Making HR Analytics Matter to the Business

  • Just as analytics are transforming other organizational segments such as marketing and finance, they also hold great potential for human resources (HR). HR analytics (also known as talent analytics or people analytics) are defined broadly as the application of sophisticated data mining and business intelligence (BI) techniques to the HR discipline. There are varied ways where analytics can provide business value—from recruiting and hiring better workers, to analyzing employee retention and training programs, to getting higher worker performance.

    The good news for many organizations is the plethora of data that is available. The bad news? The amount of data, and many are drowning in it. The result is that the majority of businesses admit they are overwhelmed with HR data and don’t know where to start when it comes to using it.

    This definitive guide to HR Analytics spotlights an 8-step checklist to realizing full value from HR metrics/analytics, detailed descriptions of over 64 HR Metrics in 7 categories, and the comparison of old school HR metrics vs new school HR/predictive analytics.

  • Evaluating the Importance of HR Analytics

    According to a joint study by MIT and IBM1, HR analytics are a key indicator of whether a company is a leader in their space, delivering higher revenue growth and larger profit margins. Specifically, for companies using HR analytics, they see…

    • 8 percent higher sales growth
    • 24 percent higher net operating income
    • 58 percent higher sales per employee

    Executive leaders recognize the important of HR analytics to their bottom lines. According to a report by PwC, over three-quarters of companies rate HR analytics as an important priority2. But 40 percent say they are limited to basic HR reporting, and less than 20 percent are able to apply predictive analytics3. PwC explains that part of the problem is that nearly half don’t have the HR technology in place to produce HR analytics; 69 percent of those note that the major obstacle is that data is stored in different computer and paper files4.

    So, what are some of the factors holding organizations back from realizing the benefits of HR analytics?


    The number one problem is that HR organizations don’t have a return on investment of what they want to get from an HR analytics standpoint,says Scott Pollak, a People Analytics Partner at PwC

    One is the fact that HR teams often aren’t very analytical in their thinking. As they say in Missouri, ‘show me!’ Because HR leaders fail to put together a true ROI, their business case for HR analytics unravels very quickly. I also think organizations are limiting ROI in terms of the potential of where people analytics should be going. They should be focused on things such as driving better business outcomes through talent and through a better application of talent and how to increase revenue using talent.”

    Another issue is related to the sheer amount of data that can be used within an HR analytics model. This makes a lot of sense. Voucher Cloud shows that over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day5, which EMC says equates to a doubling of the world’s data every two years6. In addition to this rapid growth, 90 percent of this data is unstructured, which makes it more difficult for organizations to organize and use it for HR analytics.

    Gerry Crispin, the principal and co-founder of CareerXroads, explains that this has been one of the key factors holding back HR analytics: “We are only beginning to see data being used, even though it’s been there for a long time, simply because the quality of the collected data is so poor. Over the past few years, we’ve seen significant advances in getting the data right, making sure we’re collecting what we need to gather, where it is stored, and how to pull and access it.”

    But it is more than finding the right data. It is also tracking the right data. “My gut instinct tells me that we have about 20 percent of the data that we really need,” says PwC’s Pollak. “For example, we don’t really know how everyone spends their 8 to 10 hours a day at work and what changes they can make to that allocation to be more impactful. We don’t know how many decisions leaders or managers make every day, and how to help them to be better at making those decisions. We don’t know the impact of locations on results, and how to harness all of the potential data we have about where people are at physically. Organizations need to determine what information is important and put the systems in place to capture, track, and store it.”

  • Linking HR Analytics to Business Metrics

    Research by the RBL Group shows that the most successful HR leaders think and act from the outside-in. This means they have a firm grasp of external business trends and seek to translate those into internal decisions and actions. In this scenario, the HR professional must connect workforce outcomes to business outcomes. For Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) who don’t believe this is important, think again. A survey by workforce analytics firm Visier finds that over three-quarters of executives say their company cannot succeed without an CHRO who possesses a keen grasp of the business and what makes it successful7.

