Daniel Aduszkiewicz

Would you like to make informed decisions about your workforce but don’t know how to get started with people analytics? Together with Tim Peffers, we look at some key skills, tools, and roles you need to build a successful HR analytics team in your organization. 

“The ability to use data – to understand it, process it, extract value from it, visualize it, and communicate it – will be a hugely important skill in the decades ahead,” Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, declared in 2009. Those next decades are now – and indeed, data has long dominated sales and marketing. That said, people analytics is still a relatively young field. According to the LinkedIn Global Talents Trend Report from 2020, 55% of companies “still need help putting basic people analytics into practice.”

People analytics – also called HR analytics or workforce analytics – is the process of collecting and analyzing workforce data to make informed business decisions. Until recently it was associated with large enterprises. Today, more and more mid-sized companies are investing in people analytics solutions and data-driven HR. One of the tools that can be useful is Human Panel platform – to see how it works, request a free and non-binding demo.

Human Panel HR metrics dashboard

“Any company over a certain size that deals with a large amount of data will want to hire an HR analytics team at some point. A lot depends, of course, on the problem you want to solve, the goal you want to achieve, and the roles you want to assign to people,” says Tim Peffers, the Organization & Talent Analytics Lead in Philip Morris International and the host of “Random walks in HR”. 

Intuitive analytics platform for employees

Because workforce analytics is a multidisciplinary endeavor, members of your team will have very different roles. Don’t worry – you can implement an easy-to-use people analytics platform in your organization without a dedicated department. Building the analytics team in HR is a process, and many companies started with teams consisting of a single person. Over time, they trained their existing HR team members. In a 2019 survey, 32% of respondents said they plan to train their employees to add people analytics capabilities.

What roles should you consider when building a people analytics team? What skills should these employees have? Let’s take a closer look at some data that Tim Peffers revealed in a recent episode of his show “Random Walks in HR”. We also asked Tim to comment on some of his findings and explain his ideas.

The essential tasks of people analytics team

The essential tasks you want to perform in your people analytics team are:

  • Collecting, cleaning, managing, and storing your data. 
  • Generating insights from the data you collect.
  • Interpreting those insights through the lens of HR. 
  • Explaining to all stakeholders, within HR and the wider business, why this data is relevant, what actions can be taken and how it will support the business strategy.
  • Communicating the insights so that everyone can understand them.

Roles and career paths in workforce analytics

To ensure these tasks are accomplished, you may want to find people for the following roles.

The “Specialist” career path:

  • Analyst
  • Senior Analyst
  • Data Engineer
  • Researcher
  • Data Scientist

The “Manager” career path:

  • Manager
  • Senior Manager 
  • Senior Leader

The most sought-after qualifications for people analytics positions:

  • Statistics
  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Psychology
  • Social Sciences
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Empirical Research
  • Labor Economics

In the case of HR, talent analytics, insights that help drive performance, retention and development, is by far the most sought-after skill for anyone seeking a career in human resource analytics. 

The most in-demand technical skills for HR specialists:

  • Excel
  • SQL
  • Python
  • Data Analysis
  • Data Visualization
  • Data Science

“Measure the right things”

As Tim Peffers notes, people analytics skills are critical, but what’s even more important is how you want to structure your team.

“You definitely need someone who knows Excel and has  research and analysis skills, such as data analysis. But research will not give your project its full impact. If you want to build a successful people analytics team, you need to think about the whole strategy. This includes the research but also workplace ethics, employee privacy, and the legal aspects of data collection and processing,” Tim explains.

“Make sure you are measuring the right things. Assess what kind of data you need, which is necessary and which is appropriate,” Tim adds.

“Talk to businesses about data”

It is crucial that you understand why you are setting up your workforce analytics and make sure your employees understand it too. According to research, 92% of employees are open to having data collected about them, but only if they see a personal benefit. If your employees see that they are getting value for their data (e.g. personal development plans, training, personalized benefits, promotion plans), they are more likely to collaborate.

Tim Peffers points out that aside from the technology, you need people on your HR analytics team who can process the data and draw conclusions. You would also need someone who can explain the meaning of that data to business leaders.

Your people analytics team should be both technically and humanly oriented. In addition to data scientists, you also need someone who knows what’s going on in the organization on a human level.

Tim Peffers for Human Panel

This ability to “talk to the business” is critical. Many companies already collect a lot of information about their employees, but boards sometimes do not see value in that raw data. The key is to show them how these insights can be turned into action. Knowing the reasons for turnover can help reduce it and consequently reduce the cost of filling vacancies. If you can show that the workforce analysis has helped save a certain amount of money, it’s a win-win for both the workforce analysis team and the business. 

Secure data

“It’s also important to have someone on your analytics team who can convince the rest of HR that you are doing the right thing. We have to remember that people analytics uses information about employees. They need to know what that data is being used for andn that it is for their benefit. They have to be sure that their personal data will be handled with care and caution,” comments Tim.

As he adds, building a people analytics team is a process. If you run a small to medium-sized business, you could start with dedicated software, a product manager and the support of a data science team. Then you might want to hire a data engineer to “clean” and pre-process all the raw data. 

“Later, you’ll probably need an HR business partner responsible for consulting between science and business and visualizing the data so that everyone understands it. That’s a model way to go,” says Tim. “Of course, all these roles require certain skills, and then you need to decide whether you want your data scientist to have very specific qualifications or whether you can make do with Excel and PowerPoint,” he adds. 

How to succeed in workforce analytics

The key to implementing a data-driven HR strategy successfully is to know the purpose of the strategy: Why you need workforce analytics in the first place? What are the pain points you want to respond to? Consider that workforce analytics should not only be viewed through the HR lens, but lead to the achievement of broader business goals.

Once you have defined your goal, think about the process that will get you there. One solution is to implement a simple and easy-to-use system, like the one developed by Human Panel. It gives you data analysis that is accessible to everyone – not just analysts. Anyone can gain insights and draw conclusions to make informed decisions immediately. All your information is secure and subject to full access control. 

Another option is to design the process around the roles and tasks you want your people to perform. Whatever you do, be transparent and honest. You’ll build a solid foundation for improving your organization and, most importantly, you’ll build trust between you and your greatest asset: your people.

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