In my conversations with HR executives, I often hear the same issue raised: Their talented team of HR professionals aren’t data scientists, and probably never will be, yet they really need to be today. For HR to deliver more value in today’s digital enterprises, they must be using data to make faster, more informed, and more strategic decisions.

The funny thing is, in most cases, HR staff already has all the data they need, lots of it. They just don’t know how to turn it into insights when they need them most – in the course of their day-to-day work. In recent years, organizations have made vast improvements in collecting and managing their data, including HR and people data. But most of it is stored in silos, making it almost impossible to provide the holistic view of how the organization is doing and what actions to take in the future to realize business goals.

And without these insights, they are back to making countless decisions based on gut instinct, intuition, and habit. This can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes not just for the business, but for employees as well. For example, an HR professional may assume the best recruits come from employee referrals, which may not be true, or falsely assume that industry experience is a key factor in hiring successful salespeople.

There’s a sign I have that captures the gist of this problem very well. It reads, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, what the heck happened?” When people make decisions based on the insights they’ve gleaned off the surface of things and the habits they’ve developed over the years, they are making decisions based on their intuition, not the hard evidence data can provide. Their insights and habits form the edges of the mirror, constraining their view and limiting their insight to only what they can see in front of them: themselves, their knowledge, and their gut instinct. When their decisions don’t yield what they expected, they say, “What the heck happened?” Even the outcomes can be hard for them to explain.

HR analytics vastly expand what HR professionals can see and understand. In fact, with the right solutions, they can even get 360-degree views of their workforce, departments, teams, individual employees and contractors, and more. When built-for-purpose HR algorithms crunch all this data, the constraints of the mirror’s edges are gone. HR staff and executives can see and understand things that their natural mind and eyes would never be able to discern. They can make data-driven, unbiased decisions by looking at metrics, running scenarios, and predicting expected outcomes. And this empowers them to be more effective, unbiased, and strategic decision-makers who are not only more effective HR professionals, but better strategic advisors to the business. For example, they can:

  • Identify the promotion rate of minority employees at different levels.
  • Monitor employee engagement to see if it increased or decreased in the last 12 months, six months, or three months.

The challenge, however, is making it easy for HR professionals to access and consume HR analytics – without having to bother IT for custom reports, data models, and other costly resource- and time-intensive requests. They need analytics at their fingertips, all the time.

At SAP, we work to solve this with the SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics solution. SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics connects your people, data, and ideas from multiple sources to help enable fast and confident decision-making. It allows users to discover, visualize, plan, and predict, all in one place. And it works to democratize analytics so that anyone – even nontechnical HR professionals – can access and use it with ease, every day.

SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics helps you gain the insights you need to lead your workforce, accelerate change, and drive results with:

  • Standardized HR metrics: Take advantage of an extensive catalog of more than 2,000 pre-delivered HR and talent metrics. Each metric is described in terms HR professionals understand so they can interpret outputs with ease and make faster decisions.
  • Data trending: Track trends through time and across different periods, such as annual, quarterly, monthly, and seasonal time models.
  • Actionable analytics: Answer key questions about your workforce and spot risks and opportunities rapidly with visual, interactive HR analytics.
  • Integrated data foundation: Integrate data from multiple systems to create a solid data foundation and rely on SAP software to help manage data quality.

I invite you to explore the “100 Critical People Analytics Questions: How Well Do You Really Know Your Workforce?” whitepaper, which includes a series of questions designed to help you and your organization understand HR metrics and help you make decisions that will support your executive strategy, drive revenues, manage costs, and mitigate human capital and business risks. This document provides helpful tips to avoid one of the biggest risks in deploying a workforce metrics capability: “information overload.”

Find more information on this topic on the SAP SuccessFactors Workforce Analytics area of sap.com.