It was last month that I read our major piece of research on workforce data use, which was a hot topic at WEF in Davos a while back. Workforce data is everywhere and has increased dramatically in the last three years, including healthcare organisations. Upon closer inspection, my perceptions were confirmed by reality. Fact number one: the data is already available to businesses wanting to improve business goals achievement. Fact number two: workforce data is the new frontier for employee-centric HR, providing real counsel and tips to managers and their employees.

What is workforce data?

First, I asked myself, what is workforce data? It is data from several sources, not just from typical HR- or ERP-systems. It can be mined and analysed from employees’ emails, calendars, social media usage as well as usage from operational systems such as electronic medical records. This sounds a bit scary, no doubt, and will ring big brother alarm bells for some—but for the moment, let’s be open to exploring the possibilities.

Our research confirms that workforce data is actively used in other industries. For instance, Accenture itself uses a custom-built tool called Job Buddy which tells employees how vulnerable their job is to automation. Job Buddy then uses an algorithm to identify adjacent skills to those an employee already possesses, as well as employee interests, to suggest roles appropriate employees might not even have been aware they could be qualified for. It also identifies which roles they could aim for with a little more development—and then suggests what specific training they need to narrow the skill gap. Around 80 percent of the people who have tried it are taking the advice it offers. GE uses AI-based Ascendify to capture employee interests, passions, and skills to present them with options within the company that might be a good fit today, and with development (suggesting learning paths as well), in the future. This gives the employee options to consider, and routes to take. GE says that turning over career growth control to employees realises increased engagement and employee retention, with strong participation in Aspire, GE’s early-career leadership development program—on a voluntary basis.

Healthcare lags behind other industries—is this good sometimes?

Our study shows that healthcare organisations already use significantly less workforce data than other industries do to achieve business advantages. Nevertheless, 84 percent of healthcare leaders recognise that new technology and workplace data can be used to unlock trapped value in the organisation, and 21 percent are already doing so. Using trapped value to unlock future potential usually means growing business (see more patients, provide better care, bill more and better for instance) and transform existing business for agility and efficacy (from physical to virtual).

The benefit to using workforce data is important: it can help to increase productivity and workforce performance by placing the right people in the right roles and improving organisational agility and speed. Imagine what this could mean for healthcare organisations which have a such a great need to increase their productivity.

Privacy concerns voiced loud and clear

That said, employees are justifiably worried about potential misuse and security of their data, and 57% say so based on our research. Yet an impressive 89 percent are open to the collection of data about them if they can see concrete benefits such as better performance, wellbeing, or other benefits. In healthcare, organisations would like to invest more in workforce data usage, but employee concerns are holding them back—42 percent of healthcare leaders felt this way compared to 31 percent in all organisations.

Yet 92 percent of healthcare leaders say technology to identify employees’ hidden and adjacent skills would help them reskill and retain displaced workers. Workforce data could be used to increase patient-centricity and find new ways to interact with patients using both digital and face-to-face methods.

These facts collectively lead to the conclusion that the human resource function will transform into a collaboration between human and machine—from HR to HMR. There is clearly a need and hunger among employees to leverage the benefits of their own data—so in my next blog I’ll address the positive outcomes that could result from effective application thereof.

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Ulla Kuukka

Senior Manager – Consulting, Health

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