The importance of people analytics

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"Five years ago, data was archived as history. No one followed up or monitored before cases occurred. Today, we can track data to engage with all dimensions, at any time. Indeed, 'data is king'", affirms Dr. Santhipharp Khamsa-Ard, CPO, Ananda.

People analytics has come a long way — from something that was once used as a tool to respond to case-by-case scenarios, to one that now helps HR teams plan for the future of the business.

In this special feature, Priya Sunil speaks to leaders from TH Group Vietnam, ASM, Ananda Development Public Company, Tech Data, and BevChain Logistics, who re-affirm why it's time to hop onto the people analytics train (if you haven't), and the trends they see shaping the analytics game in Asia in the next one to two years.

Why people analytics is more important now than it was five years ago

Tran Thi Quyen, Human Resources Director, TH Group Vietnam

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People analytics is all the more important now than in the past, in my opinion, due to two reasons:

  • Evidence-based management and decision-making have proved to be effective in all business operations. We have always applied it robustly in finance, marketing, and sales, where data analytics unquestionably provides crucial insight for business decisions. Unfortunately, HR practices have not utilised the power of data and analytics, partly due to the fragmented system of information, and partly due to the lack of disciplines in the management of employees’ life cycle data. Now, adopting a 'business mindset' in people management, HR has been fully aware of this treasure to explore for higher efficiency, more effectiveness, and positive impacts on both business and employees.
  • The world of everything today is so dynamic, ever-changing, and getting more complex day by day. Guided by logic and evidence, HR and people managers alike can act faster, gain a competitive advantage, and make strong decisions now for a successful future.

Daniel Kusmanto, Director, Digital & Analytics, ASM

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People analytics has developed in the past five years to be a necessity in the HR department. Business leaders and HR leaders have seen the value of people analytics and they want more out of it. People analytics plays a major part in these trending corporate-wide initiatives with strategic value, such as strategic workforce planning, organisation design, employee experience, inclusion & diversity, and talent intelligence, which are getting adopted by more and more organisations.

Furthermore, with the evolution of work, scarcity of talent, and the Great Resignation wave now in effect, people analytics is even more critical and does serve as a differentiating capability within the organisation.

Dr. Santhipharp Khamsa-Ard PhD, Chief People Officer, Ananda Development Public Company

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Now, I think data analytics refers to qualitative and quantitative techniques and processes used to enhance productivity and business gains. Data is extracted to identify and analyse behavioural data, techniques and patterns, which can be dynamic according to a particular business’s needs or requirement.

Five years ago, data was archived as history. No one followed up or monitored before cases occurred. Today, we can track data to engage with all dimensions, at any time. Indeed, 'data is king'.

The data we have on-hand can show us both today and the future. It is a kind of business intelligence that is now used for gaining profits and making better use of resources. This can also help in improving managerial operations, and leveraging organisations to the next level. The people pillar plays an important part in this. 

Noppadol Chaiwong, Human Resources Director, BevChain Logistics

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Back in the past, HR would normally consolidate and maintain employee data for their internal use only, and would not share the information with other areas. The raw data was just for their own responsibilities such as the people demographics, to see how many people they had in the workforce by gender or by year of service, and only kept them for the related job function and for studies. At that time, HR may retrieve the data based on the needs required, if requested. 

Nowadays, HR professionals have shifted from an operational to a strategic role, by partnering with the business and using the people data to support the business objective. This is one of the key reasons that HR highlights this by showing the current and future state that we have interpreted from them, and addressing issues and concerns including the action plan to close the gaps and, eventually, bringing them into the people agenda & business model for the management team.

HR's role has been changed into one that is more involved in the diagnosis of any organisational issues, and people analytics is the foundation resource that we use to manage everything as the root cause from there, before proposing a tangible solution to the organisation in support of business sustainability.

