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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

In this Outsmart panel, Visier’s Chief Strategy Officer Dave Weisbeck, interviewed four experts about the unique challenges of people strategy for small and mid-sized businesses. 

Cecilia Haag, Southeast Regional Account Executive of Middle Market Solutions for Insperity, Stephen Bruce, Managing Director of PeopleFluent, and Chris Bovard, Vice President of Product Strategy at Paycor spoke how people analytics can help them optimize that strategy and make smart choices about their people. 

People analytics is often seen as the domain of large corporations with tens of thousands of employees. However, it is just as valuable to small- and medium-sized businesses as a recent Outsmart panel revealed. 

“If you’re a 100-employee company, and you lose one person, you’ve just lost 1% of your company,” said Dave Weisbeck. 

With these smaller teams, the ability to make sound, data-driven decisions about every employee is incredibly important. 

“Mid-sized and small organizations usually have all the complexity of large enterprises, just with a fraction of the staff — and the budgets and systems to manage them,” agreed Stephen Bruce. “Having some view of data analytics, including to represent the outcomes of your talent strategies, is arguably even more critical to medium-sized businesses than large ones.” 

Do mid-sized companies need analytics? 

Unlike large enterprises, organizations with under 5,000 employees typically do not have analysts or data scientists working in-house to generate value from their data. People analytics brings those capabilities to everyone within these smaller organizations, from marketing to sales recruiting, whether or not they have any previous familiarity with data. 

This access to information not only helps HR departments make stronger decisions within their own operations, but equips them to easily share data with their executive leaders and upper management, such as a CFO who might want answers about headcount or turnover. Especially for small, one- to two-person departments, this data would not be immediately accessible without a domain-specific analytics solution. 

“Instead of needing analysts to go in and do the research for you, the data is at your fingertips, so it’s incredibly empowering,” explained Cecilia Rodriguez. “I look at analytics almost as an accountability partner. Instead of making assumptions about what you think is going on in your organization, when you have the analytics, the truth is right there in front of you.”

Data to benefit companies and their people

While people data will always serve a company’s primary objectives — lowering expenses and boosting revenue — increasingly, it’s being applied to less tangible goals as well. 

“We need to provide [analytics] systems that look at data not just from the transactional, organizational lens, such as productivity measures and gaps, but also from an employee perspective — what is the employee getting out of it?” said Stephen. 

Especially in light of the rapid changes companies faced over the last year, HR departments are looking for data that will help them understand and improve their employees’ experiences

“That’s where analytics can shine,” Stephen added. “It can provide data cuts for both lenses so that both areas are served.” 

People are any company’s biggest asset so scaling and reaching business goals isn’t just a matter of finances – it requires strategic HR and talent initiatives. To plan for and implement those measures effectively, HR leaders need data to understand the current state of their people, and predict the impact of their possible future actions. 

And today, that planning and analysis needs to happen faster than ever before. Yesterday’s model, where organizational objectives were planned out a year in advance and evaluated quarterly, is looking more and more dated. Increasingly, companies are expected to know what’s happening with their people as it happens, and make decisions on an ongoing basis. 

The effects of the pandemic on SMBs

COVID-19 accelerated change in many sectors — and HR was no exception. 

“This past year has caused HR to have to be a lot more reactive, a lot more quickly than they were historically used to,” said Chris Bovard. “I think that has caused a lot of disruption across the industry.” 

But Chris is quick to point out that these changes weren’t entirely negative — in fact, the last year may have sparked a people-first attitude that he doesn’t see disappearing anytime soon.  

HR is changing, evolving, and needing to take care of their people,” he said. “Then, companies need to take care of their HR departments — specifically around the use of analytics, and their HR leaders’ ability to cope with rapid change.” 

As companies felt the pressure to adapt seamlessly to the unprecedented rate of change they experienced during the pandemic, the value of people analytics for sound decision-making became clearer than ever. 

For example, HR professionals needed to understand the likely impacts of pandemic-induced furloughs and layoffs. 

“Having data available gives you the ability to say, how is this decision truly…impacting and giving opportunity to our people and how is that going to impact us, as an organization?” said Cecilia. “One of the things I love about Visier is that we can look at [the current state of our people], and compare it against the same time period last quarter, or last year. Now we’re a lot more agile, we’re making decisions 90 days at a time and then shifting gears every 30 days, as opposed to a year at a time, and shifting every quarter.”

Analytics for tomorrow’s workforce

For these experts, people analytics are part of making sure HR practices keep up with these new standards as they transform the business landscape. Having the hard data to back up decisions also promotes a culture of transparency. 

“We’re seeing data come out of research groups that say millennials—and the generations close to them—are aligning themselves with organizations that are transparent about their values,” Cecilia shared. 

“This is a generation that grew up with the Internet,” Stephen added. “I grew up in a time where you would do a focus group and two months later, there’d be a response. Now, workers want that information tomorrow. If you’re not providing immediacy, responsiveness, and feedback, they will find other employers that will.”

If smaller and mid-sized companies are to stay afloat in a marketplace that’s changing more quickly than ever before, they need tools to help them make good decisions that benefit not only their business, but the people behind it, too. 

Want to learn more about how small and midsize businesses can make better use of their HR data? Get the white paper, People Analytics for Small and Midsize Businesses.

About the Author

People-centered ideas and insights by the editorial team at Visier.

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