Beware of data overload, HR leader warns

'Reports cannot be too frequent that they become a burden to look at'

Beware of data overload, HR leader warns

For HR leaders launching into people analytics, the deluge of data can be overwhelming. Where does one begin – and how does one incorporate data into strategy?

HRD spoke with Stéphane Michaud, senior director at Human Link Asia, Mitsubishi’s HR services arm, on the science of collecting and analyzing data.

Michaud, a panelist at HR Tech Summit Singapore in April, follows a back-to-basics approach. His advice: build your data from the ground up.

“One of the things that is often forgotten is that you have to start from the base. What questions do you want answered? What business challenges are you facing?” he said.

Identifying workforce challenges early on will help HR leaders prioritize the data sets to build and analytics tools to deploy: “What data and tools will help you answer these questions?”

HR analytics teams, Michaud said, often start “backwards looking for the nail to hit.” In other words, launching into high-level strategy, looking for a solution without first knowing the actual problem.

“The right approach is evidence-based and scientific,” he said, “start from knowing where you want to go, what you need to measure to get there, and how you are going to monitor that regularly in a cost-effective way.”

Data and strategy
The analytics expert recommends looking closely at correlations, comparing data sets and events.

A perfect example is in measuring employee engagement. “We oftentimes use engagement surveys just to report observations and report what the data is,” Michaud said.

“If you look at engagement survey results, you might see pay is [ranked] the lowest [among employee motivators] so you’ll think, ‘We need to change pay.’”

“But when you look at the correlations with engagement, it’s not even in the top three. So, it’s not pay that will influence engagement so much. There are other things, like career development, career advancement, these types of things.”

Michaud relies on evidence in decision-making: “I’ve used data to come up with predictive models as to what would influence engagement best.”

But, amid everyone's obsession with big data – of wanting to measure everything – Michaud also warns against data overload.

“To me, reports cannot be too frequent that they become a burden to look at,” he said. “You need your reports when you’re ready to make decisions.”

“If you’re ready to make decisions on a quarterly basis, then a quarterly report is just fine. You don’t want to report on every single thing. You need to report on the key questions that will allow you to make decisions.”

Michaud defines the analytics practice succinctly, a nod to his own agile, no-nonsense work ethic.

“With data analytics,” he said, “we need to ask the right questions, get the right data, and cut to the chase.”

Catch Stéphane Michaud and other industry leaders at HR Tech Summit Singapore on 4 April. Book tickets at

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