    To get to this level of understanding, HR must know what matters to the rest of the business and how it is being measured. Why is this important? HR might be focused on time to hire, retention rates, hiring manager satisfaction, and other issues, whereas the business is interested in revenue, profit margins, operating costs and efficiencies, among others.

    But these differences shouldn’t be a huge concern. There typically is a significant connection between HR analytics and business metrics. For example, shorter time to hire translates into lower recruiting costs, better margins, and faster revenue growth. Training programs equate to better employee retention and performance. Happier and more engaged employees perform better and advocate more often on the behalf of their employers.

    Connecting the dots between HR analytics and business metrics should be a top priority for businesses today. Yet, though the workforce is the single largest expenditure for most organizations, it often gets the most amount of leeway when it comes to demonstrating tangible business outcomes. Finance is held accountable through budgeting, sales via revenue, marketing via leads, etc.

    PwC’s Pollak believes organizations need to do three things in order to align HR analytics with the business. “The first is to have a vision,” he says. “You need to have a big, meaty issue that everyone can get behind. The second is understanding how, when, and where to apply the data so that meaningful intelligence can be uncovered and actionable insights enacted. The last issue is execution—getting the right data infrastructure, systems infrastructure, and people infrastructure to get the information into this point of attack.”

    The most commonly used HR metrics don’t directly impact the scorecard of a company. The plethora of HR analytics must be translated into business metrics that can be tracked and reported. One of the ways organizations are connecting the dots between HR analytics and the business is by hiring HR leaders with degrees and even experience outside of HR. “Companies are intentionally looking to hire people who have gotten their MBAs in marketing or doctorates in analytics and teaching them HR,” Crispin notes. “They want professionals with a broader understanding of the business and hire based on their potential to understand HR policies, talent management, recruitment, and other HR-related factors.”

  • Listing Out HR Metrics

    Before an organization can align its HR analytics with business metrics, it must first map out the breadth of the HR metrics landscape. There are countless ways in which organizations can track HR analytics. Over 46 metrics are broken into seven separate categories in the below overview.

    If you prefer to print out this definitive HR analytics guidebook, click here.

    Cost & Revenue | Recruitment & Hiring | Retention & Turnover | Compliance & Policies | Learning & Development | Employee Performance & EngagementHR as a Service


    Cost & Revenue
    Revenue Per FTE.


    Average revenue per employee is broken out across departments, regions function, and skill set. Per the Society for Human Resource Management, revenue per full-time equivalent (FTE) this past year was $335,594 in the United States8.
    Profit Per FTE.Average profit per employee is broken out across departments, regions, and skill sets. According to Forbes, the average profit per FTE is around $57,815 (before taxes)9.
    Cost of FTE Per Revenue.Aggregate cost of compensation, benefits, and other worker-related expenses.
    Average Salary versus Market Rates.Knowing what competitors and other companies are paying for specific job functions and levels enables organizations to pay market rates—for both FTE and contingent workers.
    Cost of Benefits as Percentage of Salary.How much a company is paying for benefits relative to salary.
    Cost of Benefits as a Percentage of Revenue.The cost of benefits relative to a percentage of revenue.


    Recruitment & Hiring
    Time to Source.Average time required to find and source candidates for job openings.
    Time to Hire.Average time to hire a candidate for job openings. Glassdoor reports that the average time to hire is now 52 days – an all-time high10.
    Cost to Hire.Total cost required to fill a job opening with a candidate. Bersin by Deloitte indicates the average amount spent by companies is $4,00011.
    Recruiting Efficiencies.Amount of time HR recruiting spends on specified work function.
    Hiring Fill RateHow many positions are filled after a specified time frame (e.g., six months).
    Candidates Submitted to Hiring Managers.Number of qualified candidates submitted to hiring managers for interview and consideration.
    Candidate Satisfaction.Satisfaction rate of candidates—those hired and not hired—with the recruiting process.
    Hiring Manager Satisfaction.Satisfaction rate of hiring managers with the recruitment process—at the level of individual job openings and hires as well as in general.
    New Hire Satisfaction.Satisfaction rate of new hires with the recruitment to offer and onboarding processes.
    Offer Acceptance/Close Rate.Percent of offers that are accepted and the close rate for new hires.
    First-Year Turnover Rate.Turnover rate for new hires within first year of employment.
    Manager Satisfaction Rates with New Hires.Management satisfaction with new hires (normally expressed via surveys).
    Performance of New Hires.Performance of new hires measured in terms of quantifiable and qualitative metrics and evaluation surveys.

