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How data can humanise HR

Sep 8, 2023 | Uncategorised

Watch a news report or read an online article about big data, and what kind of graphics do you see? Typically, editors reach for images that show a cascade or snowstorm of zeros and ones.

The implication is that data is cold, overwhelming and a bit scary – a tool that social media platforms and advertisers use to fleece us blind.

And in the workplace, phrases like “people analytics” can seem a little, well, inhuman. If your HR department is making judgments about you based on data, aren’t you being reduced to just another number?

Well, it depends on who’s holding the reins – HR or the data itself.

If HR looks at those figurative zeroes and ones and assumes that they know the answers, then your work environment is likely to become a slightly colder and more sterile place.

But if they use that data to inform decisions that serve the interests of staff at every level, it can actually make those decisions more human.

It might sound like a paradox – but it’s a real phenomenon. Data provides the objective insights and HR implements them with a human touch.

Data as leveller

Here’s the thing. People aren’t always good at making judgments about their fellow human beings. Sure, you can be tactful, sensitive, patient and an all-round saint – but you’re still prone to error and even unconscious biases.

Everybody has a colleague or peer whose voice rubs them up the wrong way. Of course, the job of HR is to look past these peeves to the talent within – but however objective you strive to be, you’re still subject to the basic rule that hell is other people (especially the ones who don’t wash up their cups).

Data is a leveller. It’s as sober and impartial as a judge should be. It’s not influenced by internal politics, petty resentments or deep-seated biases.

In other words, data-driven decision-making is more likely to result in people being treated fairly. It gives you the cold hard facts – and you provide the empathy and other interpersonal skills that are needed to implement them.

How data can increase staff engagement

It’s not always easy to know if a staff member is becoming unmotivated or experiencing performance issues.

On the one hand, some people are very good at masking their feelings. They tend not to walk around with a head-mounted LED display giving you real-time updates on their mood.

On the other, there’s the issue of presenteeism – the belief that a person must be doing a good job because they always enter the chat on time and have a wardrobe that means business.

Using data cuts through the noise and gives you the cold hard facts about KPIs, targets, sick leave and more.

And this is where HR comes into its own. Your data has revealed that a member of staff has a particular weakness. Your job is to turn that insight into action – and it’s you who has the skills to speak to the staff member and give them the right kind of training and support.

All this means that data can humanise HR – so long as people analytics meets people skills.

Getting ahead of the problem

How much of your job in HR consists of firefighting? Wouldn’t it be nice to spend your time preventing problems rather than fixing them?

This is another area where data can give you the insights you need.

Stela Lupushor gave a great example of this in HR Magazine.

“When I worked at IBM,” she says, “we used sentiment analysis to get our finger on the pulse of the organisation. Once, there was a policy change which said consultants weren’t allowed to get Uber trips reimbursed.”

She goes on: “A consultant wrote [on the internal social network about this being a bad idea], and lots of people commented. The policy was reversed within 16 hours. It allowed leaders to get ahead of the issue.”

Perhaps you’re reading that and wincing at the techno-speak of “sentiment analysis”. But below the technocratic surface is a desire to balance the needs of the leadership and the needs of the team.

Of course, for this kind of thing to work, employees have to be informed and on board. People tend to mistrust data when they feel it’s working against them in the shadows.

The question is whether HR is looking for the human being at the end of the algorithm. If the answer is “no”, you’re heading for strained relationships and a blow to retention.

But if the answer is “yes”, your decision-making can be more person-centred than ever.


Data collection can also help HR to identify its own problems. It can quickly and objectively spot inefficient or misguided processes. This evidence-based approach can then be used to give leadership teams the insights they need.

Our solution

Cards on the table: we provide a software solution that aims to humanise HR.

Milners HR Solutions is a cloud-based application that’s built for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether your team works mostly in the office or mostly at home, it makes your people analytics accessible from any location and from any device. All your HR professionals need is access permission and login details.

Like any cloud solution worth its salt, our digital HR platform is highly secure – so you don’t need to worry about the spectre of GDPR at your door.

It’s also scalable. That means that as your team grows, you can keep adding users without any fuss or disruption.

All of this makes for a solution that keeps your data super-secure, super-accessible – and most of all, super-easy to analyse. It’s an actionable insight machine.

Armed with these stats and data, you’re in a great position to make decisions that are person-centred, empathetic and fair.

Want to make human resources feel a little more, well, human? Find out more about our HR software today.


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