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This is the Last Call: Data Literacy for HR

This is the Last Call: Data Literacy for HR
This is the Last Call: Data Literacy for HR

People analytics is thriving. We invest in technology and innovation. We strive to deliver insights and recommendations to improve business outcomes and excel employee experience. However, to maximize the results of the people analytics practices, we should invest in data literacy in HR community and beyond.

Let’s face it. HR community isn’t typically keen to work with data. It’s cliché, however HR professionals are where they are because of the interest, personality, and beliefs. It’s much easier to find an HR person who enjoys working with people, relations, empathy, and culture, than the one who is data-driven technologist. The later examples exist, but they are minority.

However, do we need to convince HR professionals to become technology and data gurus? Not at all. Data literacy isn’t about technical skills. It’s about ability to use data as information. Therefore, for HR to become data driven it will be enough to incentivize and offer a comprehensive upskilling experience.

HR Professionals Can Use HR Data as Information

Current fast-changing business world and rapidly advancing technology set new challenges ahead of individuals and organizations. Intellectual property, technology, and innovation, they all changed the paradigm of assets. Real estate, inventory, vehicles, equipment, their value is depreciating, whereas – so to speak – the brain power, represented by competencies and capabilities, becomes key competitive advantage.

Just take a look on the recent OpenAI drama to realize the importance and the power of people.

In this new world your workforce is more important than ever. It is not manpower anymore. It is your organization’s vivid train that would take you – or not – to the next station. Speed, agility, and intellectual property require new measures to manage the workforce effectively. As human resources, we must embrace the data to respond to this new opportunity. This will be possible if HR become data-driven organizational practice, and if HR professionals learn the core skills of data literacy.

If HR function fail to learn data literacy, they won’t stay relevant as a strategic partner to the business.

Data literacy is the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information.

“Across the business world, data literacy is set to be the most in-demand skill by 2030, with 85% of C-suite executives believing that being data-literate will be as vital in the future as the ability to use a computer is today.” - Qlik. 2022. Data Literacy: The Upskilling Evolution

Exponential growth in computing power, storage, and accessibility to advanced statistical analysis – also throughout the emerging AI solutions – requires HR to produce data-driven insights and recommendations.

Here is how consulting firm Insight222 defines data literacy in HR:

Data literacy for HR professionals is defined as the ability to interpret insights from data and use them to inform decisions that create value in their everyday roles.

Data-led Consulting Skills and Data Quality Awareness

When addressing your HR community with “data topics” you might create anxiety and confusion. Therefore, it’s good to explain taxonomy and expectations first.

Let’s start with data. Data is information, especially fact or numbers, or information in an electronic form that can be stored and used thanks to information technology.

We do not expect HR professionals to become proficient with data analysis, data engineering, nor data architecture. These are typically information technology jobs, and they stay relevant to collecting, maintaining, and processing information (data).

Next: analytics. Analytics means complete analysis of data, performed  in solutions appointed and maintained by your IT department, which results in creating insights, and recommendations. It is also detailed study or examination of data in order to understand more about it.

Similarly to the data example, we don’t expect HR professionals to become data analysts, or data scientists. These are more IT jobs that require technical competences.

Let’s be frank, HR professionals are “people people”, and majority would prefer working on relations, culture, and people growth, over statistics, mathematics, and technology.

So, what we do expect regarding data literacy in HR?

Following Insight222 reports Upskilling the HR Profession. Building Data Literacy at Scale the HR data literacy means fostering data-led consulting skills such as:

  • Make actionable recommendations from insights.
  • Manage stakeholder relationships with business leaders.
  • Consult with business leaders to frame business questions and build hypothesis.
  • Interpret insights from data, reports, and dashboards.
  • Tell stories using data.

You can see that there is no need to learn technology. The expectation for HR professionals is to be able to speak the language of data to remain relevant strategic partners for the business. Partners who can help optimize understanding about the workforce and provide recommendations to improve the business.

