Strategic Federal Human Capital Management – People Analytics



Federal Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) are faced with an enormous, all-encompassing task as they look to create and build a strategic human capital plan. With a wide set of talent management pillars, including key areas such as talent acquisition, onboarding, performance management, employee engagement, succession planning, retention, employing learning and development, workforce planning and more, moving beyond a strategic plan to actual implementation requires an undoubtedly herculean effort. The sheer scope of such a plan, coupled with the realities of all that is required to implement it, is a reason that many plans never really get off the ground.


However, another key ingredient of most strategic HR plans also include the use of people analytics to help improve tactical and strategic decision making, provide greater insight into agency workforce issues, and make faster decisions and improvements. And as with several of the primary talent management pillars, people analytics presents an opportunity for federal HR leaders to make significant strides in shorter time period and for less cost than traditional solutions would dictate.


This is the fourth post in a series looking at various strategic human capital management issues facing federal CHCOs. Even as federal human capital leaders look to implement long-term strategic plans, there are several shorter-term, less expensive, tactical initiatives that can yield powerful impacts to an agency. People analytics is one such initiative.

Traditional People Analytics — Implementation Obstacles


The lack of in-house expertise is often cited as a primary reason for not implementing HR analytics. Indeed, data scientists are one of the most sought-after positions for organizations in private and public sectors. Furthermore, HR organizations are usually even further lacking in analytics and other technical skills.


Even if data and expertise are available, it is typically in a format that is not of use for most people within an organization, from senior management to other employees that could benefit from data analysis. Sharing information is difficult, and information and data that are shared are not compelling or insightful. Even data scientists struggle to make the wealth of data that an agency might have easily consumable.


Gartner has reported that only 28% of potential business intelligence users within most organizations currently use the technology to make decisions, continuing to hamper Return on Investment (ROI) of analytics initiatives. Reports by other analysts have similar dismal findings.

A New World – People Analytics without Data Scientists

Just as with marketing and disciplines before it, the HR world is moving slowly to an understanding of just how important and useful data and analytics can be. Still, this recognition does not translate to actual implementation, as HR struggles to adopt clear analytical and Return on Investment (ROI) expertise.

Even as organizations recognize the value analytics can bring, traditional HR professionals generally do not bring an analytic mindset or skill set to their jobs. Over time, this will change.

However, there is good news on this front even today. While legacy HR systems provided virtually no analytical capabilities for even the most data-savvy professionals, the best of today’s modern software systems are designed to meet HR data needs for non-analytical employees. In addition, these systems also provide a more user-friendly user interface and more user-friendly reports.

This means that federal agencies have at their disposal the capabilities to implement people analytics throughout their organization without hiring data scientists. Furthermore, executive leadership can realize the benefits of people analytics through thoughtful and useful reports and information displays. This can all be done gradually, in an iterative process, allowing agencies to take almost immediate steps to institute a people analytics program at minimal cost.

These small, gradual steps can yield big payoffs, and lay the groundwork for even bigger and more powerful results.

Silo Analysis – A First Step


Forbes reported recently that most organizations “have lots and lots of HR data, but they are in no position to use it.”


From the perspective of federal agencies, this abundance of data may or may not be true. In the case of talent acquisition, most federal agencies likely have large volumes of data. Hiring data and candidate data present huge opportunities for data analysis, insight and organizational improvements, but generally the data sits unused or in reports that are not useful.


In other talent management areas such as performance management, data may not even exist, as many agencies are still mired in pen-to-paper performance reviews. For these agencies, automating the process is a first, readily attainable step toward accumulating the necessary data for analytics. Agencies that do have performance data often fall into Gartner’s category of organizations that are not using it.


Talent analytics, or people analytics, provides previously unattainable insight into areas such as talent acquisition, onboarding, performance management, employee engagement and succession planning. While a huge step forward, it’s just that – a single step in a longer journey.

But that first step is critical, and readily achievable.

