HR must share organisational insight about how the business works and what it does.

About the impact of people, culture and leadership.

Understanding the core value drivers, the business financials, gaps in the productivity and connecting the financial performance with employees and processes.


Organisational insight is what enables its activities to be relevant, timely and impactful. This insight underpins good judgement and sound decision-making.

According to CIPD research, HR is an integral part of the business where it would be inconceivable to think about driving the business forward without their involvement and perspective.

As the Director and General Manager of Xerox Global Services in Europe said, ‘I could not imagine trying to take this business forward without the  shaping and insight that HR provides. Without their leadership and unique perspective, we would not have succeeded in the ways we have to date, nor will we in the future.’

HR’s role has evolved from a provider of transactional services to an analyst of employee data that helps other departments plan better.

There’s a whole new generation of activity-and task-management tools from Kronos and that have the potential to help employees master new technologies, ideas and processes faster and  HR to support managers in getting more productivity and value from their employees.

Technology not only frees HR from administration and leverages information about the workforce.

Equipped with data and analytical capabilities, HR can know more and be better business partners.

Among the key factors impacting HR’s work are:

■ Demographics–An aging population, coupled with a shortage of qualified talent, particularly in technology and the sciences.

■ Technology–The workforce will grow increasingly less traditional and remote

The pressure for profitability through continued mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances.

The digital and sharing economy create new competitors, new labour markets and require more sophisticated skills in managing and operating.

The HRM vendor landscape is shifting to accommodate:

  • HR’s role from a provider of transactional services to an analyst of employee data
  • The employee experience and knowing as much as you can about your people
  • The advance of smartphones and tablets. Connecting employees to the goals of the company is more difficult in this environment.
  • Predictive analytics to improve employee efficiency through behavioural monitoring
  • Recruiting faster and better


Developing organisational insight

Developing organisational insight entails not only an understanding of both the market trends and forces that are affecting the business now and in the future, but also an understanding of how the broader macroeconomic and societal factors are influencing the organisation now and in the future.

In this way HR uses much of the work from its core activities to further inform the organisation about challenges, course correction and big opportunities.

Insight entails a shift in Focus:

  • Preserving and managing internal or external reputation of the organisation, entails to think about potentially ill-advised actions that may run the risk.
  • Designing balanced HR policies and processes that support forward-thinking ways of working – the design of performance management, talent development and reward processes.
  • Process-light mechanisms that are informed by real-time insight into the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s business as to drive sustainable competitive advantage.

Having an appreciation of these key factors would enable HR to shape its activities in some very powerful ways.

Alignment between employee goals and the goals of the business as a whole.

Are all of our employees working 100% of the time on things that move your strategy forward?

Are their workloads fully aligned with business objectives?

It is an all round responsibility to learn the best practices that will drive better organisational alignment, and focus in communicating to employees that the executive team stands behind it.

The HR needs to get involved with executives and senior management to understand the business issues and challenges driving each goal.

After goals are set at the top of the organisation, they should roll their way down in the organisation in a multi-tiered rollout for business units.

HR can assist by establishing standards in that each goal meets ‘SMART’ criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound), while also recommending a number of goals for each employee with clear-cut deadlines, and then hold employees accountable. Although unexpected events may occur that affect a due date or even change a goal, HR should work with managers to prevent a culture of ‘settling’ where complacency becomes the norm.
HR can help ensure that employees have the skills and tools and development plans in place to realise their established goals.

HR should monitor to identify any organisational shortcomings and address those proactively by deploying an organisational learning plan that can be measured and supplemented by regular feedback, towards instilling a culture of more frequent manager/employee communication and reports to executives and department heads.

In this way, HR strategy becomes more responsive and relevant, and HR can help align employee objectives with organisational goals, drive productivity improvements, and ultimately drive growth.

According to CIPD research, this avoids the danger of HR being disconnected from the business or too process heavy, rather than truly responsive to what is needed.

HR moves beyond being a service function towards establishing a proactive agenda, as it offers insight into things that others in the business may well not be seeing or acknowledging.

HR can act as an early warning system where the organisation is not alert enough to the changing demands placed on it.

HR is able to provide new insight into how to tackle the challenges of the day while preserving the long-term health of the business .

HR can provide insight into how to best mobilise the organisation. In this context, redefining the key capabilities is a must if we are to build a talent pool that can add to organisation success.

HR tools are used by both HR professionals and employees.

Managing people, setting goals, finding information, training, and collaboration are functions that can be performed through the tools of an HR talent management system.

There are outsourcing alternatives for every product and service now delivered by HR, including the option to outsource the entire function.

“In the years to come we’ll see HR become more and more integrated with the technology infrastructure of the company while utilising outsourced technology solutions to make the day-to-day tasks of managing human capital more efficient,” says Brian Roland, President & CEO of Abenity.

Insightful tools from niche players such as OrcaEyes and Visier  make analytics more intuitive and go beyond traditional dashboard stuff to deliver truly insightful analytics that HR can act on.

