Being HR in 2021 isn’t easy and requires dealing with a full hand of challenges: from retaining your top talents and predicting employees’ success before you even hire them to planning your workforce years ahead. If you’re poring over your HR forecast, striving to supply your company with the right talents and ensure they will lead to desired goals, here’s your ‘magic fairy dust’ advice: guess less and go for data instead.
Data is the heartbeat of workforce intelligence. Which, in turn, equips you with a clear picture of your employees and their skill set, work environment, productivity, retention, and hence, helps you stay ahead of workforce planning challenges.
Let’s walk through specific challenges workforce intelligence helps to address, as well as look closer at a few notable examples how HRs like yourself tackled the workforce challenges by leveraging the data and insights. But first, a brief recap:
What is workforce intelligence?
Basically, it’s intelligence on employee data, behavior, and patterns that can take one of three forms.
- Structured employee data. It may include an employee’s age, nationality or gender, attendance records, or employment length. Since it conforms to a particular format, it can be read by machines.
- Semi-structured data. It’s, for instance, employee engagement survey results. This data still falls under a specific format but includes variable human input and hence requires more complicated machine learning algorithms to translate data into comprehensive data sets.
- Unstructured (or qualitative) data. It includes more variable and uses qualitative factors to measure employee activity, loyalty, or motivation. An example of unstructured data is informal employee’s feedback on their work or desirable professional growth within the company. This employee data is the hardest to be standardized and analyzed but is still manageable with machine learning.
Coupled with advanced analytics and visualization, workforce intelligence enables HR to discover actionable recommendations on people management and answer essential HR questions like:
- Are top-performing employees disengaged from your organization?
- Is your recruitment team targeting the right candidates?
- Does your employee development plan include scenarios for unforeseen factors?
Besides, workforce intelligence arms you with insights that help you align your HR matters to business goals and needs and plan the workforce several steps ahead.
4 challenges workforce intelligence helps to deal with
By leveraging workforce intelligence, you can:
- Improve workforce planning and forecast its demand
- Increase employee engagement
- Mitigate attrition risk and retain top talents
- Optimize recruitment
Let’s take a closer look at each challenge you can tackle and overview notable use cases how other companies embraced them.
1. Improving workforce planning
In a dynamic business environment, workforce demand keeps stretching and contracting like a muscle. Among other industries, hospitality, traveling, and restaurant businesses have especially felt how their workforce needs were changing in-between the lockdown iterations.
COVID-19, Brexit, and alike unforeseen events show us how essential it is to understand which business drivers impact your future demand and supply. “A danger foreseen is half avoided,” as they say. With workforce intelligence at hand, you can be prepared for the future challenges with possible scenarios of those challenges and measures your company should embrace. Hence, you can optimize your existing workforce capacity to meet the company’s future goals, detect surpluses and shortages of skills, and increase the accuracy of predicted revenue and talent demand.
Here’s how Merck Group, a German multinational science and technology company, counting over 58K employees and present in 66 countries, makes informed strategic workforce planning decisions based on workforce intelligence insights.
The company was looking to get a comprehensive overview of future workforce insights in their industry to blaze a trail. They wanted to know:
- How do new technologies and trends influence the way work will be done in the future?
- What are possible future operating models for selected business areas?
- Which critical roles and skills are becoming more relevant in the defined units, which ones are becoming less relevant?
Insights Merck Group has got along with adopting workforce intelligence, powered them up with knowledge of the current and future labor market’s skills and job demands. In turn, this knowledge helped them translate the insights into strategic and operational recommendations, and come up with a new workstyle, address skill gaps, and create workforce implementation plans.
2. Increasing employee engagement
This is another challenge you can tackle with workforce intelligence. Remember we mentioned unstructured employee data earlier? Employee engagement is one of the examples of this data type.
Since engagement relates to ‘finer things,’ it might be challenging to measure it precisely. A while ago, we shared a list of key employee engagement metrics and how to measure them. In most cases (e.g. measuring resilience, NPS or engagement rate), you’ll get variable responses from your employees. However, with the right technology, you can process these responses and get recommendations on how to increase engagement for concrete employees.
A widely cited example of shoe retailer Clarks is a great illustration of improving employee engagement using workforce intelligence. The Clarks team explored dependency between engagement and financial performance. They analyzed the employees of 100 top-performing stores and found that there was a correlation between the optimal team size + time the same store manager was working with the same team and the financial performance they deliver.
With these insights, Clarks could create a blueprint for high-performing stores as well as an engagement toolkit that managers can use to improve performance.
3. Mitigating attrition risk and retain top talents
Along with insights into better employee engagement, workforce intelligence helps you detect and monitor detractors and key employees (or the whole clusters of those) who are at risk of leaving the company.
Based on these insights, you can make informed workforce decisions towards retaining top talents and decreasing attrition, and in turn – you’ll mitigate financial oversight for your organization.
The leading automotive manufacturing company Continental leveraged data to reduce the attrition ratio in their workplace in Mexico. By using workforce intelligence, Continental analyzed unstructured exit interviews and could translate them into valuable insights. They also grouped their employees into clusters and thus could better detect attrition drivers behind voluntary and forced attrition for each of them.
As the next step, the team derived location-specific measures tailored to each employee cluster and got a better understanding of different types of their employees.
4. Optimizing recruitment
One more aspect where you can benefit from workforce intelligence is recruitment. With smart data in place, you can shorten recruiting cycle, reduce expenses related to it, and eliminate handi- and guesswork work for your recruiting team, letting them focus only on the best candidates. Climbing a step higher, you can design your future workforce architecture, making recruitment efforts an integral part of strategical workforce planning. Insights you get will allow you to forecast future challenges and thus simulate workforce changes – as well as recruiting targets.
This is exactly what CMS, a leading law firm represented in 43 countries, strived to do: determine required recruiting targets to monitor the change. Armed with workforce intelligence, CMS explored:
- How the workforce architecture needs to modify to match the changing market environment
- How it can be improved to increase profitability
- The most critical areas and elements of the talent-management for future business success
- The ways to monitor the transformation of the workforce
As a result, CMS received scenarios of how to transform their workforce, could spot the gaps based on future workforce demand, and hence optimized their recruitment efforts.
Pro-tips: Get the maximum value from workforce intelligence
Data is gold. To make the most out of it, it’s essential to work with data smartly. Here are a few things to consider when you decide to go for workforce intelligence.
Focus only on the data you need. Instead of trying to analyze all the employee data you collect, save your resources and put them into certain data crucial to driving decision-making within your specific challenge.
Get the right people and technology. Digital literacy heads the list of top skills of the future, plus working with analytics requires a whole range of skills and solutions. Make sure you’ve staffed your workforce intelligence team with people having strong analytics capabilities and powered them up with the right tools.
Embed data-driven approach into the organization culture. Event when implementing workforce intelligence starts as a stand-alone project focused on a single aspect you need to address asap; it gradually grows into a continuously improving process. To make it truly improving, regularly monitor the data and insights, learn from experience, and iterate.
As employee data keeps continually increasing, there’s no other way to evolve than to leverage its full potential with workforce intelligence. If you’re exploring technologies that can help you set your organization up for future challenges, predict workforce demand, reduce recruitment costs, and make informed decisions for people management, see how smartPlan can help you. Book a demo to see available opportunities and to find out how we can customize them for your needs.