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You've probably heard the term "people analytics" before. Still, if I were to ask how your company uses them right now, the odds are good that you'd say: "We don't."

That's according to a study published Wednesday by LinkedIn, which surveyed 7,089 talent professionals and hiring managers last fall on a wide range of topics. The study spotlights people analytics as one of four major talent trends to watch in 2020--which is interesting because 55 percent of surveyed talent professionals also said they "still need help putting basic people analytics into practice."

If you're unfamiliar with the term, here's a quick definition: People analytics basically means using data to bolster your HR department's ability to consistently recruit, hire, and retain great employees. The LinkedIn survey notes that many companies--68 percent of those surveyed--use data to measure employee performance, which is a great starting point. But, it adds, a distinct minority of companies currently use analytics to identify flight risks within their ranks, reduce bias in hiring and promotions, predict a job candidate's potential success in a role, and so on.

Translation: There's an opportunity here. Earlier this month, in a story about the biggest changes coming to hiring and jobs in 2020, my colleague Brit Morse wrote about how Salesforce employs people analytics. It's surprisingly unfancy: The company uses the same kinds of employee surveys that might measure employee performance to help managers determine who is engaged, has great company-improving ideas, and makes a habit of helping co-workers. That same data also helps Salesforce identify employees who are struggling under specific managers, which allows the company to solve workplace disputes before they explode.

It's probably not an unfamiliar data-gathering strategy for a lot of companies and it requires no additional costs, yet Salesforce seems to yield a lot of return from it. The basic difference here is the ability to analyze the data you get on your people. While the LinkedIn study reports that half of those surveyed said their companies were good at collecting and maintaining some form of people analytics data, only 39 percent felt confident analyzing it. Using the data to solve existing problems? Just 37 percent. And using it to proactively solve future problems? A mere 29 percent.

If you have the money to invest in this area, you can. A growing industry has emerged around HR data collection and analysis in recent years, featuring companies like Tableau, Looker, and Twine (which was a 2019 Inc. Rising Stars honoree). Otherwise, your solution might be as simple as tweaking your existing processes to learn something new about those who work for you.

You almost certainly use data to inform your operational decisions on topics like sales, budgeting, and funding. It could be time to apply the same concept to your people, too.

Published on: Jan 23, 2020