Trend Analysis – Not Just For Sales Anymore

27 Apr

HR Trend AnalysisLet’s face it – HR is different. 

Our “stock” is people; our “transactions” don’t require shipping; and our analyses rarely get mentioned  when someone starts talking about “business intelligence”.

And it’s the third of these that we should take issue with. Business intelligence is just as important in HR as it is in the rest of an organization. Employees – like stock – have value; they represent an investment which should be monitored and evaluated. But unlike stock that sits on a shelf, an employee’s value changes; it changes as employees move up within your organization, and it changes based on such simple things as staff attendance, certification, and salary.

Which brings us to the subject of “trend analysis”.

Trend analysis has typically been reserved for use by an organization’s sales department. A sales manager needs trend analysis in order to identify which items, customers, salesreps, et cetera are seeing an increase or decrease in volume. “And . . . “ (so the reasoning goes) “ . . . since an HR department doesn’t deal with this kind of volume, they have no need of a trend analysis solution.”

That’s where the trend analysis folks are just plain wrong.

HR needs to identify trends; just different kinds of trends that most people think of. Whereas a sales department is concerned about sales figures going up or down, an HR department is concerned with employee productivity and employee cost per hire going up or down. An employee who is suddenly (or even gradually) recording more and more sick time over the last few months is a concern. A departmental manager whose expenses for the last month are exponentially higher than their average month is cause for alarm. And a quarter in which your employees have to renew over half of their certifications is unquestionably something that has to be planned for.

So a pretty darn good case can be made on behalf of the need for trend analysis within HR; but now comes perhaps the more challenging two related questions:

  • Can HR afford the price of an “analytics application” to perform trend analysis?
  • Does HR have the staff time required to use such an analytics tool?

Typically the answers to these two questions are “I sincerely doubt it” and “No way . . . “

And although these answers might make it seem that an HR trend analysis product is just another of those “nice-to-have if-we-could” solutions, these answers do, in fact, point us towards a very specific type of HR analytics solution. A solution that costs little (less than $2,000) and makes no demands upon an HR staffer’s everyday workload.

Such trend analysis solutions do exist; but you may not find them where you expect. Instead of looking under “Business Intelligence”, “Analytics”, or even “Trend Analysis”, this relatively new breed of software is most typically found under headings such as “Alerts” or “Business Activity Monitoring”. After all – isn’t the process of monitoring your HRMS system for trends, and then communicating those trends to the appropriate people – really nothing more than a rather sophisticated alert?

(Or, to use a sports analogy, an “alert on steroids”?)

Alerting systems have grown up; no longer are they limited to the role of “alarm clock” for your HR data, doing nothing more than alerting you to new hires, changes in benefits, and certifications about to expire. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those uses; it’s just wrong to assume that those basic uses of an alerts system are all it has to offer you.)

The new generation of alerts technologies for HR include the ability to perform trend analysis. Just as importantly, these new technologies provide this ability at a reasonable cost, and they operate automatically – meaning that they discover and deliver trend information without making any demands on an HR staffer’s available time.

So don’t let those folks in sales tell you that there’s no need for trend analysis in HR. Your employees are your organization’s single-most important commodity; trend analysis can help you get receive a higher return on that employee  investment.


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