to unlocking increased productivity and performance, a leading HR software expert has said.

Currently, many large organisations and government departments have only an aggregate understanding of attrition rates throughout the workforce – the problem in this thinking is that looking at voluntary turnover rates across an entire firm locks out looking at improving churn rates in specific sectors or the business. Peter Howes, vice president of SAP’s cloud arm SuccessFactors, told ITwire that aggregate information about workforces ranges from useless to dangerous.

Howes said while many organisations could benefit from integrating more in-depth processes for understanding the trends of their workforce, there are few HR professionals who currently have the data analysis skills to roll out such processes. “The really big constraint is that HR practitioners don’t have the capability to interpret this information,” he said. Many in HR are relying on simple spreadsheets, and Howes suggested only about one in 10 organisations had made much progress in terms of introducing business analytics to HR functions.

For organisations which take the plunge, and either expand their HR departments or up-skill existing professionals, significant benefits await. “There are a lot of big wins – you can find out things about your workforce that you did not know,” Howes said.

Howes added that the best analysis of HR issues came when companies meshed their hard HR data with the softer sort of information found in employee surveys and engagement scores. In acknowledging that developing comprehensive HR analytics is a time consuming project, and could take up to five years to implement fully, most enterprises would get a positive return on investment in just one year, Howes said.

Research by Deloitte recently found that 84% of Australian companies have either already begun transforming, or plan to transform their HR functions towards cloud computing, and the reason couldn’t be more straightforward: cost-cutting.

Organisations that already have, or will be, implementing cloud technologies cited their chief motivators as:

  • No licensing fees
  • No additional infrastructure required
  • Maintenance is automatically carried out by the provider
  • Minimal training, most use a web 2.0 style interface
  • HR can connect to all the facilities online, anywhere in the world
  • Free trial periods. Unlike traditional software licensing models where there are ongoing fees and annual maintenance costs, using a cloud means a company can move on without any strings attached.


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(written by Peter Howes) Making talent metrics count

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