Enterprise software companies with enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions such as IBM and Oracle have been purchasing human capital management (HCM) systems such as Kenexa and Taleo, respectively, to create a more integrated solution between current business operations and future talent and drive social collaboration.  Ceridian with time-and-attendance, scheduling, performance management and recruiting integrated offerings. Taleo, Ultimate Software, and Workday with compensation and succession planning offerings.

The employee experience

It’s important to understand the experiences of your company’s employees, and to get to that, you have to focus on knowing as much as you can about those people.

SAP’s acquisition of SuccessFactors means it has the capability to deliver a “completely different” user experience, while Oracle is developing new apps for the tablet and its new social network, along with more collaborative tools and analytics embedded in its applications.

A number of vendors are working on applications designed to help employers “listen” to what employees are saying about the company, to supplement employee-engagement surveys, whose derived insights have been proven to be rather limited because they’re conducted at one point in time and employees are generally cautious about what they declare.

The advance of smartphones and tablets have placed pressure on HR technology vendors to improve the user experience of their products. Vendors, such as Workday, design their software for the mobile platform first before taking it to the desktop. Mobile encompasses  areas such as workforce management, in which contract workers can check their schedules, and view payslips and additional work-related information via their smartphones.

We see the growing use of smartphone attachments that can monitor heart rates and other biorhythms. The smartphone is becoming a device that lets people understand their physical performance, and employers are going to want access to this kind of information, and employees are expected to share with them the information that is generated.

Some smartphone apps can even, via specialised headsets, measure a person’s brain activity to determine whether his or her mind is in a relaxed and meditative state or a busy, confused one.

Predictive analytics: Improve employee efficiency through behavioural monitoring

Collecting data is the first step.

We all have heard of real-time performance and productivity tracking. That is productivity measurement solutions that record how active or inactive an employee is.

“The future of HR tech is about managing people in real-time inside of the applications they already use,” says Scott Allison, CEO of Teamly. “Managing goals and aligning teams becomes day-to-day life, not a once a year event.”

Next is to turn that data into analytics. Then you want to act on that information.

Predictive analytics has the potential to help companies craft better workforce strategies, by going beyond simply analysing HCM data, in a similar fashion to customer-relationship-management, where they’re analysing the tone and frequency of conversations customers are having about a company and its products to really understand how people feel about it.

Sociometric Solutions, an entrepreneurial initiative at MIT, has deployed wearable sensors to understand how employees interact in the workplace to make organisations and people more effective and happy.

They were able to improve call center operations at Bank of America by 20 percent just by tweaking employees’ break structure, says Dr. Ben Waber, Sociometric’s CEO.

Sociometric’s data shows that quality face-to-face interactions result in more productive employees during their work hours. With this understanding, Waber says they aligned coffee breaks for people on the same team.

“Those increased cohesive interactions yielded large performance gains through enhanced information sharing and decreased stress levels,” says Waber.

Recruiting faster and better

We have seen companies work with employees to map out their future. Zappos refers to the method as “The Pipeline.”

To make better hiring decisions, we need to have a clearcut understanding of what those holding the position are expected to accomplish, a profile of an individual who would fit that position.

“Big data and cloud computing will dominate the management of the funnel from talent community to finalist to hire,” says Yazad Dalal, VP of Global for TMP Worldwide. “These systems will conspire to make candidates feel like they’re part of the company before they’re even recognised applicants.”

Pre-screening questions based on the applicant’s resume, will facilitate the routing of the potential candidate, says Peter F. Young, Director, Silicon Valley Center for Global Studies at San Jose State University.

“Video allows employers to explain a lot of information to job seekers in a more engaging format that can also promote their brand. It adds essential visual and social qualities to the job description that make it easier and more attractive to applicants,” says Rob Kelly, CEO of Ongig, who likes video interviewing not only because it works, but because it saves money.

James Matheson, VP, Marketing for Blue Jeans Network, sees video continuing as a management and collaboration tool used after the hire.

“The future of HR tech will consist of video conferencing to hire, engage and retain geographically dispersed employees,” says Matheson

offering more than the sum of the hr activities that have always been done

By going down the insight-driven path, HR will be able to arrive at new insights that help the business move forward.

One company, for example, combined and analysed data to create a profile of its most successful salespeople. Among the findings was that its most successful salespeople returned 80 percent of their emails within a set amount of days.

“Everything from payroll to employee perks, and benefits enrollment to recruitment will happen 24 hours a day in an online atmosphere that encourages collaboration, reduces redundancies, and encourages human resource professionals at all levels to focus on strategic level work that moves the business forward while minimising isolated and disruptive tasks,” says Brian Roland, President & CEO of Abenity.

HR issues will always exist, and there will always be a place for talented HR professionals who understand business, organisational dynamics and the levers to help employees master new technologies, ideas and processes faster, and to control the levers of employee careers paths and measurement, as to maximise employee performance.

With insight-driven HR, the relevance and impact of HR will be seen as trusted advisers, partners.

Creating a shared purpose narrative that can describe the shift in purpose of the core activities of the  HR function, is  a vital part of this journey, and with HR working with leaders who by sharing a broader expectation of what HR’s contribution could be, will be able to reposition the function to drive business success.