Why Must HR Let Data Drive Decisions, Every Day?

HR makes many decisions every day, and while most may be tactical, they add up to create the overall employee experience and impact business. How can data transform the landscape for HR?

Why Must HR Let Data Drive Decisions, Every Day?

28 Apr 2017 by  Jeremy Andrulis

Everyone agrees that the role of HR has transformed in recent years. One of the driving factors is the expectation for employees to receive a consumer grade experience at work—and why shouldn’t they?  Your employees are also consumers in their everyday lives. They’ve grown accustomed to seamless user experiences that match their specific needs, and are on constant look-out for the best products and services.  For HR, this translates to three key employee expectations—the need for speed; the need for individual tailoring; and the need to continuously innovate.

Simultaneously, HR is under pressure from internal stakeholders to deliver additional value to the business. This means effectively hiring and deploying employees, creating a larger pool of talent with the right set of specialised skills and organisational behaviours, and managing costs by showing the return on investment from people programmes, particularly rewards investments. 

Striking this balance is not easy.

So, how does HR meet these internal and external expectations?

The key to consistently meeting these new expectations starts with HR’s approach to decision-making. HR makes many decisions every day, and while most may be tactical (for example, how do we communicate employees who receive special recognition? who interviews potential candidates? what messages are shared at orientation?), they add up to create an overall employee experience and impact the value delivered to the business.

The key question is: How can HR make decisions that meet employee expectations as well as organisational goals?

The challenge in making decisions that meet these complex expectations is less about having the right data and more about asking the right question. Here are some typical questions, reframed to help organisations make more impactful decisions to meet employee and organisational expectations:

From To
How much do our competitors pay? How do we differentiate our rewards packages to improve performance? 
What is our engagement score? How do we prioritise our people investments to grow new solutions?
Who do we hire? Which behaviours are critical for sustaining long-term innovation?
What training programmes must we develop? What development opportunities will create a bigger pool of high potential talent?


Data gives greater predictability to everyday decisions. For instance, using data to make hiring decisions can help you predict how quickly they can perform. Specific behaviours can be identified and isolated to aid in decisions on building emerging skills sets (such as digital savviness), selecting sales employees who exceed goals after 12 months (not just in the short term), as well as nominating people for promotion and high-potential programmes.

There are 3 ways HR can reframe their thinking to ensure they’re asking the right questions to reach the right decisions:

  1. Many organisations gather a lot of data without any underlying strategy, then try to do something with the numbers they have. Instead, it’s more effective to define your business and people goals first, then get the data you need to support achievement of those goals—whether it’s to do with hiring, training, incentive programmes, or others. This decision-making process starts with deconstructing the strategy into measurable questions and actions and pulling the right data together to help achieve the overall business and people goals.
  2. HR leaders must position themselves as critical thinkers who are able to make decisions that have positive impact business. In addition to having strong analytical skills, HR needs to bring different groups together to gain a new and broader perspectives, have frequent interactions with customers (not just business), and demonstrate a clear view of the external market and trends. 
  3. Tell a story with numbers. While most organisations often collect holistic data on the entire employee population, to get the most effective use of that data, organisations should deep-dive into the important roles and gather more insightful data that can help them tailor solutions and experiences for these employees. But HR cannot just let the numbers speak for themselves—instead, they need to tell a story with the data that leads to a better decision.

An example from a global manufacturer brings all these components together. This organisation was shifting towards a customer-focused strategy and wanted to align the organisation structure to enable this value proposition. To drive the decision on the new organisation structure, they didn’t ask ‘what is the optimal organisation structure?’; instead, they asked ‘how do we create the right accountabilities to ensure timely and customer-driven decision making throughout the organisation?’. To answer these questions, they used data on competitive organisation roles, customer buying behaviours, internal and external salaries, and emerging skills. Communications then told the story from the perspective of strategic goals and external landscape, so all stakeholders and employees could easily understand and get on board with the new structure.

The end goal is not data, or even insights. HR adds value by using the insights to enable better people decisions that achieve organisational goals while meeting employee expectations. 

Start a conversation with us

Need help with data-driven decision-making in your organisation? Get in touch with us.

Jeremy Andrulis

Jeremy Andrulis is the CEO of Aon Hewitt’s Southeast Asia business. With over 20 years of experience as a management and human resources consultant in North America and Asia, Jeremy has successfully led numerous business and organisation transformation projects for the public and private sector. His expertise lies in strategic planning, leadership and talent management, organisation effectiveness, and HR transformation for global organisations across a host of industries. Jeremy received a Masters in Management (MBA) and a Masters of Arts in Political Science (MA) from Purdue University (USA), and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Villanova University (USA).

Get in touch
Rahul Chawla
Boon Chong Na