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How to unlock the power of your HR data

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Attendees at Xref's Sydney event discussing how to use HR data to improve recruitment strategies and attract top talent

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Organisations have masses of people data at their fingertips. When collected, measured and reviewed in effective ways, this data can help human resource (HR) and talent acquisition (TA) teams spot trends in attrition, improve productivity and efficiency, and identify risks.

Xref recently held a panel event in Sydney called ‘Unlocking the power of your HR data’. Three expert speakers joined us to discuss the critical HR metrics organisations should focus on to gain a holistic view of their workforce dynamics and drive meaningful change.

These were Chris Paul, Talent Optimisation Consultant at Altius Group, Maur Bell, Talent Acquisition Manager at Torrens University, and Rachel Tschannen, Vice President of International HR: EMEA & APAC at Blackhawk Network.

In this blog, we highight the interesting discussion points from the event – primarily how data can revolutionise recruitment strategies and help organisations attract top talent and foster long-term retention.

How the current talent environment is impacting data collection

Many organisations have experienced uncertainty in the talent market over the last few years, which have challenged people leaders and recruiters across industries.

“The way in which we collect data certainly has changed,” said Rachel Tschannen, Vice President of International HR: EMEA & APAC at Blackhawk Network. “We need a lot more insight in order to inform our decisions."

“We collect a lot of data, but I always say, you can collect data until you’re blue in the face. It’s what you do with it to tell a story, to help counter any arguments from your leaders and your people,” said Rachel.

Chris Paul, Talent Optimisation Consultant at Altius Group, agrees that having the data to back up decisions is more important now than ever before. “It’s always been important, but with the market getting tighter over the past few years, it has become crucial,” said Chris. “As people leaders, everyone has an opinion on what we do, and I think being able to come to those discussions with insights, with data, those people will have to disagree with the facts rather than an opinion.”

Xref branded graphic with Rachel Tschannen's quote (above) on HR data

What HR metrics should organisations be collecting?

Organisations collect a lot of data to inform their talent strategies. The panel speakers shared multiple metrics they look at, which include retention, attrition, span (number of reports per leader), return-to-office metrics, exit data (e.g. themes in resignations), engagement scores, candidate source and cost per hire. 

“The metrics you look at really depend on what people want to know,” said Rachel, HR leader in the fintech industry. “If you’re standing in front of the board presenting data, it’s got to be valuable”.

For Maur Bell, TA Manager at Torrens University, measuring the ‘quality of hire’ is incredibly important. “There are many ways to measure the quality of hire – retention, attrition, turnover rate and longevity,” said Maur. “We introduced a really simple two-question survey sent to our hiring managers at the 4-month and 12-month mark, and that’s been eye-opening for us. As well as our instinct, we have their actual feedback, and then we match that with all the other data to see if it tells a story.”

Why is it important to collect data?

The speakers agreed that influencing organisational change is easier when armed with the right data.

“[Data allows you to] be able to show your team’s work and value across the organisation, but also to be able to influence and challenge perceptions that you come up against regularly,” said Chris, Talent Optimisation Consultant at Altius Group. “I think that’s been absolutely key for many of the changes that I’ve been able to bring in the past.”

Chris recalled a time when data influenced a process change that helped the organisation secure top talent. “What we were finding is that we had candidates dropping off between the first and second interview, and we weren’t getting a different opinion between the first and second interview – both managers liked the candidate,” explained Chris.

“The perception was that the two-stage interview process was helping the selection process. Actually, we were missing out on some of the best candidates.”

Chris believes his opinion alone wouldn’t have influenced any change, but the data proved him right.

How often should organisations collect HR metrics?

Rachel said that data collection is something that should be happening “all the time” but reviewing that data should be strategised. “If you have the ability to collect it regularly you’re going to get those trends,” said Rachel. “But if you look at something too frequently you’re not going to get the insight you need, for example, if you’re looking at the [effectiveness of] a program.”

“Keeping your finger on the pulse is important,” agreed Chris. “Data should be captured live wherever possible. And what’s important is how you present that data and how often that data is presented [to give an accurate representation].”

Xref branded graphic with Chris Paul's quote that says " “If you’re on the front foot with data, you can control the narrative.”

Best practice HR data collection tips

The speakers had some great advice for talent acquisition professionals when it comes to data collection and presentation.

“Measure what you manage and then work with other teams, because TA doesn’t exist in isolation,” advised Maur. “Don’t accept what you believe to be best practices because they’ve always been there. If you have hunches or feelings, be curious and ask questions.” As an example, Maur advised to measure quality of hire rather than time to fill, as it can give you a more holistic view of the talent journey.

Rachel recommended to not send data to leaders without having a conversation about it first. “I have made the mistake of just ‘sending data’, but a discussion is more fruitful,” she said. A discussion about the data can make it easier to define next steps and the actions of value.

Surveys are a great way to collect insightful data. Maur explained that to find her organisation’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP), her team conducted a survey to measure a) what attracted people to the company, and b) what made people stay. They were able to combine this information with data from Exit Surveys to gain rich insights and make positive changes.

Xref branded graphic with Maur Bell's quote that says " Measure what you manage and then work with other teams, because TA doesn’t exist in isolation"

Final thoughts

The panel discussion was rich in insights. The biggest takeaways were that data is the key to storytelling and gaining buy-in from leadership and executives to influence change. The speakers also highlighted the value of continuously collecting data – as long as that data is going to be reviewed and analysed – and considering metrics holistically rather than in isolation.

Organisations that harness the power of data will be better equipped to create strategies to attract top talent and improve retention.

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