This is a guest post by Luk Smeyers, CEO and Co-Founder of iNostix

 The spring HR Tech World congress in London will be here soon, so we’ll see how radically the world of HR analytics has moved on again. One of the hottest issues in the HR analytical space at the moment is how HR business partners can be trained to become more analytical, because they are the crucial ‘translators’ between the business and its analysts. So I hope to find a few answers in London.

Lack of analytical acumen

 Until last year, I gave numerous analytical workshops to your ‘typical’ HR business partner: HR pros with a social-scientific background and – with all due respect – most of the time a considerably low or even completely absent analytical acumen. They didn’t join HR for the analytics…

I taught them the power of analytics, explained to them how to start, what pitfalls there are, what analysing methods there are, how to improve the decision-making process in their organisations and I gave them insights into the very best case studies from plenty of fascinating projects.

The analytical HR business partner: fail!

 For years I dreamed of giving those HR business partners a strong analytical tinge, but I’ve had to reconsider my aims… with ample regret, I can tell you. Acquiring insights into what you can do with HR analytics, that went reasonably well among my participants. I’ve even learned from a very small number of very enthusiastic HR business partners that they’ve been busy leading complex analytical projects with success! Kudos to them!

HR itself needs to change

But the overall majority of my participants unfortunately switched off already during the workshops. So when I meet people responsible for HR now, I tell them point blank to radically change the profiles in their HR department in the long run. No more, no less.

HR will need more of, what I call, unconventional profiles in order to make the department’s decision-making process more evidence-based in the future. It’s these profiles that have great analytical acumen and don’t necessarily have to draw on their ‘classic’ HR background.

 No quants but consultants

 ‘But what are the competencies of these so-called unconventional profiles, then?’ people often ask me. Well, if you were to look at the analytical teams in new-school organisations like Google, you’ll see instantly that a lot of these people have strong backgrounds in consultancy. They don’t do the analysing themselves, so they’re no quants, but they often form the linking pin between HR, the analyst(s) and the business. They’re translators!

4 need-to-have competencies

Now to be honest, I’ve got only the best experiences with these kinds of profiles and I can see about four need-to-have competencies among these people:

(1) They have great insight and understanding of the core processes in the organisation

(2) They can present the business case for analytics with fantastic ease

(3) They are great project managers who are not afraid to lead complex, cross-departmental projects

(4) They have excellent analytical acumen and insight.

Be honest, who wouldn’t fall for such professionals? Unconventional profiles to the rescue!

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With more than 25 years experience as an international HR executive in Fortune 500 companies (Pepsi, Starbucks, Nielsen), Luk is recognized as a top European Predictive HR Analytics expert. He is revered as a leading thinker and influencer, and is a well-known blogger, speaker, columnist and author of many articles. Luk teaches HR Analytics at the Universities of Nyenrode (NL), Leuven (BE) and Antwerp (BE). He is the Co-Founder and CEO of iNostix ( – predictive workforce analytics company.

  • Maarten

    Nice article as always. But I would change the label “Tranlator” to integrator. HR should not do what isn’t their strong point but should do more then translate and storytelling. HR should learn how data can show empirical evidence, what principles, policies and processes work in the real world and how it can be used to increase human capital and business capabilities.

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