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Analytics is forcing HR to evolve

HR as a function within an organization is being forced to change because of two important and interrelated trends: 1) The increasing importance and competitive advantage of talent and 2) a new wave of disruptive HR technologies.

The new wave of technologies disrupting the HR function are in many respects as different from traditional HCM systems as night is to day and the power and insights that they provide will drive HR to evolve to play a strategic and innovative role in the company.

What I mean is that in the past innovative HCM technologies were really about automating processes and procedures that HR had already been doing via pencil and paper and filing cabinets for years. The new software made life easier and more productive for HR leaders BUT it did not fundamentally change the function of HR as it had traditionally been practiced. People Analytics is so potentially disruptive that I believe it will actually drive a fundamental re-design of the HR function itself.

People Analytics is disruptive because it fundamentally changes how companies understand and interact with their employee's. Or to put it another way, it fundamentally changes how companies understand and interact with their "human resources".

Big data, analytics, machine learning and cognitive computing will give companies insights into their employees that they have never had before providing them with the ability to predict behaviours, performance, productivity, and much more. So at a very basic level people analytics will allow companies to be predictive instead of reactive when it comes to finding, engaging, managing and retaining their employees. This is a tectonic change in how HR views itself and how other business units view HR.

The changes resulting from these new technologies will provide tremendous opportunity for HR to become a strategic and innovative business unit within the organization if it is willing and able to take the lead. But in order for HR to take the lead in this effort it will need to overcome its aversion to risk, create a culture of innovation, and leverage technology to better attract, engage, retain and grow talent.

The worry for many organizations, in fact for 92% of CEO's, is that their HR department will not be able to transition into a strategic technology driven business role within the organization. So the parallel question that I have, and for those of you who follow my blogs and have read my book know I have been asking for awhile, is who will eventually "own" these programs within the organization? What we know is that CEO's and BOD's are asking for these types of insights so people analytics is going to be central to how organizations operate, but that doesn't necessarily mean that HR will run it. I could see where each business unit seeks out technology on its own and hires a team to leverage the technology to gain insights. So sales would own its own people analytics to better understand its sales force, customer support would do the same and so on and so forth.

I think the question is not "if" companies will adopt technologies for people analytics but "who" in the organization will drive and own it?

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