    Cost & Revenue | Recruitment & Hiring | Retention & Turnover | Compliance & Policies | Learning & Development | Employee Performance & EngagementHR as a Service


    Retention & Turnover
    Turnover Rates.Turnover rates in aggregate and per department, region, and FTE demographics.
    Resignation Rates.Resignation rates in aggregate and per department, region, and FTE demographics.
    Employees Eligible for Retirement.How many FTEs are eligible for retirement in the next year, two years, five years, etc.
    Voluntary Turnover Rates.Number and/or percent of FTEs that voluntarily leave. These also can be broken into categories of reason, geography, function, skill set, and demographic.
    Involuntary Turnover Rates.Number and/or percent of FTEs that are involuntarily dismissed. These also can be broken into categories of reason, geography, function, skill set, and demographic.
    Average Retention Period.Average amount of time an FTE stays with a company. Further insights can be achieved via looking at geography, function, skill set, and demographic.
    Settlement Costs and Penalties.Cost of fines and legal settlements related to HR issues broken across job functions, skill sets, geography, division, etc.


    Compliance & Policies
    Risk Mitigation.Potential HR and compliancy risks that are mitigated as a result of HR analytics (e.g., ability to track diversity and other demographics data).
    Diversity.Percent of workforce by various dimensions of diversity (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, international). Diversity is top of mind for many organizations that seek to ensure compliance with regulations when it comes to demographic mandates. They also believe diversity promotes better performance.
    Workforce Demographics: Age.Organizations must comply with age-discrimination laws when it comes to their existing workforce, layoffs, and other age-related issues.
    Workforce Demographics: Gender.Organizations must ensure they are compliant with gender-related regulations as well as should aspire to foster workplaces that promote women into executive-level positions. Today, only four in 10 businesses have no women in senior management positions12.
    Workforce Demographics: Race.Organizations must ensure they comply with racial-discrimination laws when it comes to their existing workforce, layoffs, and other racial issues.
    Workforce Demographics: Disabilities.Organizations must also comply with disability laws and ensure they are compliant when it comes to their existing workforce, layoffs, and other workforce-related issues. Only 17.5 percent of people with a disability are employed today13.
    Workforce Demographics: Sexual Orientation.Many organizations are developing LGBT diversity policies that augment existing laws. HR analytics can help ensure compliance with these policies and laws.
    FTE Salary Per Level.Average salary broken down per function, skill set, experience, and level.
    FTE Productivity.Productivity of FTEs per region, department, function, level, length of tenure, and other factors.
    Equal Opportunities.Analysis and tracking of equal opportunities for FTEs.
    FTE Complaints.Number and/or percentage of FTE HR-related complaints per region, department, and function.  

    Cost & Revenue | Recruitment & Hiring | Retention & Turnover | Compliance & Policies | Learning & Development | Employee Performance & EngagementHR as a Service


    Learning & Development
    Effectiveness of Training Programs.Percent of employees who say they are satisfied with learning and development programs.
    Percent of FTEs with Development Plans.Number and/or percent of FTEs with development plans.
    Readiness for Job.Readiness of FTEs to step into new roles (percentage of workforce).
    Training Cost Per FTE.Average cost spent on learning and development programs per FTE.
    Training Programs Per FTE.Learning and development opportunities per FTE at regional, departmental, function, and skill set.
    Financial Impact Tied to FTE Training and Development.Ability to show business outcomes associated with learning and development programs such as new revenue, improved margins, and increased efficiencies. 


