In the following Q&A, Jennifer Seith, CareerBuilder’s managing director of emerging technologies, sits down with Laurie Ledford, CHRO at Marsh & McLennan Companies, to discuss the ever-increasing role data plays in the human resources function – and how it plays a greater role for the overall business. The original, full-length version of this article from the Argyle Journal can be viewed here.
Jennifer Seith: What role do you think technology plays in your organization?
Laurie Ledford: There are huge demands on HR organizations and on HR as a function. We want to better enable managers to do the things they need to do. But we don’t have the HR people who are able to handle the various strategic or transactional pieces in all of those offices, so technology is critical to making us more effective in delivering services to our organization.
What, in your opinion, is the importance of data in HR?
We exist to solve business problems, and if we don’t approach the organization’s needs and problems in a way that a business leader would or should, then we’re stuck in that classic “soft” area. So the importance of data is to back up or prove the cases or recommendations we make to the other business leaders.
What would you say is the number-one barrier for organizations trying to get to that point?It’s probably the struggle to get their organizational mind around what is and isn’t relevant. As an HR function, we own people data, but there are so many other data sources. So the question is how to connect all of that data and make it relevant.
One of the things I often see is that HR teams aren’t in a position to make strategic decisions because they can’t interpret the data. Do you find that to be the case?
If HR teams can get over the hurdle of finding the data and aggregating it in some way, it can help, but it’s still just information. The work of interpreting the data to figure out what it’s really saying and then deciding what action to take as a result is the hard part. There’s a big skill gap in that area.
How will fact-based decision making aid HR business leaders at the table?
Imagine that you have a business leader in a particular region, and they want to bring new individuals to the organization. The organization is not going to allocate assets and make an investment without a strong case being made for how it will benefit the business. The organization expects a return, and that return has to be in savings or an improvement in efficiency. So using fact-based, predictive analytics is where HR really needs to spend more time to make that return quantifiable.
What is your ideal vision for the role of human resources in organizations?
I think that being able to define and analyze the things that really make a difference in a business, such as what solutions we can bring to the table that prevent us from making the wrong assumptions in interviews, can have a huge impact. Essentially, we bring discipline to the table. That’s the expertise we offer.
Laurie Ledford is the chief human resources officer of Marsh & McLennan Companies, the premier global professional services firm providing advice and solutions in the areas of risk, strategy and human capital. Ledford is responsible for the firm’s overall human capital and talent strategy and the delivery of human resources services to 54,000 colleagues worldwide.
Jennifer Seith is managing director of emerging technology at CareerBuilder. Jennifer focuses on developing products that maximize the recruitment process through innovation and integration. An expert and frequent presenter on the topic of emerging technologies, Seith is a member of the CareerBuilder Speaker’s Bureau and is available for speaking engagements. You can schedule her as a speaker here.