When a UK local authority agreed to a People Analytics role, did it really know what that entailed?
“People Analytics, what is that?” – was the stock question I received when the local authority I work for took the plunge and let me loose in delivering metrics and analytics, away from the standard reporting management information function.
At a time when the UK local authorities are having their budgets reduced significantly year on year, it is crucial for Councils to improve their metrics and actually utilise them as part of their core decision making processes. For those who have never worked in the public sector, you will be surprised to learn that People Analytics is still in its infancy. In a lot of other local authorities, the traditional model of maintaining strategic and operational management information together still exists and there does not appear to be the appetite for separating the two aspects. But as austerity measures bite, the number of staff to perform management information activities has dwindled.
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Local authorities are subjected to various mandatory surveys, questionnaires, Freedom of Information requests and internal requests for ad-hoc data. As a result, the officers responsible in the traditional model, never find the time to actually work out what People Analytics is, and how it can be implemented in order for operational workloads to be reduced.
My employer took the decision to separate operational and strategic data analysis, during a time of restructure. This was aided by having senior management who understood the value of utilising People Analytics in driving forward the Council and therefore, the value of my role as People Analytics Advisor.
Let me explain a little about myself first and what I have managed to implement since June 2016, when my role was created. I have worked for the same local authority for 11 years. During that time I have always worked with people data, but in a reactive position. More than a year ago I began to see much stronger signs from various sources that proactive, predictive people analytics were becoming much more at the forefront of data analysis. Looking at what people and organisations can achieve with the data that we already gather. This helped to build the business case to create the role.
Talking of help, the online HR/People Analytics communities have been an amazing resource of knowledge, help and inspiration. I’m no data scientist but comfortable with statistics and using MS Excel/Access. Since June I have been gaining knowledge and experience in R, data linkage software and the excellent online courses that are freely available.
So what has been happening since June? There have been some quick wins to gain momentum and also trust amongst senior management. These quick wins ranged from metrics been developed for certain teams that require new performance indicators, to help them move forward and plan better. With certain managers it has been supporting on workforce planning. For the first time they have access to transformational data analysis on their workforce. Having access to this kind of data, gives managers both insights and confidence, that certain key decisions have been made using sound data as evidence.
There has been a lot of talk from communities about HR/People Analytics needing to be very close to Finance. I agree that there should be significant collaboration with finance, particularly the need to source accurate data and figures, and to work with senior management to support their business planning process. Equally important is to work with middle management on improvements in their service areas, allowing upward feedback to highlight the quick wins and opportunities that People Analytics can provide.
After watching Maia Josebachvili’s excellent presentation on her Employee lifecycle Curve, I have been looking at various cost/performance models that could help the Council’s managers see a return on investment for various occupational types. Even though the Council is in austere times, there are still roles/positions that need to be filled. We are looking at current recruitment and leavers’ data. This will help to design curves for managers to assess what is a good investment. For example, do we pursue internal recruitment and keep the return on investment high, or recruit a new external candidate in the hope that their ramp of performance outstrips predictions.
We are developing a metrics dashboard for managers to receive more up to date information about their service area. This will contain HR, Payroll, Finance, Performance and Health & Safety data that is easily viewed through certain graphs.
Certainly, so far along this short journey a lot has been learnt. However, there is far more to learn on the People Analytics journey, to see how it could help my local authority become the modern, flexible and resilient Council it wants to be, by 2019.