Why People Analytics won’t replace HR

Photo by Anthony Roberts (Unsplash)

Show me the data!

Understanding, analyzing, and making use of people data will be an increasingly important part of the HR contribution over the years to come. Does this mean that in the future, HR will be led and mostly replaced by people whose main skills are in the data and analysis sector, rather than within HR? No, we don’t believe so. The HR profession is complex, with its 184 skills (yes, someone counted them). Having people with education and experience in behavioral science on the team will be more important than ever. But our job role is about to change, we will need to become more data-informed and develop our analytics skills and use them more than ever to stay relevant, develop the business, and stay competitive.

The road to data-informed HR (and business) is not a magical change that happens when you put a couple of data-savvy analysts in a corner to do their thing. The magic will not happen until we transform our profession into one where people analytics is integrated.  

“People Analytics need a seat at the table”

We’re always surprised when we hear someone saying that People Analytics “need a seat at the table so they can understand the business’ data need”. Because HR does have a seat at the table in all modern and successful organisations (if you don’t, you have a couple of other very important steps to take before you deep-dive into People Analytics). And if HR has a seat at the table, and People Analytics is properly integrated, then that means they do too.

People Analytics need a wide scope within HR, we need to let the analysts inspire and teach us so we can combine our expertise.

How to apply People Analytics successfully

We’re always working on improving our analytics setup, and these are our three most important learnings so far:

  1. People data can’t be a nice-to-have pile of statistics for “when someone asks how many XXX we have in YYY”. While that’s sometimes helpful, the real benefit is when you apply the data in your dealings with concrete business issues. Like when you decide at what locations your company should grow. Knowing your current staff numbers per location won’t guide you at all. But an analysis of education, compensation, housing, and other trends for the locations you are considering, that will help big time.   
  2. If you want to help your business managers take the best decisions, you need to secure that they understand the relevance of people data and analytics.
  3. If you manage to do the first point well, the second one will follow automatically.

Our job as HR is to make sure our leaders get access to and understand the people data for their organization, for the entire company, and for the world around us, so we can all take the right decisions and be successful. And the way to get that done is to be data-informed, and apply our HR knowledge on that information.