Joining HR and people expertise with data-led consulting will be powerful tool for human resources. You might think this is a bold statement, but data-driven HR is serious competitive advantage in today’s business.

Speaking of data literacy in HR we cannot miss one important factor: data quality.

HR professionals are often responsible for data entry and maintenance. We all know too well the popular saying “garbage in, garbage out”. Safeguarding the high quality of data in HR processes would result in high quality insights and recommendations. It is important that HR professionals are aware that the data they are working with is used by someone else to make informed decisions. Everyone is responsible for the quality of data.

The thing is that as soon as you start working with analytics and data-led recommendations, you will realize how many challenges you have in data quality, and how crucial it is.

Inspire HR Community to Work with Data

Data literacy, analytics, and data governance are all interconnected.

To run analysis, you have to have data. Additionally, the data have to be of good quality. Data governance activities, are including but not limited to:

  • Clear roles and responsibilities regarding the HR data management,
  • Ethics charter,
  • Incorporated privacy by design,
  • Data quality awareness and assuring that quality issues are resolved at the source,
  • Data integrity (trust in data!),
  • Data tools,
  • Data availability.

HR data governance pave the road for people analytics. When you eventually run analytics and you do offer to your organization timely insights about the workforce, then we have the ultimate incentive to learn data literacy in HR!

Data literacy is also about inspiring and incentivizing HR professionals to use data as information, work with insights, and provide data-led consultancy to the business. For that we need foundation including HR data governance, and practical offer of analytics to use.

It’s important to emphasize that despite sophisticated analytics tools and technics are complex and overwhelming, even simple analysis and data-driven practices will bring significant value.

The path to data literacy in HR is leading through foundations common to all change initiatives, including the role of champions recruited from senior staff of the company. According to Insight222 research, there are notable differences between companies where the CHRO and the HRLT role-model the use of people data and analytics to HR and those where they do not.

If CHRO and the HRLT are role-modelling the use of people data and analytics, 79% of HR practitioners regularly use people data and analytics insights in their day-to-day jobs. Compared to 22% of HR practitioners who use people data and analytics insights if their CHRO and the HRLT are not role-modelling the use of people data and analytics.

People Analytics Recognized as an Important Organizational Practice (a.k.a. Has Sit at the Table)

Data is crucial to the business success. This statement is also relevant for HR. Expectations of business leaders, shareholders, and external regulators are clear. They would like to receive timely valuable insights about the workforce to know the business health, feasibility to achieve desired business outcomes, and compliance with laws and regulations.

Data literacy is not reserved for data professionals who know data science, or data engineering. Non-data specialists, including HR, should be able to use data to make recommendations, interpret insights, and tell stories about data. All of these aimed to support making informed decisions about people.

The overall objective of data literacy in HR is the ability of HR to transform business challenges and goals into actionable recommendations for the business. Technical skills aren’t a prerequisite for that. Data-led consulting skills are.

As long as business leaders wouldn’t recognize HR as analytical ready, in other word data literate, people analytics won’t receive proper attention and “a sit at the table”. People analytics isolated to tools, analysis, and dry insights will be only an empty shell. Unless there is community of data literate HR professionals who use data as information, and provide data-driven recommendations about the workforce, people analytics will remain just a (costly) gimmick that few people in the organization use.

Moreover, if HR doesn’t foster data literacy, business will bypass them and do the analytics by themselves. But honestly, bypassing HR will take away most of the value of data-led consulting provided by HR professionals. What will remain will be dry figures and charts which say nothing about the workforce except of displaying some statistics.

So, distinguish between data literacy and technical literacy and start your learning journey today. You will get ahead quickly.

As soon as the business leaders see how HR data and your recommendations help them solve critical problems and create value, they will find huge interest in your data, insights and recommendations.

Want to Read More About Data Literacy in HR?

Inspiring Quote

“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.” – John C. Maxwell

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