When People Analytics grows up it adds value. It’s so obvious that you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining it (and if you really have to, refer to Josh Bersin’s paper “People Analytics: Here with a Vengeance“). Once CHROs have had a top-notch People Analytics shop, they can’t imagine not having one.
We have all seen maturity models for Analytics, and they tend to focus mostly on the sophistication of analytics techniques, because they are generic data-science-maturity models applied to the HR and Management area (i.e. from reporting on historical events to prescriptive analytics using machine learning – i.e. the computer somehow telling you what to do).
I have previously written a post about why that model is incomplete, and why having a strong business focus and grounding People Analytics in Social Science, change management and common sense is a better approach.
I’d like to suggest an alternative model on how People Analytics matures: from happy toddler, to grumpy teenager, to a mature team. It’s based on my interaction with great leaders of People Analytics teams at various stages of maturity from many different organisations.
The Toddler People Analytics Team
This team is just starting out, and is often both overwhelmed by the amount of challenges and not sure how to sequence them, and at the same time very clear that things have to change (because it cannot get any worse) and full of energy.
There is often low trust in the basic reporting. A few people make qualified attempts at solid reporting or even correlate HR data to business outcomes, but there is no strategy, no leadership, and the people working it are dispersed across various HR Teams (Talent, Learning, OD, Services, Rem, etc).
Just like toddlers need love, food, safety, and attention to develop, these teams need two things: consolidation and leadership. In short, you bring the dispersed resources together, and get one of them to lead the rest. Next, you clarify basic definitions and data sources (i.e. basic data management), and produce standardized and streamlined reports.
At the same time, you turn of any parallel reporting using different definitions and/or data sources (e.g. if different people calculate FTE, attrition, senior female representation etc. in different ways using different data sets for their Division, the numbers don’t add up for the company – and you go back to square one on one-source-of-the-truth).
The Teenage People Analytics Team
This team has the basic reporting sorted, albeit not yet using data prep, visualization tools or automation to the extent possible. When you deliver the basics, expectations from your stakeholders go up: the team is often moved to HR Services or Talent.
Often tasks like generating metrics and scorecards for the HR Function’s effectiveness is added, along with tasks like turnover prediction (I did a post on why you actually don’t need analytics for that, but should focus on talking with your people instead) or workforce planning (the challenge with strategic workforce planning – i.e. 2-5 years out into the future – is that you cannot predict the future accurately, so you are better off working different scenarios that just need to be directionally accurate – and that requires advanced senior stakeholder management skills and deep business understanding – and only a little analytics).
These teams generate good and useful output, but often get frustrated that their insights don’t lead to actions and changes. You’ll hear them say: “We generate so many great insights and it’s so clear what we need to do differently, but nobody listens…”.
That is often because of an HR focus or ‘inside-out’ view so the team does not focus on the biggest pain-points and opportunities for the business, because it does not treat analytics as an element in change management (as suggested in this 2015 paper by Dave Ulrich and myself), and because it does not have senior leadership (i.e. no direct access to strategy discussions to infer the most important areas to deploy People Analytics to, and no sponsor to ensure the insights drive actions as part of corporate initiatives).
Just like teenagers need a lot of support – and a lot of time alone – it’s time to dedicate serious time to the advanced analytics (linking HR to business outcomes and identifying actions, including close collaboration with business and HR stakeholders).
You do that by separating Analytics from Reporting (i.e. designated analytics roles not also doing reporting), making sure you have the right skills and dedicated time to the curly questions.
And note that the emerging insights don’t replace the reporting: you still need that to make fact based decisions, and solid to-the-point reporting remains the backbone of outstanding HR: if you don’t have the facts, you don’t know where you are and you can’t track where you are going.
Click here to continue reading Thomas Hedegaard Rasmussen’s article.