From data to insights - our journey to becoming people geeks
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few years, you'll undoubtably have heard of the buzzword 'big data'. As technology has improved, the amount of information and data we now have access to analyse has grown with it. This has been hugely exciting for us as a people team and has taken us on quite the journey with our people data over the years.
Lots of data but no insights
As a team we recognise that we were collecting data and reporting on a reactive basis only. Our data sat in isolation in multiple spreadsheets and we were really limited in how we could use this. Having data saved in different places made it difficult to combine datasets to allow for any analysis to happen between them or insights to be drawn.
At the same time there were several changes in technology happening in both our team and at Nucleus. In the team, we implemented new people systems, one for everyone's personal data, one for engagement and another for recruitment. These systems had better reporting functionalities that we'd ever had previously and we suddenly found ourselves with access to even more data. This data, however, now sat in isolation on separate systems, instead of separata spreadsheets.
In the business, our technology team was continuing to grow and in particular, our Business intelligence team was making huge steps forward with a range of company data. Through tools such as Power BI, the team was presenting a wide variety of data as insights across the company. It was all accessible in the one place, removed the need for multiple spreadsheets and allowed analysis to happen easily between different datasets.
We watched in awe and knew this was where we wanted to get to with our people data. We were excited by the idea of using data to support the business to drive change and make better decisions. Spending time scrambling through multiple spreadsheets was never going to get us there, so we were delighted to be able to collaborate with the BI team to create our very own people dashboard.
Creating a people dashboard
The process of designing our people dashboard with the BI team allowed us to think differently about data than we'd ever done before. Starting with a blank slate (a bunch of post-it notes!) we mapped out what we had, what we wanted to know and what story we could tell if we combined it. We kept the following outcomes in mind throughout:
- Make the complex simple - to ditch our over-complicated series of datasets and reinvent how we use our data.
- Be insight-driven - move away from reporting data to analysing it, creating insights and identifying trends to support decision making.
- Tell a clear story - to be able to easily combine and connect our data to answer questions such as 'what problem are you trying to solve' and 'what do you want to know and why is it important?'
- Be user-friendly - to present visualisations in the dashboard that clearly represented our data - providing users with tools to easily identify issues and opportunities.
Once we'd identified what was needed, we were able to integrate this data from our different people systems into Power BI to create our dashboard. This was game-changing and allowed us to see our selected data all in one place at one time.
We recognised that although data is great, it won't move mountains on its own. To get the most from the data in our dashboard, dots needed to be connected and the context clear, in order for storytelling to be truly insightful.
Where are we today?
Since creating our people dashboard, we've rolled this out to all people leaders in the business as we wanted to increase the transparency of this data. We believe that (certain) people data shouldn't just be owned by the people team. Leaders are able to see both data as a snapshot across the whole company and also drill down to their own individual team levels. We wanted leaders to have access so they could be accountable and own their data to support them to drive change and make better decisions for their teams.
The introduction of our people dashboard has also allowed us to create data-led people plans for every team in the business to keep momentum going. We spend time each quarter pulling data from the dashboard, drawing conclusions and sharing these findings/insights with relevant leaders. This encourages data to be discussed openly, challenged and tested to allow us to make better and more informed people and business decisions, without a spreadsheet in sight.
How to move forward without a dashboard?
We were really fortunate to be able to collaborate with our technology team to create our people dashboard and in doing so learnt a lot along the way. Yes our data now visually looks great but we also recognise that what you do with your data is much more important than how it looks. If you're looking to start your people data journey, whether it's to create a dashboard or not, here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
- Set a goal - have clarity about what you want to achieve from the start. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by data and this will help you stay on track and avoid spending time looking at datasets that provide limited value.
- Begin with questions - what is it you want your data to tell you? Doing this will allow you to identify what data you need to answer your questions. You can put the data you already have to good use and identify any gaps you may need to consider going forward.
- Take ownership of data - ensure data is being recorded consistently. Different teams may report people data differently. Agree how you'll collect this to ensure it's always aligned. If you're going to draw insights from data you need to be confident in its quality.
- Share your insights - you don't need a dashboard to be data-driven. Moving from reporting metrics to drawing insights is a huge step forward. Sharing this with relevant leaders will likely spark new ideas and allow you to get the best out of your data too.
We've been on quite the journey to get to where we are today with our people data and it's been a big learning curve too. As a team we've moved in the right direction, however, we also recognise that we're still novice 'people geeks'. As we continue to get further into the detail of our data and as our people systems mature over time, we know there'll be bigger questions to ask, bigger hypotheses to test and bigger insights to be drawn in the future. We can't wait.