not just a numbers game; people analytics to achieve business outcomes

For many organisations, 2020 has certainly seen radical changes to the way their business is being run in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The impact of restrictions imposed on our businesses as the economy has been put on hold has varied depending on the industry and business model used. Those businesses relying on face-to-face human contact have seen their income source decimated as social distancing has taken away their customer base. 

Industries such as hospitality, retail, tourism, tertiary education, entertainment and sport have been hardest hit as discretionary spending ceases and demand is forced to be put on hold. However, some industries such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture, transport and logistics, and most government sector services have seen demand grow as they supply essential products and services. 
Others have been agile and reinvented their business model and provision of products and services to customers.  e.g. home delivery where previous wait staff has become delivery workers.  The hope for many companies is that business can return to normal once the pandemic has passed.

But the questions remain for each industry: 

  • What is our business model in this new world?   
  • Do we need to reinvent our business model?
  • How often do we need to reinvest our business model? 

We are moving from a reactive period to a proactive period post-Covid and HR analytics and metrics will play a significant role in informing our decisions going forward. It is critical to source predictive data which will provide organisations with a clear picture of how productivity, absenteeism, engagement, talent loss or increase, and wellbeing will impact on the business model. 

Strategic Workforce Planning is the vehicle that gets us from what we have today and what we need tomorrow. Detailed workforce planning will be required to not only assess the impact on how you return to work but to assist with longer-term business forecasting and organisational strategy. Yet, Deloitte’s  “Global Human Capital Trends” report confirms this, with only five percent of HR professionals believing that their workforce planning process is “excellent,” while one-third say it’s “adequate” and nearly 60 percent call it “weak.”

  • There are three basic principles of strategic workforce planning as opposed to just in time workforce planning: 
    It is strategic.
  • It focuses on long term decision making, not just tactical decisions.
  • Strategic workforce planning aligns with the organisation’s strategy. 

Workforce planning follows the 80/20 Pareto principle. 80% of the effect is achieved by only 20% of the work. The focus is on the organisation’s primary functions or critical roles. 

Some questions to ask during the process are:

  • What will be the workforce capacity requirements in the future?
  • Is the mix of workforce capabilities we had previously what we need in the future? 
  • Will a digital, online work from home business model be a permanent one?
  • Can we just assume the workforce commitment we had from our previously engaged and aligned employees will be the same in the future? 

A different conversation will emerge with leaders throughout this time and one that will consider: 

Rightsizing:  Data will allow you to re-evaluate in real-time as parts or all of business comes back online and will give you FTE numbers for where the company is now, what it might look like during a transition and what the desired end state would accomplish. HR analytics will also show you how you can manage peak periods through the use of “gig economy” workers without the need to increase permanent FTE?

Financial impact:  Any organisation needing to make headcount changes requires data to make those decisions. The business model may have changed due to changing customer demands, so retaining and perhaps redeploying the right talent is imperative. The data allows you to scenario plan to meet short and longer-term projections. 

Talent capabilities: As we transition to our new normal, design thinking using data will become critical to ensure we have the right skills mix and talent. Understanding which roles lend themselves to a hybrid of flexible work and required onsite access will be key to getting the mix right.  It will also be essential to ensure you have up to date data on how you can use an individual’s skills across other roles and potentially combine roles. You will also be able to work out which roles can be part-time and which must stay on full time.

Retention:  The right data can help you to determine which employees are most at risk of leaving, and when this might occur.  High performing and specialist talent still needs to be retained.

The voice of employees: In times of crisis one can never over-communicate. This includes data analysis of employee feedback on the effectiveness of logistics and scheduling around the return to work process. Employee feedback on the impact of recent changes on well being or any other OHS concerns may reshape the strategies proposed and applied for the business. 

The move from reactive to proactive requires sound decision making and HR data and analytics will be at the core of the decision-making process.

This article was co-written between Jeannette Lang and Robert Brierley, Principal Consultant at Nicholsdale Consulting

Robert is the former Head of Human Resources at PACCAR Australia an Australian subsidiary of PACCAR Inc. based in Seattle. He has worked in pharmaceutical, manufacturing and services industries. Robert has also been a sessional Lecturer in HRM at Swinburne University in the Masters of Business.

Robert and Jeannette will be conducting a series of free HR masterclass webinars on this topic in the coming months.


about the author

Jeannette Lang and Robert Brierley - HRP General Manager VIC/TAS/SA

Jeannette has over 20 years experience as a senior HR leader. With a strong network (nationally and internationally) of HR practitioners she is focussed on the placement of senior and executive HR professionals.

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