    Performance & Engagement
     Employee Performance.Employee performance is measured in different ways (e.g., scale of 1 – 5) and with varying levels of granularity across regions, departments, functions, and skill sets.
    Employee Engagement.Studies by Gallup indicate that fewer than one-third of workers are engaged14. Being engaged is defined in terms of surveys on satisfaction, willingness to advocate, work engagement, etc. Glassdoor research shows organizations with engaged employees achieve a 26 percent greater increase in annual company revenue15.
    Average Days Absent.Number of days employees are absent broken out across departments, regions, and functions.
    Problem FTE Rate.Percent and/or number of employees who failed performance reviews.
    Rehabilitation Rate for Problem FTEs.Percent of employees placed on “performance plans” who are “rehabilitated” and retained.
    FTE Satisfaction Rate.For companies using NPS, then FTE satisfaction is likely based on NPS survey results. But other survey models are used as well. Satisfaction needs to be measured at the levels of region, department, function, etc.
    Compensation Satisfaction.Compensation satisfaction can be overlaid with other data such as FTE Satisfaction, Job Empowerment, Retention, etc.
    Opportunities for Advancement.This can be viewed from the perspective of employees and that of the company. This data can be overlaid with various other data sets to produce even further insights.
    Work-Life Balance.An in-depth study by George Sheppard at Walden University found that improvements in work-life balance translates into improved employee performance16.
    FTE Commitment Index.This index is based on a series of questions posed to employees that result in an aggregate score.
    FTE Advocacy.Employee advocacy is becoming a critical initiative for a growing number of companies. For example, Gartner reports that 36 percent of marketing departments have employee advocacy programs in place17. The willingness of employees to serve as brand advocates—via distributing content and information on social networks, candidate referrals, etc.—can be measured via NPS and other survey programs.
    Management Effectiveness.This is typically measured in terms of employee satisfaction with direct managers as well as management hierarchy.
    Clarify of Company Vision Per FTEs.Often recognized as critical to employee engagement and an indicator of financial performance, the ability of employees to articulate a company’s vision and objections is seek as an important HR measurement.


    HR as a Service
    Average Response Time to Tickets.HR teams frequently establish service level agreements (SLAs) for their online support systems. Part of this process includes establishing response times SLAs and measuring the average time taken to respond to an employee ticket.
    Average Resolution Time (for Tickets).Similar to average response time to submitted employee tickets, average resolution time of employee tickets is another measurement from which HR organizations employ.
    HR Complaints by Category.Due to legal implications and compliancy, HR organizations must track employee complaints per category, region, department, and even function. HR analytics provide valuable insights that can be used to proactively mitigate risks.
    Average Complaint Resolution Time.HR organizations often measure the time required to resolve each HR complaint.
    HR Department Satisfaction Rate.Employee satisfaction with the HR department—measured in general as well as at the granularity of specific interactions.
    Growth in Internal Hires.In addition to reducing recruiting costs and delivering better performance, internal hires provides deeper insights around various recruiting, employment performance and engagement, etc. analytics.

    Cost & Revenue | Recruitment & Hiring | Retention & Turnover | Compliance & Policies | Learning & Development | Employee Performance & EngagementHR as a Service

  • Listing Out Business Outcome Metrics

    Business outcomes boil down to three things – revenue, costs, and risk.  Examples include:

    1. Customer acquisition rates
    2. Customer retention rates
    3. Up-sell and cross-sell revenue
    4. Revenue growth
    5. Cost reduction/efficiencies
    6. Profitability
    7. Risk mitigation
    8. Compliance
    9. Culture change
  • Activating the Value of HR Data with Data Analytics and BI

    Use cases on how to employ big data and BI to turn HR analytics into actionable insights are varied. Yet, only a small percentage of companies are successfully analyzing and turning their data into actionable insights. In a recent survey published as part of its “2017 Global Human Capital Trends Report,” Deloitte finds that only eight percent of HR organizations have usable data and that only nine percent have a good understanding of the talent factors that drive performance18.

