10 tips to getting started with HR Analytics

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Despite being one of the most talked about concepts in HR and predictions from industry luminaries like Josh Bersin that 2015 will see its widespread adoption, take-up of HR/Talent/People/Workforce analytics is remarkably slow.

The case for adopting a data driven approach in HR is pretty much irrefutable, so why is this? From speaking to practitioners it seems the answer may lie in a combination of fear (as in too much) and knowledge (as in too little).

How can we conquer this two-pronged challenge? Well, this article – my inaugural post for the HR Tech World Blog – is intended to signpost 10 tips to help the budding HR analytics aspirant get started.

  1. Read some books

There are a plethora of books on getting familiar with analytics – here are two to get you started: ‘Keeping up with the Quants’ by Tom Davenport – widely recognised as the Godfather of analytics, and   ‘HR Analytics: The what, why and how’ by Tracey Smith.

  1. Subscribe to some blogs

Likewise, there are a number of excellent blogs on HR analytics that anyone with interest in the subject should subscribe to. Here’s three to get you started: iNostix’s HR Analytics Insights Blog, OrgVue’s HR Analytics Blog, and of course the analytics themed articles on this blog HR Tech World.

  1. Join some LinkedIn groups

Whilst the majority of LinkedIn groups are about as useful as a cat flap in an elephant house, this is thankfully not the case when it comes to specialist HR analytics groups. My favourite one is the Measuring Human Capital, which is managed by Jeremy Shapiro, has over 2,500 members and features a regular supply of thought provoking discussions.

  1. Network with the experts

HR is renowned as a function that is pretty adept at networking, so get those black books out and speak to colleagues who have already embarked on the yellow brick road of HR analytics. If you need help in identifying some experts in this space, please feel free to check out my who’s who of HR Analytics influencer series – see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

  1. Take a trip to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on 27-28th October

2015_Paris_450x450_promSpeaking of networking, the biggest and best HR conference – HR Tech World Congress – takes place in Paris on 27-28 October. Join 4,500 other delegates, mingle with the global HR cognoscenti and participate in the HR analytics stream. Book your ticket here.

  1. Get familiar with the HR analytics vendor space

Some of the most exciting and advanced work in the HR analytics field is being done by a series of nimble start-ups. New firms are cropping up all the time in what is a really nascent space, but with careful scrutinisation the budding HR analytics practitioner can use some of these firms to help take that initial leap. A baker’s dozen to check out in no particular order – and all offering something slightly different – are: Joberate, iNostix, Gild, Textio, Qlearsite, OrgVue, Organization View, Aspen Advisors, Visier, Workforce Dimensions, Numerical Insights, activ8 Intelligence and Talent Analytics.

  1. Plan the first 100 days

Getting started is the theme in this excellent recent white paper from IBM. Recognising that the first 100 days are critical to the success of any business initiative, aspiring HR analytics leaders could do a lot worse than using this guide as a means to get started.

  1. Identify the business problems

The first rule of HR Analytics is ‘thou shalt start with the business problem’. What are the challenges that are keeping your CXO awake at night? How many of these can be solved (or partly solved) through analysing people data? Are there any quick wins? Hone your abilities to ask the right questions and to identify those issues that have the potential biggest impact. Also be prepared to make friends with colleagues in Finance and IT. Their experience of obtaining, cleaning and analysing data will likely be invaluable in helping you arrive at your recommendations.

  1. Perfect your storytelling skills

We all love a good story, don’t we? Successfully driving through initiatives linked to HR analytics is no different. Being able to interpret the data, distilling it into insights that unlock the business problem you are trying to solve and then creating a compelling story to frame it are all absolutely key. The quality of your data or incisiveness of your analysis doesn’t matter if you are unable to make it resonate with your business stakeholders.

  1. Be bold, experiment and get comfortable with the occasional failure

21st Century HR isn’t about playing it safe, it’s about being bold and in no area is bravery arguably more important than HR analytics. Not every initiative will succeed. Get used to the occasional failure, but stay the course and you will succeed more often than not.


Connect with David on LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as reading his regular blog posts on HR Analytics and the Future of Work.

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