Predictive analytics: How to handle the data and results

Posted on July 1, 2014 by Patrick Riley.

Predictive analytics is the practice of using information from big data to find patterns that can help organizations make more strategic business predictions — including in human resources.

Companies that use people analytics to drive business decisions are often overwhelmed by the possibilities. Setting goals is an important part of managing the process, but there are other best practices to keep in mind as well.

Get the information to the right people. As with any business information, not everything needs to be broadcast to everyone. Identifying who needs to see the data, who will make decisions about it, and who will carry out those decisions is a vitally important part of putting together an analytics plan.

For example, Select Comfort identified its human capital team as the group that will be working with the company’s people analytics results, says Alixandra Colehour, vice president of human resources at Select Comfort. “They are expected to know it and understand it,” she says. “Ideally, they’ll be informing and anticipating trends we might not see otherwise.”

Get the right information to people in a way they can understand. People analytics can be overwhelming. The sheer amounts of data can make it difficult to grasp what is possible, so finding a software partner who can provide clear and understandable results is vital. “We’re engaging the broader organization, delivering information that’s simple and intuitive and easy,” Colehour says. “Otherwise, if you just overwhelm them with data, they won’t be interested.”

Asking clear questions and setting workable hypotheses helps, Colehour says. “Are there leadership essentials? Do the people who have those core traits manage more engaged employees? We don’t make assumptions, and there may be surprises, or there might not be a story there — that’s the exciting part.”

Store the data. Your HRIS may hold a lot of the structured data you have, but what should you do with unstructured data? “There’s ubiquitous almost-free storage,” says Bill McKinney, vice president of talent and long-term strategy at Thrivent Financial. “When you think about vacuuming up tons of data, you have to think of where to put it.” The difference, McKinney says, is that the unstructured data you “vacuum” up doesn’t have to be stored for long if you don’t want it. It’s possible to rent storage for a very short period of time while you analyze the data, then discard it when you’re finished.

People analytics are successful only if you act on the insights you gain. But the results can be amazing.

If you’re interested in learning more about people analytics, download our new white paper, How to Harness the Power of Predictive Analytics.

Modern Survey measures workforce intensity — that fire in your company’s belly that makes all things possible. Our human-capital measurement software combines feedback, benchmarks and data from enterprise systems to elucidate the correlation between employee performance and company success. We analyze the stuff your talent-management system can’t so that you know what to do next.

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