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Unlock the people equation


Using workforce analytics to drive business results

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The key to understanding the workforce

As the complexity of workforce challenges continues to rise, so will the demand for more quantitative approaches to address the increasingly difficult people-related questions central to organizational success. The power of workforce analytics lies in its ability to challenge conventional wisdom, influence behavior, enable HR and business leaders to make and execute smarter workforce decisions, and ultimately, impact business outcomes. To realize value from investments in workforce analytics, organizations need to understand: the relationship between their workforce strategies and their business challenges; the approaches at their disposal; and the capabilities required to translate raw HR data into defensible action.

To better understand how companies use workforce analytics to improve business performance, we interviewed individuals with responsibility for workforce analytics from 41 organizations throughout North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Their organizations ranged in size from less than 5,000 to several hundred thousand employees and represent a wide variety of organizations, including retailers, technology companies, banks, government agencies, insurance providers and consumer product producers, among others. We also conducted an extensive literature search and interviewed workforce analytics experts in our IBM HR analytics function and advanced analytics teams.

This study focused on four questions:

  • What types of problems are organizations attempting to solve with workforce analytics?
  • How do organizations approach these problems, and what analytics techniques are they using?
  • What capabilities do organizations need to be effective with workforce analytics?
  • What obstacles are organizations encountering, and how can they be avoided?

Ultimately, the objective of workforce analytics is to enable HR and business leaders to make more strategic decisions about how to best manage workforce challenges, ranging from the aging workforce and knowledge loss, to top contributor attrition, to employee engagement.

The driving forces of workforce analyticsA range of external and internal forces are leading organizations to use workforce analytics (see Figure 2).

Externally, the nature of the global workforce is changing rapidly, making it more challenging to understand where and how work is performed across an organization. Regulatory and compliance issues require companies to become more transparent in how they classify their employees and demonstrate how they are reducing bias and risk in hiring and promotion decisions. Emerging data sources such as external labor market data and mobile and social applications provide new opportunities to gain even deeper insights into workforce issues.


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Additional content

Meet the author

Janet Mertens

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, Global HR Research Leader, IBM Institute for Business Value



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