Managing Unrealistic HR Analytics Turnarounds

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Aug 6, 2021

Imagine that a leader asks the people analytics team, “Where are we having the most turnover, and why is it happening?”

A diligent analytics professional understands that this is a multi-faceted question. There are many ways to approach the question of “most turnover.” They could look at it by department, by tenure, by grade level, and so on. 

As to the reasons why there is turnover, well, that will take some digging too. Also, the analytics pro will know that some of the data may not be clean and therefore must be checked. 

All in all, if you want to do the project properly, even in a limited way, it will take a few weeks.

Here’s the problem: The leader needs the information within 24 hours. They are going into a meeting or making a presentation or making a decision and they need some insight within a tight window. Anything after that is too late. 

If the analytics team says it will take a couple of weeks, the leader will nod, then quietly go off and ask someone else for help, even if all that someone else can offer is an opinion and a few illustrative data points.

How this plays out is worth understanding. The leader will get the detailed report from analytics in a couple of weeks. If it aligns with what they already said or decided, the leader will be happy. If not, they may decide they have to shift course a little. 

But here are the two key points. They may say to analytics, “Great, thanks,” while thinking, “The analytics team is not useful.” In other words, analytics doesn’t know they are losing a customer, but it’s happening.

How can analytics address the need to deliver on unrealistically fast turnaround times? First, the analytics team needs to have a really good intake discussion with the leader asking:

  • What do you need to find out? Why?
  • What decision do you need to make? 
  • Do you have a suspicion or hypothesis about turnover you are trying to test? 
  • When do you need it? Why do you need it then?

When the analytics team gets these answers, then they can have a frank discussion with the leader on what level of detail and accuracy is possible within that time frame.

Now, what is actually possible within an impossibly tight turnaround time? Well, that depends, but you’d be surprised how often some ballpark figures are enough to give the leader what they need for the presentation they are giving or the decision they are making. 

Maybe their real concern is turnover in the first three months in their call center relative to other call centers. Maybe the level of accuracy they need is simply “it’s better” or “it’s roughly the same” or “it’s worse”. Maybe pulling comments from a randomly selected sample of exit interviews will answer why turnover is happening to the leader’s satisfaction.

Analytics pros need to accept the fact that leaders are not always skilled in their communications with the analytics team. They don’t express clearly what they want and why. They may not even have it clear in their own mind. It’s up to the analytics team to help leaders clarify their needs to deliver something helpful — even when faced with unrealistic turnaround times.