How analytics is slowly replacing the human in HR

Big data and analytics have started to dominate almost all arenas in the industry and the HR department is no different. From recruitment to sentimental analysis, many companies are effectively channelling big data in their organizations for smoother and faster work. 

According to IDC Digital Universe Study, by the year 2020, every human being on the planet will be creating 1.7 megabytes of data every second. “In today’s world, decisions are based on data,” says Arvind Purushothaman, practice head-Information Management and Analytics at VirtusaPolaris.

Enterprises all over the world are leveraging big data and analytics in their organizations at every level and the Human Resources department is no exception. With smarter predictive analytics and better tools, companies are now hiring, evaluating and rewarding their employees on the basis of data gathered from a variety of sources.

Subhashini Sriram, head-HR at Unisys explains how the company is using analytics tools to gather all required information of any potential candidate. “We use the data to look at what kind of companies we are hiring from, the salaries paid and the benefits received for profit efficiency,” she says.

Companies across sectors are leveraging this technology and companies like Unisys, AGS Health and Infosys have been using analytics in their HR departments for over five years now.

Mindtree has re-evaluated its approach to analytics over the past one year and has decided to look at the business perspective to not limit it to one department alone. “The idea is to address business questions which have a cross functional flavor and not restrict it to data points from a single department,” says Rosalee M Kombial, associate VP–People Function at Mindtree. The reason for taking this approach was to make the output more business relevant and consequently ensure higher usage.

Read more: How Indian brokers use analytics to predict the stock market

According to Purushothaman, leveraging predictive analytics helps identify the right potential candidates and move those currently in the organization to the next level of performance. “Analytics also helps provide measurable feedback to employees and helps them understand where they stand in terms of their peers and improvement areas,” he says.

AGS Health developed its own proprietary tools and databases to analyse data across multiple platforms like people repository, learning management system, employee skills database and engagement matrices. Devendra Saharia, CEO, AGS Health listed the areas of focus as recruitment, learning, talent engagement, talent management, compensations, benefits, exit management and diversity.

Saharia says, “Owing to automation and adoption of technology, coupled with high impact analytics, AGS Health achieved a hiring success rate of more than 90 percent. Our training programs have 95 percent success rate in qualifying new hires for operations at 40 percent faster speed.”

There will definitely be a point where technology usage will be higher and limit the number of people in HR but it will never go to a point where humans are eliminated from HR.

So, do they have a dedicated team to look into it? Yes and no. Both Mindtree and Infosys have teams that look into HR Analytics, working with other teams in a cross-functional manner to arrive at the inferences.

However, AGS Health has a dedicated software development team and a dedicated business analytics team which support the HR department on the various requirements. Additionally, the HR team is trained to analyse and infer from the various dashboards, tools, systems and reports.

Also read: The Four P’s of Analytics

Speaking on the effectiveness of analytics in the department, Sriram says, “Analytics cannot be 100 percent right but it more or less helps us to draw a conclusion when we are getting to look at the trend. Even if the tools are 60-70 percent right, it is good enough. It is also about how we interpret the data and how we make business decisions based on it.”

How are they battling attrition using analytics? Richard Lobo, SVP and head-HR at Infosys says, “We have developed an algorithm that predicts employees who are at the risk of attrition. This approach enables managers to make personalized retention solutions for individuals.”

Kombial believes that the biggest benefit of analytics is the consolidation of all data in one place. “For any analytics platform to function well, the data availability and it being in a relevant, usable form is critical,” she says.

With the rise of robotics and IoT in the technology space, is there a possibility of technology overtaking humans in the HR department? Sriram said that while the number of people in HR department may go down with usage of analytics, the human element and human interpretation will still be required as long as there are human beings.

“There will definitely be a point where technology usage will be higher and limit the number of people in HR but it will never go to a point where humans are eliminated from HR as long as human beings are around,” she adds.

According to Saharia, HR will need to transition from being a transactional partner to a business enabler, driven by well-informed people insights. “Given the digital age, decisions will also need to include social media listening and profiling which is a massive universe in itself,” he says. 

Here's hoping that we don't have to negotiate our salaries with a robot anytime soon.