I’ve read many definitions of People Analytics, and the one I like the best describes the goal of “people analytics,” or “HR reporting and analytics,” as delivering value to the firm – with value defined to be increasing revenue, lowering costs, or reducing risk. [People Analytics as a Form of Evidence-Based Management By Jay Wilkinson ].  Yet, many software vendors seem to tie People Analytics to the usual transactional processes that HR owns. Let’s face it: HR will never be seen as leaders of the organization until we can identify value beyond compliance and transactions.

To get there, HR needs (at least) three things:

1)      People with insights on how to ask the right questions. We need curious minds that begin with defining the precise problem or opportunity to be addressed and then understanding where to find the pieces to the puzzle that can tell the story.

2)      Reliable data on which to build answers. That is, you need an HR system with checks and balances to validate data and – perhaps even more importantly – accurate, clean data entry and audits that ensure accuracy and privacy.

3)      An efficient way to combine data from various platforms to create data-driven decisions. Few businesses run everything on one complete system. Even if you only need People data, that data often resides in at least three separate areas: time entry, payroll, and employee profile data.  And there are auxiliary systems for different aspects of the hire-to-retire process. The wise analyst must know how to find the needle in the haystack among these systems.

People, processes, and technology.

Despite our advances over the last seven-plus decades since HRIS systems found a footing with payroll data, we still – largely – have not conquered the People Analytics challenge. HR is often at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to prioritizing technology spending, and, too often, those investing in technology like to think of it as “once and done” – that is, “I’ll install this software solution and then I will have Analytics.”  And with the software, too often, HR doesn’t know the questions to ask or the right resources to push for the right answers.

Software developers have tried to solve for the lack of investment, knowledge, and dedication to analytics in HR by delivering a handful of “metrics” that it is believed every HR person should evaluate. But the fact is that embedded reports and standardized metrics do little to advance HR’s decision-making prowess.

Guess what? There are no quick and easy answers. You can’t install a piece of software and walk away.

The currency of growth is data. Unless we can mine the data effectively and assess it to make intelligent and even predictive decisions, we remain a transaction-based cost center in our companies. The challenge we face as HR leaders is to become evidence-based research practitioners. That means we make decisions based on hard evidence, facts, analysis, and experimental studies.

Evidence-based HR enhances our ability to align policies and practices with what works for our organization, our industry, and our locale.

People Analytics is a Journey

You know the annoying way Amazon knows exactly what you “need” and spins that up in front of you the minute you open their home page? That results from artificial intelligence (AI) enabled by machine learning (ML). It sounds magical. But Amazon didn’t get there overnight. They needed reams and reams of data – and continue to need data and analysis of data to fine-tune their recommendations and to change with changing market conditions.

We in HR need that too. That’s why understanding exactly where you are in your People Analytics maturity is so valuable. AI and ML are at the peak of analytics maturity. To get there, you need to have the right people, processes, and technology in place, all carefully orchestrated, working together, learning, and growing together.  You can’t just plug it in and play.

The software can get you part of the way there, but what you do with the software is what matters..

Take a look at your analytics maturity level and where and how you can grow. See if you qualify for your own roadmap evaluation with our People Analytics Maturity Assessment.