People data is not just HR’s responsibility

A man's outstretched hand with photos of smartly dressed people floating around to illustrate people data

People data has the capacity to transform your business – it’s far too important to be left to the HR department, says Jane Sunley, author and chief executive of employee engagement specialists, Purple Cubed.

Organisations create, store and analyse a huge amount of information about their people, from absence rates and holiday entitlements through to performance reviews and engagement scores. Such information is all around us, and with the arrival of big data, the sheer quantity of data that organisations can now collect, store, slice and dice is quite phenomenal.

Business now has the opportunity to obtain a 360-degree view of employees, helping to better understand factors such as engagement levels, aspirations, development needs, productivity and performance.

So with such a treasure trove of information available to business leaders, why is ‘people data’ so readily assigned to HR to deal with?

Sometimes it’s just easier to leave the people stuff to HR. This is partly because organisations don’t always have the right technologies for leaders to straightforwardly obtain the information they need about their teams.

The process of analysing people data soon becomes frustrating and laborious and so they just give up trying.

And of course, it’s not unusual for leaders to have had negative experiences surrounding analysis of their people data, such as employing huge engagement departments to make sense of the people metrics and then finding the results do not deliver any tangible value.

Managing people data

With so much information available, it’s far too easy to get bogged down with people data. Leaders don’t always know the right questions to ask for the analysis to be effective – so it’s vital that they are absolutely clear about what they want to find out.

Data, however, is the future. Harnessing it, dissecting it, effectively analysing it, reporting on it and then taking action to influence change will be key to driving businesses forward. And so now’s the time for leaders to take ownership of it.

However, in an age where everyone’s constantly bombarded with more and more information, the smart business leader will take proactive steps to avoid analysis paralysis.

To do this, organisations must start with the end in mind. What do you really need to know? What is manageable? What can be used practically, consistently and to real benefit?

Reviewing people data, as a leader, needs to become as normal as checking the profit and loss sheet, the customer feedback scores and the stock take.

Leaders need to have key metrics at their fingertips which are easy to understand and interpret. For instance, a sudden increase in absence levels in a particular department could be quickly identified and investigated to see if there are any departmental issues that need addressing.

However, for people data to be taken seriously at the top table, it’s vital that organisations invest in the right enabling technologies which harness the data and display it in easy-to-understand graphical formats.

Leaders also need to spend time collaborating on this, using HR as a strategic informer, to better understand the real value that people analytics can bring to their organisations and then champion it to their peers.

It cannot and should not be HR’s responsibility alone. It’s time for leaders to sit up and take notice of the impact that people data is making and its huge potential for transforming business.

For more on employee engagement, visit Purple Cubed.

Jane Sunley is a member of the IoD.

About author

Jane Sunley

Jane Sunley

Jane Sunley is a best-selling business author and founder and chairman of employee engagement expertise and tech provider, Purple Cubed ( She is a member of the IoD.

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