The Case for Visual Analytics in HR

If you asked the leaders of most business functions — Logistics, Marketing, Finance, or IT — whether technology has “fundamentally transformed” the nature of their jobs in the last five years, most would say “yes”. And they’d be right. HR, however, has remained a stubborn nut to crack when it comes to digital transformation. While there is no doubt that new software platforms are changing the way certain functional tasks are done, HR is broadly doing the same work it was two decades ago; and for many companies, they are still using many of the same tools. What role does technology have to play in shaping the future of HR departments; and how exactly does HR stand to benefit from better tools? Zegami has attempted to explore this question with our HR partners, and have arrived at some interesting conclusions.

“There is no formula” for HR problems

Perhaps the primary reason HR has been resistant to wholesale transformation is that HR is not formulaic. HR concepts are, by their nature, highly intuitive and subjective. Solving HR problems requires judgement and patience. Analyzing HR data needs understanding of incentives and motivation. As such, many of the advances made in recent years on the tech side are lost on HR. The ability to process “big data” in ever greater quantities is hampered because there is so much “gray area” and unstructured information in HR by nature. Faster processing and “real-time” data monitoring count for less, because the timeframe for most HR issues is months and years, not nanoseconds. Advanced algorithms and AI fall short because HR work is, intrinsically subjective. In short, many of the most defining features of recent technological innovation work at cross-purposes with the most significant HR challenges. New tools are needed to solve the modern challenges of analyzing a global workforce.

Information needs to be visual There is a growing discipline of HR analytics (i.e., “people analytics”) that is geared toward tackling HR problems through data and analysis. However, the information involved in solving HR issues is not inherently precise. Unlike other corporate functions more conducive to big data, HR challenges do not have numeric solutions. There is no case of “the answer is X”. Rather, HR disciplines—from talent, performance and rewards to diversity, inclusion, and fairness—need to look and trends in data sets, not precise answers. As such, HR analytics, as a discipline, needs tools for exploration and discovery, not algorithms and statistics. The ability to explore an HR data set to discover insights is an inherently visual exercise. This is why a solution like Zegami’s data insights platform can be of great use to HR professionals. For HR, analysis needs to go beyond the simple chart-building capabilities of most modern tools (i.e., Excel, or Tableau)—it needs to be totally dynamic. Companies need the ability to explore their workforce as an interconnected web, zooming in-and-out, changing data-views, parameters, and variables on the fly. Analyzing data in such a way allows natural human intuition to spot trends and subjective findings in data that could not be arrived at through pure formula. This may be something as simple as gathering employee counts across different teams, or finding where your highest-performing employees are in your organization, or something as complex as trying to address the key variables contributing to your gender pay gap. Whatever it may be, the HR analytics tools need to be as intuitive, flexible and dynamic as the people using them.

Analytics should be tailored for HR, not data science

Surveying the landscape of analytical tools available for HR, one is struck by a trend: There are many emerging tools to support people analytics, but they generally seem to make the assumption that these tools need to be made for data scientists, not HR professionals. While data scientists can take advantage of more advanced statistical and analytical tools, they often don’t have the HR knowledge to effectively explore the issues behind the data. This leaves teams with phenomenal ability to process numbers, but lack the ability to draw HR insights. Zegami seeks to approach big data from the exact opposite direction: to give business functions, HR in particular, the tools to think and act like data scientists. By making solutions visual, Zegami allows the HR user to explore a complex data set and find trends that might only be apparent to a seasoned professional with deep HR knowledge. This value proposition is summed up in the diagram below:

Conclusion: How Zegami Can Help

Zegami is a data visualization solution designed to help with just the sort of data analysis that HR needs. Zegami’s platform can use API to dynamically sync with virtually any source of data, including whatever HR information system (HRIS) a company uses. Raw data, structured or unstructured, can be integrated from separate payroll, talent, employee survey and other systems seamlessly. Additionally, it distills complex, unstructured data sets down to a “unit of analysis”. In HR, this is the employee. In the language of Zegami analytics, this is the “Zeg” – a singular data point that includes all information—from different sources—combined into one unit. These Zegs can be arrayed in sets as large as an entire company, allowing the user to view an entire organization in a snapshot, while zooming in to the level of a single employee, all in the same view. Few—if any—tools allow this level of flexibility. Finally and most importantly, there is a clear ROI to be gained by organizations adopting a visual approach to analytics. The future of HR will be defined by the race to tease out insights from HR data that other companies don’t see. Finding the missing link to employee engagement; discovering hidden high-potential talent; closing the gender pay gap. The answers lie in the data HR organizations currently have—they only need the tools to unlock it.