September 2015

School HR leaders can use big data to predict success

As the hiring frenzy begins to slow, school HR departments may find the time to review just how productive their hiring practices have been. If your school district is like most, you know how many vacancies you filled and have some idea where your employees went to school, their college degrees, and their performance, through their annual evaluations.
Why should you care about this data? What can you do with it?
For starters, you can use the data to strategically recruit the best employees for your district.
Where did you find your high-performing employees? Did you go to job fairs? Were you able to find quality candidates on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites? Most of the answers to these questions are found in employee applications, which can be paired with performance data. If you use an applicant tracking system, you could pull this information from an ad hoc report. Reviewing this data in isolation may show that most of your best hires are from a particular university, so your recruitment efforts should be focused there.
“Big data” doesn’t necessarily mean collecting more data. It is analyzing the data you currently have to inform decisions in better ways. For example, in turnover analysis, you could add variables, such as teacher preparation program (traditional educational degree path versus alternative educator preparation program) to see if retention rates are different.
There is a typical maturing process that most employers experience when using data. Bersin and Associates identified the four stages of how employers use big data as:
1.      Reactive
2.      Proactive
3.      Strategic Analytics
4.      Predictive Analytics

Level 1 is the entry stage, called reactive/operational reporting. As the name suggests, this level is used mainly for ad hoc reporting, when you are asked to run a specific report in isolation. Usually the reports are compliance based; for example, determining the number of students being taught by highly qualified teachers. According to Bersin, more than half of employers, including private sector employers, use data reactively.
The next stage is proactive/advanced reporting. These reports are used for benchmarking and decision making. Some school districts may even use dashboards to display teacher attendance to drive improvement. Nearly a third of all employers are at this second stage in data use.
Moving to the third stage, only 10 percent of the businesses reported using strategic analytics. This is where statistical analysis is used to identify causes, commonalities, and correlations.
The final level is predictive analytics. Even fewer businesses are at this level (4 percent). Here organizations are using big data and algorithms to create predictable models, do scenario planning, and mitigate risks. 
Regardless of your district’s stage, the importance of big data in HR will only continue to increase. If you are in the reactive stage, consider proactively analyzing possible trends in employee turnover and employee recruitment. If you are in the proactive stage, consider how you can more strategically incorporate HR data into decision making throughout the district. If you are in the strategic analytics stage, you may want to consider how you can provide district administrators with predictive models about employee performance. The more comfortable you become in collecting, analyzing, and presenting HR data, the more effective you will be in supporting the district’s mission.