    Those companies successfully using HR analytics are doing so in various areas. Recruiting is at the top of the list, though employee performance and engagement, retention and turnover, and compensation follow close behind. When the data is synthesized and then analyzed, HR organizations can turn latent data into actionable insights. The potential business impact is substantial. Let’s take a look at three different examples:

    Turnover and Patient Service

    Alliance HealthCare Services, which provides outsourced medical services through more than 2,400 healthcare professionals via partnerships with over 1,000 hospitals and healthcare providers across the U.S., takes patient care seriously. However, patient satisfaction and bottom-line results were being impacted by subpar retention rates for new hires, and Alliance HealthCare Services sought a way to pinpoint the root cause of the problem19.

    Initially, Alliance HealthCare Services gathered and managed staff turnover data from multiple HR systems on spreadsheets. Not only did this incur a huge expenditure in time and resources, but it also proved difficult for decision making. For example, while Alliance HealthCare Services could see that turnover was higher for new hires, it couldn’t drill down to the level of job titles and locations and to pinpoint root cause.

    Using multidimensional data analysis, Alliance HealthCare Services is able to drill down and focus on specific groups and the root causes of issues. For instance, isolating high turnover for clinical staff led to an overhaul of the onboarding program for that group. The changes Alliance HealthCare Services implemented as a result of the business insights enabled the company to reduce new hire turnover for targeted groups by 49 percent.

    Security Incidents and Targeted Awareness Training

    Global energy company Shell wanted to reduce its risk exposure by pinpointing which employees, based on different characteristics, are more susceptible to a cyber incident20. The intent was to create targeted cybersecurity awareness training for those employees. Using HR analytics and a deep-learning algorithm, Shell uncovered three main findings. First, phishing incidents for new hires drop each year over the first five years of tenure before increasing. Second, the tendency to download malware increases over the first five years of tenure before dropping off. Third, Shell also found a correlation with skills and assignment and the potential of a cybersecurity incident.

    Shell subsequently implemented a customized cybersecurity awareness training program for those employees deemed higher cybersecurity risk behavior—comprising 47 percent of all employees. But with targeted security awareness training, which saved time and resources, Shell reduced the number of employees exhibiting high-risk cyber behavior to 16 percent of its employee population.

    Diversity and the Language in Job Postings

    Diversity is an important priority for many companies today. Two-thirds of executives agree21. Various issues are driving this focus such as the current political and social environment, brand awareness and how it ties back to financial measurements, and a millennial workforce comprised of diverse demographics and expectations for equal treatment. Teams that are diverse and inclusive deliver up to 30 percent higher revenue per employee and greater profitability22.

    Online travel company, Expedia, places a high premium on diversity and relies on data analytics to ensure that its recruitment is gender inclusive. For example, analyzing the language used in its job postings, Expedia discovered use of gendered phrases is an important predictor of the gender of a hire. Specifically, when it uses it more masculine phrases and wording such as “manage” and “forces,” it gets more male applicants and thus there is a higher rate of male hires. The same is true when feminine words and phrases like “sympathetic” and “care” are used; more females apply and there is a higher rate of women hires23.

  • HR Analytics Transformed

    Traditional Recruiting
    (Old School)
    Predictive Hiring
    (New School)
    Analysis confined to structured HR-only dataTaps structured and unstructured data, internal and external data sets, cross-silo business data
    Tracked and reported for HR departmentTied to business metrics and reported to business and executive leaders
    HR analytics team lives in HR departmentHR analytics team reports to CHRO and operates across organizational silos; multidisciplinary team
    HR analytics team has a strong understanding of HR dataHR analytics team possesses a broad understanding of financial, customer, partner, marketing, HR, and other business-related data
    HR analytics focus on employee retention and turnover, compensation, and recruiting metricsHR analytics focus on business metrics such as revenue, margins, efficiencies, and risk management
    Focused on FTEsFocused on FTEs and contingent workers
    End objective: analysis and trendsEnd objective: consultative recommendations that target business outcomes

    TABLE 1: HR Analytics Transformed

  • Glossary of Terms

    HR Big Data: Growing volume of employee, customer, and transactional data, which after synthesized, generate actionable business insights.

