Human Resources: Strategic, Predictive and Cost Effective

HR is a necessary evil! HR is a back office function that neither generates revenue nor adds value! HR always says “no” and is an obstacle to operating the business! HR is expendable! HR is reactive! HR is all about fluff and intangibles! I don’t trust HR! HR doesn’t have strong business acumen or understand technology!

I’ve heard these statements or ones like them countless times in my career; and I’ve wholeheartedly disagreed with them equally as many times. Yet they reflect the main struggle of HR executives and the transformation the industry is currently undertaking: how can HR leaders demonstrate results and added value? With the rise of HR digital capabilities, data analytics and strategic workforce planning, HR professionals may now showcase revenue generation and return on investment.

My estimation of the HR industry’s progression from tactical to strategic is illustrated at-a-glance below.

In the past three years, every business decision I’ve made has been geared toward one goal: operating in a proactive capacity based on HR data and trend analysis to maximize business outcomes.

To empower my team and set-up the department for success, we undertook a few projects to position HR as a strategic partner to all levels of the system.

Predictive Hiring

The Talent Analytics team extended their services to predictive capabilities and metrics. On average, companies that excel at people analytics are 3.1 times more likely to outperform their peers financially[i].

Through a regression model, the Talent Analytics team was able to present to hiring leaders when and where turnover will occur in the next 18 months within a single job segment. With this knowledge, the decision maker can recruit before being short staffed, thereby dramatically lowering their vacancy rate. The pilot conducted at Parkland achieved 92 percent accuracy and lowered the vacancy rate of the specific area from 6.4 percent to 2.1 percent over nine months. Since the pilot, this type of predictive hiring practice has been extended to five other departments encompassing close to 2,000 employees.

The following formula can be used to calculate the vacancy rate productivity value. It does not take into account the intangible benefits of a low vacancy rate (i.e. lower burnout, increased employee productivity, decreased FMLA usage, increased employee engagement, etc.)

Average number of FTE * Delta in Vacancy Rate * Average Hours Worked per Week * 52 weeks = Productive Hours Lost or Gained

In our experience, the productivity value of a one percent decline in the vacancy rate is about 191,000 productive hours per year!

Broadening HR’s Strategic Scope

The HR Strategic Business Partner team modified their meeting approach from solely people-focused to full business assessments. They meet consistently with Parkland leadership to define current business state and assess upcoming trends. The following data points are used to define the necessary actions for departments to successfully operate. 

  • Engagement score
  • Turnover ratios (favorable and unfavorable)
  • Vacancy rates
  • Exit interviews
  • Employee Relations cases
  • New hire onboarding feedback
  • Days to fill and start
  • Upcoming department staffing needs
  • Productivity assessment
  • Seasonality reports


As a result of these efforts, Parkland’s turnover rate declined from 17.6 percent to 14.6 percent. Realizing that a single employee turnover costs the organization approximately six months’ worth of salary, the 3 percent turnover decrease saved Parkland close to $11 million per year.


Strategic Workforce Planning

Talent Acquisition implemented a Strategic Workforce Planning (SWP) function at Parkland. As a first step, the SWP team partnered with Finance and Operations to maximize labor optimization.


A daily report was created measuring staff, overtime, contract labor and float pool utilization matched up to each department’s productivity. Every time staff turnover occurs in any department, labor optimization stakeholders from SWP, Finance and Operations analyze the most efficient way to deal with the vacancy. By assessing the business trends and manpower usage, the SWP team provides guidance on the necessary next steps for the open position:

  • Straight replacement
  • Replace and add more personnel (open new positions) to compensate for volume increase
  • Do not replace and use overtime, contract labor or float pool; as it is more cost conscious and matches the volume trends
  • Do not replace and lower overtime, contract labor or float pool to match declining productivity trends


In the past two years, this initiative has saved Parkland more than $40 million in costs.

These vital new initiatives helped shift the mindset of our leaders across the system. Now more than ever, they realize that HR can be strategic and demonstrate value while expediting and amplifying results. In short, HR is a catalyst for our organization’s success.

Through new HR technologies, HR executives can finally have a clear picture of the history, current status and upcoming direction of their organization; thereby establishing credibility with the C-suite as a strategic department.


The HR digital transformation is here to stay and artificial intelligence . To anticipate and adapt to the ever-changing needs of their organizations, Talent Management departments must understand the business world, assess trends, comprehend data analytics, be technologically savvy and possess a best-in-class strategic workforce planning department.

The skills and requirements described have been predominantly used by a variety of business professionals for some time; what’s new is their use specifically within HR practices. Previously, HR professionals began their careers in traditionally entry-level roles (i.e. benefits, compensation, HR record keeping, and recruiting fields), then worked their way up and were groomed in business practices. What’s different now, though, is an increasing volume of HR executives who started in other business professions and moved to HR later in their careers. Consequently, we now must determine if business-groomed professionals are best equipped for success as HR executives; and if so, what must the quintessential HR professional do to adapt to this swiftly evolving field?

[i] People Analytics: Global Leadership Forecast. DDI, The Conference Board & EY, 2018.


Misty Otto
Director, Office of Talent Managemet Strategic Communications
Parkland Health and Hospital System
Erica Marrari
Director of Strategy, Talent Acquisition and Workforce Planning
Parkland Health and Hospital System