A respected business friend tweeted the following: “this is HR’s future: analytics, Marketing, Math, and Statistics will all be desired skills”. It prompted a desire to react as –like every other function- also HR sees cyclic trends.
Many of us will remember the days where HR was responsible to collect the data from paper or semi-automated time sheets. HR at that time was also responsible to collect cost per hire ratios, performance figures, turnover costs, and absenteeism data. That grew to HR getting the overall responsibility to reduce these absenteeism figures. Luckily we have passed that stage in the HR life-cycle; or haven’t we?
With HR getting slowly but steadily de-alienated and becoming true business partners, they managed to get a respected voice and decision making power. CEO’s and other business leaders started to get an understanding of the added-value HR brings to the overall business performance. While the HR function was shifting from administrative support to strategic influence, also other functions were seeing big changes. One of these movements was the massive hunger for functional data analysis. This was the time where great role titles were invented like: Consumer Insights and Analysis Manager, Business Intelligence Manager, Marketing Analytics Manager and so on.
Today, we see that the desire to ‘mathemise’ everything is also creeping into the HR function. Hundreds of blogs, tweets and seminars jump on the ‘HR statistics train’. And the driver of this train is a consultant; in joined hands with a few profit seeking software firms. I bet it won’t take that long before we get roles like ‘HR Big Data Manager’.
Luckily, it will be nothing more than yet another stage in the HR life-cycle; a short one I hope.
So what will then be the next stage? Well, it won’t be anything new – everything is cyclic- but it will be something very powerful. Something that brought HR some years ago at the senior decision making table. I trust that the following key skills will arise again after a period of ‘Powerpointy-data-analysis’, a period of blind focus on data; not on hearts and minds. Firstly, the HR function will again be respected for its knowledge of the business. Understanding who/what drives what, the key levers and their cross-functional interactions is paramount for strategic influence. Secondly, a key attribute that also successful CEO’s demonstrate, will be the genuine and authentic interest in people. Dollars and Euros are the material of the CFO; people are the core business of the HRD. No-one can better understand their impact on the business and the influence of business drivers on staff. And it’s not sure you need a lot of statistics and analysis to understand your staff. Listening and showing genuine interest may tell you much more than a colorful Excel graph or an HR Big Data flowchart.