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Big data could be key to unlock boardroom

A recent survey revealed that 76% of HR and payroll professionals feel their strategic business input remains poorly acknowledged. So, in the wake of these findings, commercially-astute CEO Oliver Shaw advises how to capture the attention of senior management. Big data holds the answer, he believes, but which employee metrics matter in the boardroom..?

“HR and payroll professionals have long yearned for greater acknowledgement for the role they play in business evolution. With the functions widely misconstrued as having merely ‘softer’ benefits – undoubtedly due to their comparatively minimal board presence – there can be a lack of respect for the impact that HR and payroll has on an organisation’s bottom line. In this respect, recent research findings (Pay and Benefits, 28/08/15) are unsurprising.

However, in truth, HR and payroll professionals are well placed to have a well-earned voice in the boardroom. They have access to metrics that Operations Directors, Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officers won’t be aware of, but would unequivocally love to know about.

There needs to be something of a mindset shift though, if a greater number of industry professionals are to realise the potential of this data, capture the attention of their senior management teams and transform the productivity and profitability of their organisations.

Yes, the phrase ‘big data’ is scary, largely due to the jargon that we so often see in the media, not to mention the smoke and mirrors that some data scientists have eagerly created to surround the concept. Furthermore, analysis may not be at the top of the agenda for busy HR and payroll professionals who already have lots to cram into their working day. But data doesn’t have to be mindboggling, and in many cases, it is already at their fingertips.

It is all about knowing which metrics to uncover, and what questions to ask. How many managing directors can confidently say how many people they have in truly productive work that day, for instance? And, if the business is behind on its target headcount, how long will it take to catch up? How many CVs will have to be seen to fill 10 vacancies? What will the bottom line impact be as a result of being behind? And how far in advance do managers need to begin their workforce planning for next year?

By identifying the answers to these queries, and proactively presenting the findings to the board, HR and payroll has the power to make directors stop, listen and pay attention. It has the key to unlock the journey to raising its profile.

This recruitment related example is just one area of focus, of course. Why not use data and analysis to differentiate managers who are really performing well and consistently getting the most from their teams, from those who are simply relying on the outstanding behaviours of select employees. Attrition, absence, headcount and performance figures will help uncover the answers, and such metrics will be readily available in an organisation’s HR system. Thereafter, newfound findings can highlight where rewards are deserved, where learning and development programmes are necessary, and, potentially, where urgent intervention is required.

The examples could go on. There are so many ways that HR and payroll professionals can triangulate (or bring together) different metrics, to create a more informed and value-adding viewpoint, rather than looking at otherwise meaningless data, in isolation.

The thing to remember is this. HR and payroll professionals are responsible for managing employee morale, nurturing potential and ensuring effective remuneration and reward, and this will not change. But that doesn’t mean they should be afraid of talking about facts, figures and bottom line impacts, because they perhaps have some of the most interesting insight of all.”

Oliver Shaw is CEO of Cascade HR, an award-winning supplier of fully integrated HR and HMRC recognised payroll software. He will be delivering a free advice-led seminar ‘HR Hacks – making a truly strategic contribution to your organisation’, complete with resources to take away, at the CIPD Annual Conference & Exhibition 2015.

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