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Technological innovation has given Human Resources the ability to predict the future -- and has moved HR into the boardroom. But it’s up to data-savvy HR professionals to make that move permanent.

CEOs want to use analytics to predict the future, which can help HR shape strategy.

“Why should I, as a managing director or a CEO, give as much credibility to HR as I do to finance, operations, procurement, sales and marketing?” Personnel Today asked last week. “[Because] those functions are data led; they can provide me with numeric business cases, forecasts and scenarios; [and] I know where I stand with them.”

Like other departments, HR uses data analytics to closely examine what’s really happening within the organization. It is humanizing big data with “people analytics,” and last month Bank of America tasked its HR lead with the institution’s critical post-financial-crisis stress testing.

HR’s Seat at the Table

“This is an absolutely exciting time to be in human resources,” SAP’s David Swanson said Monday in Las Vegas, ahead of SuccessConnect 2015. “I’ve been in HR for the better part of 20 years, and I really feel that for the first time HR is front and center at the executive table.”

CEOs want to learn from past hiring successes and failures, a job that’s perfect for analytics-enabled HR departments, according to Swanson. The end goal is to use analytics for predicting the future, knowing whom to hire -- and which new hires will most quickly become productive.

“We have the opportunity in HR to lead the conversation around strategy -- and development of strategy, Swanson said. “Unfortunately many of us in HR, because we’re not comfortable using data, can only talk from a position of intuition or gut feel.”

Data-Driven Decisions

Swanson is the global lead of SAP’s Accelerate Winning in HR, a team that works as product evangelists. He and his teammates explain to customers and prospects how SAP runs cloud-based human capital management software from SuccessFactors, an SAP company.

“One of the beauties of my role is that I get to go out and talk to companies about how we use the SuccessFactors solutions ... to really take a look at what’s making a difference in the workplace,” Swanson said. “We can use it to predict future success -- versus just saying, ‘Well, I think this might happen.’”

That data-driven confidence will help HR professionals identify behaviors and interview styles that attract better employees, as well as qualities that make effective workers -- and lead to faster promotions.

HR’s Turning Point

The promise of big data and analytics brought HR to the table, but that promise alone won’t keep them there. HR professionals must learn to embrace the technology -- and wield it effectively.

“We have an opportunity to help make the strategy, not just execute the strategy,” Swanson said. “The way that we can do that is using data and analytics to be able to predict success.”

SuccessConnect 2015 is a human resources technology event where organizations can learn about new solutions and strategies for attracting and engaging top workforce talent. It runs Tuesday through Thursday in Las Vegas. Click here to watch keynotes, general sessions and interviews with key HR influencers.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

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