Master of Professional Studies in Human Resources Management

Panel Discusses Importance of Data Analytics to Human Resource Management

By: Tricia McCarter-Joseph

Two experts in the field of Human Resource Management firmly believe that human resource professionals must become more proficient in analyzing and maximizing data on employee engagement, if they are to be successful in making their organization a better place to work.

Entitled Multi-generational Engagement: Using Technology, Data, and Metrics to Drive Performance, the Human Resource Management program at Georgetown sponsored this panel discussion as part of the program’s immersion series, where students meet and interact with practitioners in the field.

Lee Webster of the Society for Human Resource Management and Ira Kitmacher of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, both agreed that data analysis is an important skill for up and coming HR professionals, in a time when the workforce is multi-generational and often at odds.

“The HR professional of the future is someone who is comfortable with analytics,” said Webster, Director of HR Standards at the Society.

“The HR professionals of the future have to recognize that the only way we can make compelling, lasting change in organizations is not only that we’re very good with the qualitative part of our roles, [but] we have to be able to speak in terms that are compelling on the quantitative part of our roles.”

The Senior Associate Dean of the program, Christopher Metzler, Ph.D., pointed out that professionals need to become more competent in discussing data issues, the way they would recruitment and retention issues.

However, Webster did concede that the science of metrics and analytics is relatively new to the field of human resources and that it remains a challenge for current professionals to effectively analyze and implement new company policies based on employee data. He noted that the cooperation of executive management plays a major role in making progress within organizations.

Webster said there also needs to be a baseline understanding of culture and engagement among employees. He explained that generational differences exist within organizations that affect the way employees respond to gathering data, since some are more technologically open than others.

“There are at least five different generations that [HR] has to gather data from,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how to help all of these different generations work together, so that they’re capturing data that’s relevant and then [human resources] can act on it.”

Additionally, Ira Kitmacher said that the use of new technology has been one of the major tools used within the FDIC to spearhead a culture change program, when the federal agency was at the bottom of the Best Places to Work list in 2006. Four years later, they are now number one.

“We are making a better use of technology. We at the FDIC are honing our skills on podcasting and virtual types of communications,” said Kitmacher.   

He also explained that the culture change concept included training leaders, increasing interactions between executive management and lower level employees and getting everyone on the same page.

Preparing Students for the Workforce

 “We want to make sure we are exposing students to what is currently available in the field,” said Metzler.

He said that employee engagement is an important topic in the field since many organizations are finding that their employees are disengaged, which leads to reduced productivity and less innovation.

The program will also be expanding its curriculum to include more courses on HR analytics so as to teach students to recognize what kind of data is gathered from the organization they work for and what to do with it.

“HR analytics is a competency and its being able to use tools that are very critical,” said Metzler.

Student Mark Venner applauded the discussion and found the topic helpful in advancing his career at Booz Allen Hamilton.

“Panels like this are great because it shows younger professionals the potential in the profession. Plus this program gives me the foundation to build a more extensive network,” said Venner.