Organisations with a thriving people-analytics culture are more likely to report strong business performance, according to recent research from CIPD. 
In a joint investigation with management software firm Workday, the body found that, in broad terms, the use of people data among organisations could be significantly improved. Indeed, its survey of almost 4,000 professionals around the world showed that:
- just 54% of respondents have access to people-data and analytics tools;
- 39% have no access to people data for decision-making purposes;
- only 52% of HR respondents work for firms that use people data specifically to tackle business problems, and
- just 42% of finance professionals have access to their firms’ people data – despite the strong relationship between access to workforce stats and healthy business outcomes.
Turning to those very outcomes, the survey uncovered some more encouraging findings:
- 75% of HR respondents who routinely use people data are harnessing it to tackle issues around performance and productivity, and
- 65% of those who identified their organisations as having strong people-analytics cultures said that their business performance was strong when compared to that of ther rivals.
CIPD human capital adviser Edward Houghton said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see that the use of people analytics in organisations is leading to positive outcomes. The more access HR and non-HR professionals have to people data, the higher they rate their organisation’s performance.” He added: “We need to see greater investment in the skills needed to understand people data and we need to encourage the use of people analytics across different functions in organisations, and in finance in particular.”
Does all of this indicate that people data is a Holy Grail for leaders and managers?
For The Institute of Leadership & Management’s head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper, the findings are unsurprising. “If you’re into measuring,” she says, “and have lots of metrics for a range of different functions, then you will take advantage of those metrics, and report to your organisation that you use them. And because you’ve decided upon what you’re measuring, and you’re focusing on that and paying keen attention to it, you will clearly see an improvement over time.”
Cooper points out: “that’s what’s known as the Hawthorne Effect : a concept derived from a famous series of industrial experiments carried out in the 1920s and 1930s, which found that people change their behaviours if they’re aware they’re under scrutiny in a research exercise.
“However,” she notes, “there’s a problem with this scenario, in the sense that you get what you measure. And that could lead you to focus very narrowly – or even exclusively – on what is measurable and quantifiable. So I’m not quite sure that encouraging leaders and managers to rely 100% on people data will get them as far as they need to go, when we think about ways of helping them to manage in a well-rounded fashion.”
Cooper adds: “The important thing is to provide clarity around what you expect from people. But while some of those expectations are measurable, others – particularly in the interpersonal realm – are not. To lose sight of the more subjective qualities in a team that are not as easy to put a number to, and therefore don’t feed directly into your people data, would be a mistake. Keep alert to behavioural traits as well as people’s abilities to complete specific tasks and the time it takes them to do so.”
For further thoughts on managing performance, check out these learning resources from the Institute