Using HR Analytics and Big Data in the Workplace - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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hr analytics

Using HR Analytics and Big Data in the Workplace

The concept of using Big Data and HR Analytics in the workplace has become a debatable issue when it was revealed how certain employers are using the help of outside data firms to forecast the health risks of its employees. People expressed their concerns as they felt that their personal and sensitive health information is in jeopardy because if their employers have access to this personal data it can be used in ways which may not be in their favour.

People were worried if their employers would utilise this sensitive personal data to analyse and know beforehand about the health conditions of employees and use this data to confiscate their jobs thereby saving the company from bearing any potential healthcare costs.

Although this is a debatable matter, if HR analytics is used in the right perspective with the right HR software, and by partnering with a trusted partner, it can prove to be highly beneficial in talent management strategy and even help in making recruitment decisions in an organisation. Big data, HR analytics, is certainly an upcoming trend and recently conducted surveys by various organisations projects that a lot of companies are in fact in the process of developing and utilising data analysis capabilities for their respective HR departments.

The catch here for employers is whether they should be ideally using HR analytics and if they choose to do so, how can they do it ethically without hurting the sentiments of their employees and avoid violating any privacy and HR laws.

This article is an attempt to consider few types of data which can be utilised if an organisation plans to conduct an HR analytics while staying compliant with the law and without hurting the sentiments of their employees.

Let’s take a look at the types of data that can be utilised:

Predictive Analytics

HR analytics should ideally be utilised to make better decisions about the management of talent. Employers are nowadays resorting to adopting predictive analytics to assess the future hiring needs of an organisation and thereby create a strong pipeline of lateral and fresh talent. Predictive performance analytics is specifically utilised for using internal data to assess potential turnover of employees. However, there are chances of this data being utilised for firing and promoting certain employees which is not ethical. Also, it is not a great idea to base any decision pertaining to promotions based on what an algorithm predicts. Rather it is advisable that such decisions should be made based on observing employees at the workplace. People related decisions should not be driven by data so that everyone gets a fair chance and not be at the whims and fancies of an algorithm based data.

Note: It is important for organisations to be very clear as to which data derived from internal sources will be utilised for what purposes. This helps in improving management decisions and also while weighing and taking performance related decisions giving every employee a fair chance.

Personal Data

A lot of companies have resorted to using HR analytics these days in order to evaluate the effectiveness of their employee benefits programs and also to identify potential gaps in coverage as it can impact the liability of the organisation. By using HR analytics, the companies aim to improve their programs. If organisations utilise the employee data and the company data in conjunction with the industry data, they will be able to find the best healthcare offering and benefits that they can offer their employees by providing affordable care. However, they need to be extra cautious and sensitive towards their employees’ privacy by utilising the sensitive personal data ethically and carefully.

This is especially true in the U.S.; the companies need to be extra careful because violation of HIPPA or any other employee privacy law is a punishable act and entails significant financial loss and other legal repercussions. Companies cannot randomly access this sensitive personal data without the consent of their employees. Employees have an option to willingly allow their personal data to be collected and utilised. Another important criterion is that there should be substantial and bulk data generated by employees, so that employer’s are unable to easily target any individual data. When such data is analysed, the process needs to be done in such a manner that considers the organisation as a whole instead of focussing on employees or subgroups.

If employers are discovered prying on personal data of employees in depth such as health conditions, pregnancy, age, and other specifics, they run the risk of landing up in legal hassles by exposing themselves at risk for discrimination lawsuits.

While the company may be accessing this data with the best of intentions, however, employees may end up questioning their intentions. One of the common questions that employees may ask is whether the company is utilising their personal data to probe into their healthcare background and thereby take crucial decisions which may put their job security at stake.

As an organisation, you must always be open and utterly honest with your employees especially when it comes to utilising their personal sensitive health data and clarify that this data will be used only for analysis purpose in the larger interest of the company.

You should know how to analyse the data in the right context and perspective. It has been observed that on multiple occasions when employers take a look at HR analytics, they get lost in the small details and end up focusing on irrelevant things. A good example is in flight risk signals.  Analytics may produce a result that suggests those employees who are geographically closer to the office premises are less likely to leave early than employees who live far away from the office. This may not be necessarily true for all employees. It is, in fact, unfair to the employees if they are subject to a blanket rule based on questionable data. Employers must not forget that it is data at the end of the day and may not apply to everyone.

It is important to understand that while you are analysing the data, focus on the bigger picture rather than focussing on minute, insignificant details. The objective of utilising this data is to help organisations make the best decisions for its employees and thereby help the business as a whole.

It should not be forgotten that these are mere numbers. Organisations should focus on using HR analytics to help them in making correct decisions and not use the analytics as the decision maker. It is advisable to use the analytics carefully in order to steer clear of any legal hassles. Also, under no circumstances should an organisation end up losing the trust of its employees. Utilise this data analytics in conjunction with employee feedback which gains their confidence and also helps in deriving the best possible decisions.

Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect