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HUMAN RESOURCES- Workforce Intelligence: How Can HR Leverage It in 2020?- B-AIM PICK SELECTS

Nearly every HR function, from recruitment and employee engagement to payroll and workforce planning, is powered by technology.

These digital platforms continually collect employee data that contain useful insights for HR. How can companies consolidate these data sources into a unified source of truth? Is it possible to convert raw, anonymized data sets into genuine action points?

This is where workforce intelligence can help. Workforce intelligence is an emerging HR technology that promises to revolutionize how HR and organizations make people decisions. Let's delve deeper into how you can leverage its potential in 2020.

What Is Workforce Intelligence?

Workforce intelligence can be defined in several ways, and it already exists in some form at most companies. Essentially, it is intelligence on employee data, behavior, and patterns that helps to create comprehensive and accurate data sets over time. Coupled with advanced analytics and rich visualization, workforce intelligence can enable HR to discover actionable recommendations on people management.

While it is possible to build workforce intelligence solutions from scratch, today, this technology is available as software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that come with sophisticated big data analysis and process automation capabilities.

First, it collects and analyzes structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data from various sources. This could include time and attendance records (structured data), employee engagement survey responses (semi-structured data), and informal feedback (unstructured data). The data sets are analyzed to answer key HR questions. For example:

  • Are high-potential employees disengaged from your workplace?

  • Is your recruitment manager targeting the right candidates?

  • Does your succession plan factor in all contingencies?

These are some of the questions that gathering workforce intelligence can help you answer.

Interestingly, workforce intelligence solutions could also have AI capabilities, converting natural language queries like the ones we listed into a machine-readable format. This means that you don’t need specialized data science expertise to unearth insights.

Second, you can configure automation rules based on the answers to your queries. For instance, when an employee crosses a specified threshold of work hours in a week, an alert is automatically sent to HR, indicating proactive action to ensure the employee’s well-being. Nice inContact uses workforce intelligence to automate contact center performance monitoring based on customized business rules.

As one would expect, this technology can be applied in a variety of scenarios across the workplace. Let’s look at five possible areas of application.

5 Ways HR Could Gain from Workforce Intelligence

As mentioned, the modern HR function receives data from a variety of sources. And nearly all of these could be connected to a workforce intelligence solution, giving you valuable insights. Here are five benefits:

1. Recruit candidates based on potential, not performance

Often, you will come across candidates without prior experience in a specific field or someone fresh out of college. These individuals might display promising capabilities – but how do you verify job fitment without previous performance records?

Workforce intelligence can analyze employee performance data already available in your organization and match it with the data of the candidate at hand. A survey of 200 U.K. employers found that 62% of the respondents prioritize potential, compared to only 35% who prioritize experience. Workforce intelligence can prove to be very helpful for these decision-makers.

It could even auto-analyze and recommend passive candidates that might be a good fit for your company, saving a significant amount of talent sourcing efforts.

2. Anticipate demand and optimize your workforce in advance

In a dynamic business environment, demand and opportunities are at constant flux. For instance, a software company may have to rejig its release schedules based on competitor movements. A retailer may hold a sale at short notice in response to a local event.

Workforce intelligence can couple employee performance predictions with third-party market data to create optimal work schedules well in advance. This will address the irregularity of working hours and make schedules more predictable. In fact, changes in daily working hours were cited as the no.1 challenge for EU employees in 2019, making this application essential.

Nice inContact’s solution uses workforce intelligence for precisely this purpose. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, contact centers experience 50% higher than the average call volume. The solution uses workforce intelligence rules to auto-route calls to designated “overflow skills” during such peak periods.

3. Find future leaders from within your ranks

It’s now a common practice to hire senior leaders from outside the company instead of through internal transitions.

For example, 56% of the 1,263 CEOs who resigned in November 2019 were replaced by an external candidate, reports the Wall Street Journal. You can build a stronger succession plan within your company by using workforce intelligence. It will highlight leadership potential and interest, aiding in planning the learning and development of potential leaders, so that you can hire leaders faster and at a lower cost.

Further, you can gather data on which employees are responding well to targeted leadership coaching, and where the possible areas for improvement are. Such granular insights are critical to building a robust succession plan.

4. Take a preventive stance on employee health and productivity

Employee health is a key parameter for a company's success and sustainability. This refers to physical as well as emotional well-being, and you can use workforce intelligence to gather data on both areas. And a recent survey of 3,000 U.K. professionals found that 97% of respondents want their employers to take responsibility for their mental well-being.

You can study data on absenteeism and overtime to detect warning signs of ill health that could be holding back productivity.

Various digital touchpoints can be connected to the workforce intelligence platform to uphold employee well-being. We recommend extracting and integrating data from employee feedback portals, benefits administration platforms, and performance management, apart from only time & attendance, to gain a holistic picture.

5. Control the cost and complexities of separation

Turnover is inevitable in any company, and trends suggest that the number is on the rise. As of August 2019, a record of 4,478,000 U.S. workers had resigned from their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reported CNBC.

This leads to several costs, like hiring new employees and training them from scratch, not to mention the lost productivity and product knowledge. Workforce intelligence can help you preempt turnover risk, giving you time to prepare and optimize costs.

Attrition signal identification is among the key application areas for workforce intelligence, as employees display warning signs such as disengagement and productivity dips early on. By monitoring and analyzing this data, companies can adopt a just-in-time hiring model, so that business productivity remains uninterrupted.

Is Workforce Intelligence Ready to be Deployed in 2020?

The short answer is YES.

Thanks to the rapid evolution of data science and analytics, workforce intelligence has reached a significant level of maturity. Leading consultants across the world, including the likes of Deloitte and PwC, offer bespoke workforce intelligence services. There’s even a government agency called Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) in England to assist healthcare and social care organizations with people management.

You could also look at SaaS platforms like Pega Workforce Intelligence. It is powered by AI discovery bots that collect employee data around-the-clock to equip managers with actionable information.

With employee data volumes continually multiplying, it makes sense to leverage its full potential using technologies like workforce intelligence. It aggregates disparate datasets into a single, reliable channel that can be used to make more informed decisions for people management. And this data can be used by leaders across the organization, not just HR.

This high-powered visibility into employee data can help transform businesses significantly so that they can become employee-centric, and as a result, customer-centric. Over time, this will translate into measurable cost savings, reduction in HR efforts, and enhanced accuracy in areas like recruitment and productivity.

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