Opinion: People Analytics – Are South African Businesses Missing A Trick?


Late last year Mindworx, the South African digital consulting and talent agency, conducted a research survey into the impact of Covid on business among its own cross-sectoral and varied clientele. One of the key findings was a lack of real knowledge about the value of people analytics. 

According to Visagan Naidoo, Head of Business Advisory at Mindworx, people analytics is a business tool that can make a real contribution to organisation’s and in fact, the country’s recovery. ‘Used right, it goes further than economics. Covid continues to put everyone under so much pressure. Across the country ordinary people have worked really hard to keep their companies running. People analytics helps managers recognise every contribution and fully engage existing staff, even as it hones their performance and efficiency,’ says Naidoo.

Every HR department holds a wealth of data on its company’s people that could be used to great benefit. This ranges from static data on each employee that has been gathered since their recruitment process, to ongoing data regularly collected such as performance reviews, satisfaction surveys among clients, and achievements. Analysing this information aids understanding, supports decision-making and strengthens relationships.

A good analysis tool will show every individual’s level of engagement in the organisation. Naidoo says that as much as you know your people and have a strong sense of the relationships between them, clients are often surprised by the extent and depth of interactions of some staff.

‘It’s always useful to know who your anchor people are, the ones that others turn to and engage with the most,’ says Naidoo. ‘This intelligence about soft skills allows you to measure their effectiveness, allocate their time wisely, make better decisions with them, and justify those decisions.’

There is just as much value in knowing which staff feel excluded. Lockdown has highlighted that while support and admin staff are essential, their need for engagement is often overlooked. They’re not routinely included in meetings or engaged as much as public-facing staff are, and knowing this enables you to be more inclusive with them to head off potential problems.

Being away from the office has also taught us the value of ensuring that we maintain the culture of our companies. Naidoo says analytics will show us which communication methods work best for which people. ‘The human touch is more important now that ever. With the right information it’s easy to engage with everyone in your organisation. You can have much deeper and more strategic conversations with people once you know what makes them tick – it really is that simple,’ he says.

Analysis will also clearly show your most cost-effective hires down to a granular level – and it will show the opposite too. The cost of hiring the wrong person is more expensive than initial recruitment costs, so it’s useful to have clarity on the most effective hiring methods for your business. Knowing where you consistently find your best people enables you to focus recruitment drives there. 

An aspect of people analytics that Mindworx clients find particularly rewarding is the justification to retrain rather than fire and hire. Between the move towards digital transformation and Covid-induced job insecurity, reskilling has become more important than ever.

According to Naidoo, ‘Training is more cost-effective and efficient than recruiting. You want to keep your tried and trusted staff and they want to keep their jobs. Retraining enables everyone to grow, and in the most cost-effective way. People who have multiple skills and have worked in more than one department are the people who get promoted because they’re better equipped for management roles.’

As enthusiastic as he is about people analytics, Naidoo is very clear that it is a tool to aid decision-making and experience, not to replace them. ‘It’s so important to retain the instinctive judgement of the management team. Data provides the support to make informed decisions and gives managers confidence in their judgement,’ he says.

Before starting a people analytics project, it is best to identify the needs it should meet, and articulate requirements and objectives. The next step is to mobilise the heads of the HR, IT and Finance departments to decide on a roadmap, and then seek out the service provider and analysis tool that best suit your organisation.

‘People analytics takes the guesswork out of your most valuable asset – your people – and will pay for itself quickly and repeatedly,’ says Naidoo.

By Visagan Naidoo, Head of Business Advisory at Mindworx


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