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Workforce data analytics is a struggle, says Ithaca College

Improving workforce data analytics capabilities is a goal for Ithaca College's HR department. But Ithaca College's problem with analytics is similar to many other organizations. Upgrading analytics capability is a long process.

Most organizations are not using workforce data analytics to anywhere near its fullest capabilities. And this includes Ithaca College, which hired a new HR manager to change its direction.

The college plans to upgrade its HR platform to Oracle HCM Cloud and improve its workforce data analytics. It's now running 17-year-old Oracle on-premises systems managed by the IT department. Age wasn't the only problem facing these HR systems. Maintenance wasn't kept up, and integrations were lacking.

It was hard getting answers to basic questions in workforce data analytics. Discovering employee turnover meant "spending enormous time doing data crunching to get it," said Brian Dickens, vice president of HR at Ithaca College.

The college created the vice president of HR position to signal the position's importance and hired Dickens in June 2016 to improve HR operations. One of the things that Dickens set his sights on was improving the school's HR systems. Dickens has a doctorate in educational administration and HR development from Texas A&M University.

The HR upgrade is underway. The college evaluated a number of human capital management (HCM) platforms but decided to stay with an Oracle system because it felt it best met it needs, including improved analytics. Ithaca College just began implementing the Oracle cloud platform and expects to go live on the system in January 2019. One result will be to quickly gain workforce data analytics about the college's 1,700 staff and faculty.

Improving HR systems wasn't a priority

Dickens believes the HR staff got used to finding workarounds with its current HR system. Improving the system wasn't a priority. But Ithaca College isn't far behind many other institutions and businesses, according to IDC.

At the recent Oracle HCM World conference in Dallas, Kyle Lagunas, IDC research manager in its talent acquisition and staffing research practice, said that about 30% of organizations are still in the ad hoc spreadsheet mode of HR analytics.

We're not just looking at what we've done. … We're looking at where we are going.
Kyle LagunasResearch manager, IDC

A larger group, about 38%, is a step above. These users are at the "opportunistic" level of maturity in workforce analytics. They are cautiously deploying analytics, taking small steps, but are still mostly in the experimental phase.

It's only above the lower 70% that HR workforce analytics users achieve something close to the ideal and go beyond historical data.

For these users, the attitude is: "We're not just looking at what we've done. We're not just looking at what we're doing. We're looking at where we are going," Lagunas said.

Mapping future needs is one HR analytics goal

These users are analyzing human capital needs, such as future wage and skills needs, and are "addressing things that the business has no idea are a problem yet," Lagunas said.

Advanced workforce analytics organizations are also looking outside their firms. They are assembling data to see how they are "competing with others from an HR perspective," Lagunas said.

The very highest level of maturity -- the "optimized" users -- in data analytics constitutes less than 1% of HR departments.

For these users, "data boundaries don't exist," Lagunas said. "You're able to grab data from any system within the organization," and it's all integrated into a unified business intelligence platform, he said.

Dickens knows there will be challenges transforming the HR systems from on-premises to cloud-based. It will require "a forward-facing mindset around what's possible for HR systems and our service delivery," he said.

With the cloud migration, HR will take charge of the systems, with IT support, Dickens said.

Dickens sees the end goal as making HR more of a "strategic partner" and "critical thought leader" using people analytics within the college. It will take some retooling of staff, but he believes that HR can deliver improvement in the quality of life for the workforce, as well as bring the department into alignment with the institution's priorities and mission.

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