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Why the First 100 Days of Workforce Analytics Matter Most

Janine Milne

Guest Contributor

Presidents, chief executives and senior business leaders all understand the importance of the age-old 100-day benchmark: The first few months in a new position are critical for setting a vision, acting upon your strategy and convincing colleagues that you're the best person for the job.

While this rule has generally been applied to individuals, I've found that it is just as applicable to workforce analytics. Decisions made in the first 100 days of an analytics program have strong impact on the success of a company's analytics journey; early efforts will pay dividends, while mistakes are hard to bury.

Earlier this year, an IBM report on starting the workforce analytics journey focused on what companies should do in these vital first 100 days. The key message? Workforce analytics is not an HR-only project. To succeed, it needs to be a business initiative aimed at improving decision-making for managers company-wide.

Collaboration across departments is just one aspect of a successful analytics program, however. Here are three other pieces of advice to keep in mind as you embark on the first few months of your analytics efforts:

Define Your Vision

IBM emphasized analytics was not simply an HR project, but it's not just a technology project, either. It requires more than buying the best software or making sure you have squeaky-clean data. The first step—and a key element of the first phase of a workforce analytics initiative—is to set the vision.

If you've gathered the tools and built a team for an analytics program, now is the time to gather information from business leaders in order to prioritize your goals, understand your stresses and identify areas where HR analytics can help.

These initial talks are also important for HR to gauge how other business units view your department. Is HR seen purely as a backroom operational function or viewed as a strategic partner delivering business value? If the balance is tipped heavily towards the operational side, then your HR analytics team needs to put in time and effort to build trust and persuade business execs that HR is delivering more than transactional insights.

Walk Before You Run

Once everyone is on board, it's time to prove your worth—but it's best to temporarily park grand ideas.

Instead of trying to implement a massive change in a management program or a new cost-savings initiative, focus on a quick-win project that can be completed within those first 100 days. Only with a successful project under your belt can you begin to plan and receive the resources for more ambitious initiatives.

Modest ambition is important when it comes to data and technology. Data can be a major stumbling block—and the most common excuse—for failing to start an analytics initiative. If you wait for perfect data, your analytics project will never get started. Data doesn't need to be 100 percent accurate: whether attrition rates are found to be 10 percent or 11 percent, the action is still going to be the same, so don't sweat the small stuff.

Of course, this doesn't mean that data accuracy isn't important—it's absolutely necessary. But HR needs to work with business executives to determine how accurate the data needs to be or to limit the data sample to areas with more accurate data. Finding the right data requires considering individual needs for each business case.

Create a Talent Pipeline

While you may have a solid team to start running analytics, it's likely not a full-blown team solely dedicated to workforce data—you probably have people doing work across departments, or helping out in their spare time. While this strategy may work for the first 100 days, it's important to consider how you will continue to bolster your team and build out the right skills sets to push your analytics initiatives forward.

In the long-term, you will need more complex skills and dedicated experts across different areas of the company. Will you train people in-house, or will you look outside the company for talent? Will people join the analytics team as one part of their current jobs, or will you create a separate sub-group with HR?

In these first few months of your big data program, remember these key lessons if you want to succeed: more than HR; vision not technology; good enough data; and a solid team. If you're able to not only convince business leaders of your vision, but also show them how you can bring it life—small project by small project—you'll be on the road to a thriving, sustainable and impactful workforce analytics journey.

Photo: Shutterstock

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