2013 09 19 Analytics

Analytics in the Public Sector

If you get a group of HR practitioners from many different companies together in the same room, the one thing you can be sure of is that all of them will tell you they have problems unique to their company. Another thing you can be sure of is that the problems will be exactly the same. I suppose this trite observation could be made about any profession, I just happen to mostly work with HR. I was reminded of this last week when I met with a broad cross-section of public sector HR practitioners, and they repeatedly told me how different their government jobs were—then proceeded to discuss the same top three challenges i4cp sees come up consistently in our surveys.

One area where there is drastic differences, though, is in the attraction and retention of the government workforce. For that reason, some of the metrics used to measure and analyze that workforce will be different.

When asked in 2012 "Which of these do you measure?" government employees listed the left side of the below chart as their top 7. Overall, on the other side, respondents listed the following as their most commonly measured metrics:

As can be seen, certain areas of interest such as headcount and turnover are fairly universal. However, note the importance on cost reduction and grievances that are seen in the public sector data. Those two metrics, along with the increased interest in training completed, point to a very different set of priorities for the public sector HR practitioner. This is one of those areas where variations are not better or worse, just different. Government HR functions are simply focused much more on mission completion and "doing more with less than private entities.

What does this mean for the public sector HR practitioner? Good news actually—most of the analytical skills needed to determine cost reduction and training completion are more prevalent than the skills needed to determine more complicated workforce planning scenarios. Also, much of the already developed tools and metrics, such as time-to-full-productivity, have enormous potential for government use and can help generate immediate impact.

There is obviously no shortage of data analysis skills in the US government, so the trick is to apply those skills to its HR practices. Then again, that is the trick for private enterprise as well. Already there seems to be a shift in new HR employees coming from Operations or Finance. As a workforce, we all create a staggering amount of data that increases hour by hour, minute by minute. Tracking, measuring and analyzing that data to make better decisions is a talent that is universally needed, whether you are a small non-profit, a multi-national organization or the single largest employer on the planet.