Cyl Lin, Director, Human Resources Singapore, HR Business Partner, MDC (Modern Data Centre) & Analytics, APJ, Tech Data

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People often mistake that people analytics is the same as HR reporting, and they fail to understand that, in fact, people analytics is to apply data-driven insights to enable better people decisions, better talent outcomes, and finally, achieve better business objectives. Utilising people data in conjunction with the business context helps leaders understand the investment required to drive HR business process improvements. For example, new hires to be onboarded and fully productive; and attrition data – what should a company do differently to retain talents?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people analytics has accelerated understanding of an individual's and team’s ways of working and communication styles, and increased the value of remote teamwork. These are key drivers that alter the way in which we report back to the business. Business leaders have increasing expectations to request their HR business partners to be equipped with a data-driven mindset so as to assess organisational metrics and provide insights to them, which in turn helps develop high-impact people solutions to enable organisational priorities and goals.

Trends that will drive people analytics in Asia in the next 1-2 years

Tran Thi Quyen

I think AI, machine learning, and big data will reinvent not only people analytics, but also the whole HR operation and employee experience. Better decisions, a more individualised career experience, more effective risk management, and more efficient use of resources are the obvious benefits of this trend. And interestingly, with all these disruptions by automated systems, HR professionals like ourselves will have more 'human time' with our people, back to our core business.

Daniel Kusmanto

I see people analytics continuing to become an integral part of many corporate-wide initiatives with strategic value to the business, breaking silos, and blending people data with other functions' data, and even external data, to make way for more enriched people analytics.

The main applications would be strategic workforce planning, organisation design, employee experience, skill gap analysis, inclusion & diversity, and talent intelligence.

Dr Santhipharp

The people pillar will be utilised more in sales and in cost information of the organisation’s profit and loss statement. The people trend can support decisions on how to increase sales volumes in parallel with developing people to fit with the business and understand cost analysis. People in dimensions, for example age, generation, gender, culture, country,  and more, can be both differentiated and combined. Selecting the right technology to support each dimension is the important part.

Finally, the business can run with the right data analytics, and with a complete set of competent people.

Noppadol Chaiwong

I would say, the trends would range from the turnover or attrition rate, to the Great Resignation, because during the past two years we have faced the outbreak of COVID-19, most of us attended the work from home for such a long period of time. During that tough situation, everyone had initially adjusted from office mode to home working and finally, we could manage it and our productivity either remained the same, or became higher than while working at the office. People spent most of the time at home and were stressed, but they found new activities and interests to take up which helped them cope.

After resuming post-COVID-19, they may think that it’s not their way of work and lifestyle. They have learnt and know the answer, and that the hybrid working programme may not be the answer for them. Many people will leave the organisation for whatever reason.

Once we start studying the above results, especially the key positions and job functions, we can manage their expectations, revise the business, and set up the refill people back-up plan. The business and people strategy are going to change from now on.

Cyl Lin

I believe the future of people analytics will be wholly reimagined with the introduction of the metaverse in HR. The increasing use of metaverse in HR (it will take time to be introduced to the larger HR community), especially in talent acquisition and learning & development, will bring new immersive experiences, interactive showcases, and hands-on demonstrations to Millennials and Gen Z employees.

HR teams will also use people analytics to understand employee experiences with the hybrid work model going forward as a norm, and in the metaverse environment where analytics offers an accurate workforce view on what is driving effective employees’ behaviors.

People analytics can also offer accurate data when employees face struggles that affect their productivity levels, with insights with the appropriate predictive analytics model. Organisations can rectify the causes that lead to employee dissatisfaction and decide what policy changes to deploy. People analytics and HR must evolve together along with the people it serves, in order to drive the way forward to generate value creation.


Watch this space for our upcoming Q2 edition of the Southeast Asia e-magazine, where these leaders delve into the shift from an intuition-driven mindset to a data-driven mindset, how they are leveraging data to drive a culture of continuous learning in their workforce, and more; along with more insight-packed features to enjoy!


Lead image: Shutterstock
Interviewees' images: Provided

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