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The use of big data and the ability to measure people strategies have increasingly crept up the HR agenda over recent months. As technology and digital developments make it much easier to capture and analyse data – of both a quantitative and qualitative nature – professionals of all disciplines have looked for ways in which new metrics can assist their day-to-day activities.

For HR professionals, the possibility of having the statistics that demonstrate the value of people strategies is an ideal many strive for. But it seems that now, more than ever, having sophisticated talent metrics in place is an imperative. Indeed, it would appear such a process can have a demonstrable impact on business performance.

Cielo’s recent survey of over 750 global HR and talent management professionals revealed that those respondents from high performing businesses, or ‘leaders’, are more likely to measure the impact of talent strategies on bottom line figures. In fact, nearly two-thirds (63%) use sophisticated or simple metrics to assess business impact, compared with only 15% of ‘laggards’ — a ratio of slightly more than four to one. The ‘leaders’ were also almost nine times more likely than the low performing organisations to use sophisticated metrics to measure the quality of their workforce (43% versus 5%).

Interestingly, high performing businesses also had a clear focus on workforce segmentation to drive engagement and productivity. Grouping employees according to their skillsets, preferences and other characteristics allows companies to tailor employment terms, incentives and other factors to increase employee satisfaction and fine-tune motivational approaches for different segments. Such segmentation is a popular tool among 41% of ‘leaders’ in the survey, who use it to manage their entire workforce – compared with only 11% of ‘mainstreamers’ and 6% of ‘laggards’.

This need for segmentation is also clear when analysing the success of managing a multi-generational workforce. According to the survey, ‘leaders’ were three times as likely as average performers – or ‘mainstreamers’ – (61% vs. 21%) and ten times more likely than ‘laggards’ (6%) to rate themselves as ‘very effective’ at meeting the varying needs and aspirations of employees across different generations.

While the battle to streamline data and metrics rages on, it’s clear from the results of this survey that HR and talent management professionals must look to measure their people strategies in order to support not only company growth, but also the evolution of the profession itself.

That’s not to say that HR professionals should remain isolated in addressing this issue. Indeed, it can be argued that wider company resources can – and should – assist with developing and implementing tools to measure people strategies. On one hand, managers involved with the development of talent should feed into the evaluation of staffing processes. On the other, using the knowledge of those experienced in dealing with data and analytics – the accounting team, for example – can be beneficial in defining just what the statistics mean for the business.

Looking forward, this level of measurement can really support the profession in achieving some of its key targets. With strategic workforce planning still a challenge for many HR teams, it could be argued that such data will provide the metrics required to truly align people processes with business objectives.

Perhaps more crucially, though, having the data to demonstrate the impact of talent strategies will assist the HR community in achieving the goal it has long striven for: being at the heart of commercial decisions. Such information will assist professionals in the move towards speaking the language of the business and ultimately, playing the crucial role on the board that HR has long deserved.

Indeed, when we consider that a recent report from PwC found that having the right people, in the right role, remains a critical objective for CEOs, with many outlining that a comprehensive understanding of talent requirements is key, becoming more metric savvy is truly a top incentive for HR teams.

It can’t be overlooked that implementing people metrics and a strong focus on talent development will have a positive impact on confidence in the business. In fact, our research found that 71% of ‘leaders’ currently rate their workforce strategies as excellent in terms of supporting their organisation’s objectives over the next three years. In comparison, just 23% of ‘mainstreamers’ and 6% of ‘laggards’ reported the same.

Similarly, 69% of ‘leaders’, but only 7% of ‘laggards, identified that their company is very prepared to adapt to the changing demands of the workforce, including changing needs, wants and engagement tactics for a whole new generation of employees. Considering we’re operating in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment, the ability to achieve this is clearly a top priority.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to talent metrics, HR professionals must assess how they currently measure staffing strategies and ensure the right KPIs are in place. After all, we all want to be the ‘leaders’, not the ‘laggards’.

Sue Brooks, executive vice president at Cielo