5 min read

Workforce planning, people analytics, and HR reporting: A powerful partnership

Rupert Bader

Senior Director, Workforce Planning

HR goes beyond compliance, compensation, and administration. When HR builds a strong partnership across their capabilities to record data, identify trends, and imagine the future workforce, an organization can make fast decisions, optimize return on investment, and improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction.

There are three major components necessary for organizations to drive an effective HR strategy that achieves business goals: accurate data, easy-to-understand analytics, and agile planning and forecasting processes. By building a strong partnership among these three areas, business leaders can more effectively plan for the short and long term. 

Workforce planning takes the current workforce and describes the number, roles, and distribution (geographically, organizationally, and more) of people needed to achieve specific organizational goals so leaders can make decisions today to deliver on long- and short-term goals. People analytics apply analytical methods (machine learning, statistics, rates, ratios, and others) to historical data from human resources (HR), talent management processes, and employee records and experiences, so leaders can understand what happened and why. HR reporting provides the raw data on people and processes in a consistent, timely, accurate, and complete way. Both HR’s reporting and its ability to pull data from source systems and external benchmarks feed and enrich the people analytics, informing and measuring progress against the plan. This is fundamental to ensuring that plans and forecasts are as up-to-date and accurate as possible. 

Why are planning, analytics, and reporting alignment so important? 

With reporting, it’s easy to get caught spending large amounts of time and resources responding to requests for data without understanding what the questions are or inspiring any meaningful analysis. Without alignment, there’s a severe potential for missed opportunities and lost potential. You can provide many insights and well-designed dashboards, but they might never be used in decisions affecting the future of the workforce and business. Why? It can be as simple as leaders and decision-makers not seeing a clear connection between analytics and organizational goals or workforce dynamics.  

For example, most HR systems can provide consistent headcount and attrition reports. They can provide direct data feeds that a people analytics team can turn into attrition rate dashboards, highlighting the most and least common turnover reasons and revealing if attrition is trending up or down. The dashboards can include comparisons against benchmarks or inform statistical and AI/ML models predicting how attrition could fluctuate over the next 12–15 months. Unfortunately, simply having this intelligence doesn’t guarantee influence on future-changing decisions. To do that, you need to firmly demonstrate a “so what” factor.   

 Workforce planning can provide that factor by unveiling how those attrition trends impact your future workforce size, role, and skills mix and distribution. In turn, this allows leaders to make decisions today to change the future proactively. To leverage this potential, assemble relevant people analytics and reporting outputs into one simple-to-use visual, most commonly a waterfall chart, to show leaders the implications of current and expected attrition and hiring rates.

There are then two critical short-term decisions to make:  

  • What can you do to reduce attrition for top talent and most critical roles? 
  • Do you have enough roles open to replace those choosing to leave?  

The impact of synergy 

Without data and input from people analytics and HR reporting, these decisions are more difficult to make and rely on a leader’s experience and intuition. A dashboard can make all the difference. For instance, you can create a dashboard to show career development, role clarity, or compensation as major reasons for turnover. A dashboard can illustrate a list of veteran employees unable to participate in skills development over the last 12 months. These dashboards together tell a story and provide valuable insight into the individuals that leaders and HR should connect with to re-engage. Pulse surveys can also illuminate areas of dissatisfaction or growing discontent. Based on these dashboards and analyses, HR can prioritize and address issues that lead to a decrease in regrettable attrition. 

The groundwork of future success 

Managing attrition isn’t the only use case in which these three capabilities can come together for improved organizational performance. There are several other critical ways that planning, analytics, and reporting capabilities can work together to improve organizational performance. As offices re-open, we will want to record employees’ choices regarding their preferred work mode:  remote, flex, or in-office, and project forward the expected demand for office space, cost of in-person collaboration tools and travel, and ensure equitable promotion and development decisions. As hiring managers choose to replace departed team members, we will want to ensure that they leverage the internal talent pool and draw from emerging talent programs wherever possible to provide increased development opportunities and reduce the cost of hiring and overall workforce mix. As we search for the best talent in the countries and regions where we work, we want to ensure that our workforce draws equitably from all available talent pools. Over or under-representing populations could impact the ability to connect with customers, innovate, and improve organizational results.  Build-buy-borrow decisions to impact critical skills is another area to improve in the future, along with mitigation of retirement risks and priorities that have yet to be identified. 

Conclusion 

In all that we do together, we want to bring our colleagues and peers across HR, finance, and lines of business into a Connected Planning community with us on this journey. The decisions and actions that can be informed by planning, analytics, and data have to be made by organizational leaders and managers advised by their finance, recruiting, and broader HR teams. This means that we need to create engaging dashboards that can be personalized by leaders, to respond quickly, addressing data integrity or privacy concerns. We want to build skills across the organization that support data-driven people decisions that accelerate progress toward the shared vision and strategy of the organization. 

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