With analytics in place, agency leaders and others within the organization can gain insight and make more data-driven decisions. Initially, decisions are typically made around a single area, as that is how the data is stored and how it can be viewed. While not the ultimate goal, it’s definitely an important first step and provides benefits for better decision making. By gaining insight into a particular talent management pillar, such as recruitment or performance, your organization and HR function will be better off.

Integrated People Analytics – Exponential Insight and Improved Decision Making

With basic analytics in place and initial wins captured, agencies can look forward to even more insight and even better decision making with an integrated approach to people analytics. For example:

Talent Acquisition: While basic people analytics provides valuable insight such as where the best applicants are coming from, what similarities they share and what percentage are hired, integrated people analytics extends this insight by melding applicant information with vacancy data, for example. This type of insight helps an agency perform better, more efficient and faster recruiting and hiring, along with aligning applicant pools with existing and planned vacancies.

Performance Management: People analytics provides insight on who your top performers are, which employees are not performing well and other important performance information. But as you move beyond siloed analytics, you’ll be able to identify links between candidates, new hires and top performers; you can isolate connections and trends between top performers and managers; and you’ll be better able to locate skills gaps and align them with succession needs and plans.

Employee Engagement: While basic people analytics provides insight on which employees are most and least engaged, for example, integrated people analytics can shed light on engagement’s relation to onboarding, retention and more. For example, analytics can help explain to agency executives and HR leadership the effect of employee engagement on organizational performance.

By looking at data from an integrated viewpoint rather than from individual silos, you’ll broaden your insight and be able to save time and implement meaningful changes throughout your agency.

As the Harvard Business Review notes, “gaining insight on human capital data yields a competitive advantage.” In the battle to hire, develop and retain the best talent possible, this can be the difference between agency mission success and coming up short.

Interactive People Analytics – Employing Conversation for Further Success

While it may seem that integrated people analytics might be the Holy Grail, there is still even more that can be achieved to fully realize all the benefits. Agencies can further enhance their use of analytics and gain widespread acceptance and adoption by moving beyond one-directional, static dashboards. While dashboards are an important step in an organization embracing analytics and are becoming more common, typical dashboards are often not compelling enough for a wide range of users, including executives and managers, to fully embrace and take advantage of all analytics can offer.

By moving beyond traditional dashboards, organizations have the power to tell a more compelling story, in essence, creating a storyboard of information and initiating conversations throughout the agency. Here are some examples of what can be done today to help improve on the standard, static non-interactive dashboard:

  • Presentation: Simple data and presentation capabilities, which allow a dashboard or report to be distributed to individual, groups or teams. This facilitates knowledge transfer and information sharing. In many cases, various formats of the data, such as PDF files, can also be created for distribution, allowing greater flexibility.
  • Interactive Drill-down: Within a report being viewed, users can click on virtually any field to see more detailed information. For example, a user might drill down from high-level information see more detailed intelligence on a region, agency or organizational unit. This information might include time to hire, hire quality, employee engagement data, team performance and much more.
  • Collaboration: Users and groups of users can add comments, encouraging discussion and actions on report data.
  • Filtering: Filters can be applied to reports, allowing users to create unique presentations for specific teams, regions, agencies or organizational units.
  • Tracking: Reports can be easily tracked to see how many and which users have viewed the reports.

People Analytics – Underpinning Strategic Federal Human Capital Management

As federal Chief Human Capital Officers and their teams look to the long-term challenges of developing and implementing a strategic human capital plan, the power of available data and analytics to provide insight will surely be an important part of their plans. People analytics presents a tremendous opportunity for leaders to create a strategy that embraces the power of data to improve decision making and help their agencies fulfill their missions.

Even in the short term, these leaders can take advantage of people analytics and begin to see the transformative power that analytics can bring to the HR organization and the entire agency. Underpinning each of the talent management pillars, people analytics will bring almost immediate benefits and positive organizational change from talent acquisition to literally every aspect of the workforce, setting the stage for any new strategic changes an agency may choose to embrace.

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