The “People Analytics” domain is gaining a lot of attention worldwide, though most of the people I meet in the Israeli HR arena have not decided yet to formalize such a role within HR departments. I believe that times are changing, and new practices will surely shake the state of affairs. Meanwhile, data scientists can keep offering external consultancy for HR analytics in the Israeli market. Realizing that at least 40% of the workforce will be freelancers in the next few years, as many studies predict, data scientists can continue to develop their skills to work and manage without borders, particularly in the domain of People Analytics.
The decision to outsource HR analytics activities has been long discussed. There are many reasons why a business should consider hiring an external data scientist, e.g., quality of work, tools, costs, and schedules. But the key consideration is the fit of the analysis project with the long-term strategic planning of the company. Unfortunately, HR analytics doesn’t play a key strategic role in many businesses YET. Hence, many companies choose not to develop internal HR analytics capabilities, but rather buy the expertise, and thus save tremendous resources.
HR ability to run analytics
However, had a local HR group decided to include a People Analytics position, would it be capable to expansively run the analytical processes in-house? I doubt. Apparently, even among large corporations, which spend huge amounts on people analytics, the progress of HR analytics is pretty slow. DDI Research, for instance, found that HR tends to focus on metrics with little meaning outside the HR function. Therefore they lack credibility to create models that connect talent metrics to financial outcomes. Moreover, HR is less adept at communicating business terms and using storytelling and visualization in its messaging, essential skills for exploring and explaining any outcomes of an analytics project.
Nevertheless, with the perspective of traditional Job Analysis in my mind, I keep encountering some new people analytics positions here and there, mostly within local representatives of leading companies in tech industries. Enthusiastically, I explore the combinations of skills and responsibilities, and as much as possible, the processes which this role is involved in. As Josh Bersin stated, “People Analytics, as a business discipline, has arrived”, and there must be a growth in this market. But what kind of leaders are emerging?
The People Analytics leader is in charge of combining all the data of people in the company, in order to deal with business challenges, e.g., sales productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction. This leader must understand all employee data and its impact on business performance. It goes far beyond HR kinds of soft metrics. The leader must understand not only data management, statistics, and visualization, but rather the professional language of partners within the company, who can assist in implementing the analytics insights. So, should companies start looking for Unicorns?
A multi-disciplinary role
Obviously, the People Analytics leader is a multi-disciplinary role. In that view, new discussions, among talent acquisition professionals, are emerging. In a new podcast about building the People Analytics team, the People analytics leader was described as a person who has a combination of strong qualitative and analytical skills, along with emotional intelligence and behavior insights. Data Science background, a solid understanding of Statistics and programming skills, are only part of his qualifications. As a “knowledge worker” the People analytics leader must have the abilities of conceptual thinking, forward-thinking. He must also handle ambiguity and complexity. Those abilities enable him to define the right questions, understand the information needed, structure problems in terms of factors and variables and anticipate outcomes of different choices of action.
While People analytics leaders aren’t all over my professional environment yet, I believe that my modest contribution is to preach the gospel to HR departments. Awareness is a primary step for change, and the change I hope to see is many new professional partners, in the domain of People Analytics, within HR departments. Hopefully, my own experience, along with what I learn from leaders in the field, would be a useful resource for those who are struggling with the recruitment and the starting activities of the first People Analytics leader in their organization.
Dan Schawbel, “10 Workplace Trends You’ll See In 2017“, www.forbes.com
Erik Van Vulpen, “The Myth of the full-time data scientist“, www.analyticsinhr.com
Evan Sinar & Rich Wellins, “Gaps in Both Will and Skill Explain HR’s Struggles with Analytics“, www.ddiworld.com
Josh Bersin, “People Analytics Market Growth: Ten Things You Need to Know“, joshbersin.com
Gil Press, “The Hunt For Unicorn Data Scientists Lifts Salaries For All Data Analytics Professionals“, www.forbes.com
Paul Edelman & Michael Housman, “Episode 011: Paul Edelman – A conversation with the Founder of Edelman and Associates” soundcloud.com