What’s the difference between people analytics and HR analytics? When we started our Analytics in HR blog, we had to pick a name. Because everybody was talking about HR analytics, Analytics in HR made sense. It was simple, recognizable, worked well for traffic from Google and everybody would understand the website would be about HR analytics. However, we might have picked the wrong name.
Traditionally, people analytics, workforce analytics, talent analytics and HR analytics have been used somewhat interchangeable. Talent analytics has a slightly more exclusive connotation: it focuses on talent and was often used in academia. Workforce analytics was more often used more by software providers that helped on workforce planning, like Willis Towers Watson.
So what do the experts think? The next clip shows some of the world’s leading experts like David Green, Andy Campbell, Tom Haak and Luc Smeyers about this question.
People and HR analytics are often used interchangeably. Both terms are about the statistical analysis of people data.
Of these terms, HR analytics became the most popular. Google searches of HR analytics average around 5,500 per month. People analytics is placed second, with around 1,500 hits per month.
This great visualization by Paul van der Laken shows the changing interest over time for the different terms.
However, people analytics has recently become increasingly popular. This has a few reasons:
- HR analytics is overused
In the last few years, HR analytics has become a real buzzword. It is, for example, hard to find a software provider that doesn’t sell an HR analytics tool. Providers of HR dashboard and data visualization tools often claim to include people analytics functionalities, even though 99% of these tools only focus on key HR metrics and don’t include analytics functionalities.
- The term HR analytics is too narrow
What’s in the name? The term HR analytics has a big disadvantage as implies to be exclusive to Human Resources. The reality is, however, that proper analytics goes well beyond HR, as they ideally also include financial and other data. In addition, the HR department often lacks the skills to do analytics, which is why the analytics team also includes people with experience in IT, finance, and data analytics. Indeed, it may be easier to build support for a people analytics project than for an HR analytics project.
- It’s all about people
Whether we are predicting employee churn, looking at performance, calculating an ROI or engaging in long-term workforce planning, we are all studying and analyzing people. Indeed, oftentimes HR analytics dives into elements that are the manager’s prime responsibility, and not HR’s.
In addition, specific analytics are slowly being replaced by enterprise analytics. Enterprise analytics doesn’t look at the traditional departments. Rather, they focus on subtopics regarding the kind of analyses that are done. People analytics as a subset of a larger (enterprise) analytics offering is a much more suitable name than HR analytics.
When I asked Patrick Coolen, manager HR analytics and metrics at ABN AMRO, about whether he liked people analytics or HR analytics better, he mentioned something similar:
“I am using people analytics more and more. HR analytics has the connotation that it is about the HR department. This is partly true, but in many cases you are looking at people characteristics that are not managed by HR but by the business.”
An argument that hasn’t been mentioned yet is that there’s some merit in sticking with conventions. The HR department has focussed on people matters that go beyond ‘Human Resources’ for decades.
In addition, managing people has always been a shared responsibility between the business and HR. Debating the difference between people analytics an HR analytics, therefore, seems to be a bit of a semantical discussion that doesn’t add much value.
In other words: I still don’t know if we picked the wrong name for our Analytics in HR platform. Maybe people analytics is the future of analytics in HR. However, I agree more with Tom Haak: “In the end, it doesn’t matter”.