SVB Data Analytics Director: HR needs to know how to turn data into a solution

Robert Lanning previews his HR Tech Online Summit North America presentation

lanning on data_businessman-charts-close-up

HR continues to be more data-focused than ever before and it’s even using it to drive decision making.  In fact, 84% of executives consider people analytics to be a high priority for their organizations.  That’s according to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report.  That wasn’t always true.  In the past, many companies weren’t sure how to gain actionable insights that would actually drive performance. Consider that only 24% and 32% of companies in 2015 and 2016, respectively, felt ready or somewhat ready for analytics. 

As part of our upcoming HR Tech Online Summit North America event, we find out how companies are using the power of people analytics to drive everything from talent acquisition to retention.  Leading the presentation will be Silicon Valley Bank director of HRIS and People Analytics Robert Lanning.  He sat down with HR Exchange Network editor Mason Stevenson to discuss why numbers are important to HR and how to harness the power of people analytics.

The Power of HR Data

Mason Stevenson

What’s the Number 1 data challenge for HR departments?

Robert Lanning 

Two things I see.  Number 1, the breadth of the data you have because there are tons and tons of HR data repositories that HR professionals can pull from their standpoint from here’s how many people we have to here’s how many candidates we have versus how many training courses we have and so on.  Then you have performance data and engagement data and then there’s the “bring your own” data.

Related:  Assessing Your HR Analytics Capability

So there’s the breadth of the data and then the actually quality of data and the interconnectedness of that data amongst those different repositories of data.  A silly example is if you have, say, seven digit employee ID numbers with leading zeroes in one data source and you try to link to data in another data source and in the process, for whatever reason it dropped those leading zeroes, you’re not going to be able to match that data up.

Mason Stevenson

Choice of data depends on the goal of the HR professional/department.  How do you choose the appropriate data to achieve the goal?

Robert Lanning

It’s going to depend on the goal.  There’s kind of an art and a science to it.  For the science part, say we’re talking about applicants.  Obviously, my choice of data points is going to be limited.  That’s where the art comes in.  For instance, you can pull 80% of it from one source, 10% of it from another source and the remaining 10% from yet another source; blend it altogether into a new data source that addresses the particular question you’re trying to answer.  The art of data is hard to quantify.  It just comes with experience.

Mason Stevenson

How about data integrity?  How can you ensure it?

Robert Lanning

For data integrity, you really need someone to focus on it.  Now, depending on the size of the organization, is a full time job.  For a smaller organization, for instance, probably not.  Regardless, someone needs to own it across the entire HR domain.  You need someone who can take on the role of ensuring data works across the various HR systems and that the data is correct.

Mason Stevenson

What about external data?  How much should an HR professional/department use?  What’s type of external data should be used?

Robert Lanning

Use external data where appropriate.  What’s appropriate?  Well… rarely would I purchase data about employees from a credit bureau, for instance.  Some of that data is off-limits.  External data that can be used is data from government entities or NGOs.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics would be a great example.  External benchmarks are good as well.  As long as it’s not individual-specific, the data is generally okay to use.

Mason Stevenson

You need the right tool, for the right job.  What tools should HR have to manage and analyze data?

Robert Lanning

We’ll, you’re going to need something that can slice, dice and puree your data.  An Excel-type of software would be necessary.  Then you’re going to need something that addresses your statistics.  You could do all of this work in Excel using Excel codes and whatnot or you could by an add-on of some sort.  Or you could purchase a sophisticated statistics platform.

Mason Stevenson

How does HR turn data discovery into action?

Robert Lanning

I’ve always had a philosophy, one that I’ve learned over the years, that we don’t… my team does not like to run numbers and do analyses if we’re not going to do something with it.  We want to know on the frontend what HR is going to do with the data. 

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A few years ago, we had someone say they wanted a list of employees who were in danger of having their jobs reclassified from exempt to non-exempt.  When I asked what they were going to do with the information, they didn’t have an answer other than just wanting it.  That’s not an urgent request.  So, back to your question:  how does HR turn data discovery into action?  Simply by understanding if data will actually impact what is being attempted.  When the light bulb comes on for an HR professional, that’s when data gets turned into action.

HR Technology Online Summit North America

Robert Lanning is the director of HRIS and People Analytics for Silicon Valley Bank and a speaker for the HR Tech Online Summit North America event set for June 11-12.  He will go into much more detail about data analysis and strategy in his presentation. 

Key themes for the online event include:

  • Creating an HR department more strategy-focused and less transactional with automation and RPA
  • How to integrate AI into your overall strategy to remain agile, relevant and competitive
  • Effectively using recruitment technologies to find the best talent available for your organization to sustain business growth and survival
  • Becoming proficient at understanding and using data through effective application of people analytics
  • Consolidating your employee experience strategy to increase engagement, development and retention
  • Leveraging video, social media, gamification and microlearning to increase employee engagement

To register for the free-to-attend event, click here.