    Business Metrics: Quantified measurement used to track and assess specific business processes or programs.

    Descriptive Analytics: Mines past data and analyzes it for insights on how to address future initiatives.

    HR Analytics: Also known as talent or people analytics, HR analytics is the application of sophisticated data mining and BI techniques to the HR discipline.

    Prescriptive Analytics: Employs analytical techniques such as graph analysis, simulation, machine learning, etc. to anticipate what and when something will happen but also why it will happen.

    Predictive Analytics: Examines data to determine what is most likely to happen.

  • References

    1Steve LaValle, et al., “Analytics: The New Path to Value,” MIT Sloan Management Review, October 24, 2010.

    210 Minutes on People Analytics,” PwC, March 2016.

    3Unlock the People Equation: Using Workforce Analytics to Drive Business Results,” IBM Report, 2013.

    4Trends in People Analytics—With Excerpts from the 2015 PwC Saratoga Benchmarks,” PwC, May 2015.

    5Every Day Big Data Statistics—2.5 Quintillion Bytes of Data Created Daily,”, April 5, 2015.

    6The Digital Universe of Opportunities: Rich Data and the Increasing Value of the Internet of Things,” EMC Digital Universe with Research & Analysis by IDC, April 2014.

    7Dave Weisbeck, “Why Connecting Workforce Outcomes to Business Outcomes Matters,” Visier, March 17, 2016.

    82016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report,” Society for Human Resource Management, November 2016.


    1050 HR and Recruiting Statistics for 2016: A Statistical Reference Guide for Savvy Recruiters,” Glassdoor, 2016.

    11Talent Acquisition Factbook 2015: Benchmarks and Trends in Spending, Staffing, and Key Recruiting Metrics,” Bersin by Deloitte, April 2015.

    12Dina Medland, “Today’s Gender Reality in Statistics, Or Making Leadership Attractive to Women,” Forbes, March 7, 2016.

    1317.5 Percent of People with a Disability Employed in 2015,” United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 24, 2016.

    14State of the American Workplace,” Gallup, January 2017.

    15“50 HR and Recruiting Statistics for 2016.”

    16George Sheppard, “Work-Life Balance Programs to Improve Employee Performance,” Walden Dissertations and Doctoral Studies, January 2016.

    17Jay Wilson and Anna Maria Virzi, “Digital Channel Survey 2016: Social Marketers Expand Tactics for Results,” Gartner, September 7, 2016.

    182017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age,” Deloitte University Press, January 2017.

    19“Alliance HealthCare Services: Making Employees a Competitive Advantage,” Visier, 2016.

    20Vasilis Giagkoulas and Ben Hawkes, “People Characteristics: A Predictor of Cyber Security Incidents?” SlideShare, October 26, 2016.

    21“2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends.”


    23Allie Hall, “How Hiring Language Reinforces ‘Pink-Collar’ Jobs,” Textio, January 12, 2017.

    24Rishi Agarwal, “Building Quick and Effective HR Dashboards That Matter,” PwC People Analytics, 2015.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen significant advances in getting the data right, making sure we’re collecting what we need to gather, where it is stored, and how to pull and access it.

Gerry Crispin, Principal and Co-Founder of CareerXroads

Learn to strengthen your hiring process with data

The journey from traditional recruiting to predictive hiring includes the upgrade from time-to-fill metrics to quality of hiring analytics. The result is you will now be able to start predicting the quality of your applicant pool and further maximize your recruitment spend.