Tom Haak, Director, HR Trend Institute

HR Analytics with Tom HaakTom Haak is the director of the HR Trend Institute.

The HR Trend Institute follows, detects and encourages trends. In the people and organization domain and in related areas. Where possible, the institute is also a trendsetter.


What are the key aspects of employee performance that are critical to the success of HR Analytics?

With the technology and the computer power of today, HR analytics allows us to look at the correlation between behaviors and (business) performance a lot quicker and easier than in the past. In the past the consultants would go around and conduct ‘critical incidents interviews‘; what were the specific behaviors of employees that led to success (or failure) in specific situations. Clever people analytics can give better and more reliable (unbiased) results. For many professions, it is today not very clear what are the differentiating characteristics of top performers, and HR analytics can help us to get a better view. The results of the analysis can be used to improve recruiting, and also development. It is also critical that the benefits for the employees are clear. Often the focus of HR analytics initiatives is very much on the organization and less employee centric. Asking the question: “How will the employees benefit from this effort?” is a good starting point for most HR analytics projects.

How can HR Analytics enhance employee performance?

If we get better insights into the key elements that are important for the performance of individuals and teams, we can use the insights to improve the performance of individuals and teams. There are many opportunities in the learning and development domain. With help of technology more concrete data can be gathered and analyzed, and we become less dependent on the biased and often broad feedback of people. An example: Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) is an old technique that is being renewed. If you have better insights into the communication and network patterns of successful teams, you can use this to build better teams and to design a workplace where these teams can flourish. Football clubs track their players almost 24/7. On the field, during the training, and while they are sleeping. The data is used to give the players feedback they can use to improve their performance. The combination of data gathered by intelligent devices combined with the observations of the trainers increases the quality of the feedback. Gathering real-time data on the individual performance of employees is still not widely used. There are privacy issues, and if the data is misused by the employer the trust of the employees goes down. Making sure the data is only used for development can help. Using individual trackers in the workplace will increase, and if the organization does not provide them, employees will bring their own.

What do CEOs/CHROs look for in employee performance analytics?

HR can learn a lot from Marketing and Sales. Marketing and Sales are used to gather data continuously and use the data to build dashboards to monitor the development of the business on a daily or even real-time basis. HR and the business need people dashboards. How is the level of engagement in the various parts of the organization? How is productivity developing? Is the Net Promotor Score of candidates in the pipeline improving? Where do we see issues we should tackle today? Productivity is increasingly important, especially in areas where it is difficult to recruit new people. If you cannot find the new people you need for growth, you better find ways to utilize the potential of your current workforce in a better way.

What is missing in terms of employee performance data that could make HR Analytics even more meaningful?

In my view, it is probably best to start with using existing data elements for your analysis. Often there is a lot of data available, that is poorly analyzed. Just gathering more data without clear questions and hypothesis, does not make sense. Only using the performance ratings employees get from their boss as an indication of their performance is not a good practice. Gathering more granular data about the actual behavior of employees and teams adds value. What are they really doing, and how does the behavior affect business performance?

Can HR Analytics play a prescriptive role in helping employee finetune performance real-time?

Prescriptive analytics will become more important over time. I recently heard a nice example of a police force that uses heartbeat trackers to give policemen feedback when they enter dangerous situations, like encounters with aggressive people. If the heartbeat is too high, the advice on the smartwatch is: “Take a deep breath and wait for a little before you enter the scene”. In call centers, data-based protocols are used a lot. in Dutch emergency call centers, the call center operators must follow the protocol, that was developed based on the analysis of many calls and the ways accidents were handled. Some people find the protocol a relief, for others, it feels like a straitjacket. Also, software developers can get real-time advice to improve their code, based on a comparison of the code they have written with best-practice solutions.


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