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HR Analytics Gives Alabama Firm Better Insight

The HR analytics field is getting crowded. Here's how the chief HR officer at an Alabama company chose one solution and gained better insight over the business.
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6 Characteristics Of Data-Driven Rock Stars
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When it comes to figuring out a company's finances, getting a handle on payroll and employee expenses is critical. That's why getting the analysis of those expenses right is so important.

Cathy Hulsey is chief human resources officer for EPL, Inc., a Birmingham, Ala., software company in business since 1977. EPL, with 76 employees, is a company that would be defined as small-to-medium-sized.

Even so, in a telephone interview with InformationWeek, Hulsey said that getting basic numbers on HR factors was intensely time-consuming. "I had to do it the old-fashioned way: Put everything in the spreadsheet and make sure everything lined up. Sometimes it would take a whole day to get the final numbers."

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EPL became a customer of ADP for payroll and HR services in 2013. Hulsey said that she began to look for analytics support and ultimately narrowed her consideration to a pair of options, ADP and a competitor she declined to name. She was offered a chance to look at the ADP analytics suite and accepted the opportunity. When asked about the integration process, Hulsey said, "Adding the analytics was very easy. It was literally a flip of a switch: Once we said 'yes' the dashboard literally just showed up at my log-in."

Analytics around HR has become a more competitive market, largely because it is one business area that has seen the least uptake in previous iterations.

In a November 2014 article at Forbes.com, Josh Bersin wrote that recent research indicated that only 4% of HR departments are using predictive analytics, though it's an issue that more than 60% struggle with. Recent product and service announcements from companies including SAP, Oracle, IBM, Skillsoft, and ADP show that enterprise software vendors have recognized that an opening exists for advanced analytics as part of an enterprise software toolkit.

In most cases, the HR analytics are tied to other modules in an overall enterprise management suite. In ADP's case, the analytics are tied to the services the company offers in payroll and human resources management.

[ The options for HR analytics keep increasing. Read Workday Brings 'Insights' To Talent Management. ]

Hulsey said that using the ADP Datacloud allows for the forward-looking analytics that she needs to have as part of the executive team.

"Right now we're putting together a three-year strategic plan. We're looking at the data going forward -- looking at financials and workforce planning perspectives," she said. Hulsey said that every department in the company wants a higher head-count, but analyzing trends allows her to look at more than simple current and future department sizes. "Aligning personnel with strategic perspectives we can now look at retirement, recruitment, turn-over, total compensation, and other things," she said.

The data analysis isn't restricted to Hulsey's control panel.

"Each manager has access to these analytics through the ADP portal for their team. In, say, network support, you can look at your team members and see the average age, the average earnings, and use the information to see if they're getting the performance and see if there needs to be improvement," she said. "It lets us know whether there are things they need to be working on."

Hulsey also mentioned diversity and employee retention as areas that can be analyzed and corrected through the software's use.

In EPL, Hulsey says that it's not that the analysis couldn't happen before the ADP Datacloud was available, but that now the analysis can happen more quickly and more often. As an executive with "a seat at the table," those objective numbers are critical to her part of the conversation. "It's not that I couldn't do it before, it would just take more time," she said, adding, "I'm fortunate to be at a company that believes HR deserves a seat at the table, but with that comes responsibility. This tool helps me bring evidence to the battle."