5 Beliefs that can derail your progress in People Analytics   [Part 1]

If you’re anything like me, you can occasionally get distracted :).

One of the MANY great things about Steve, my co-founder at PeopleInsight, is his ability to hone-in on what’s important, and intensely focus on getting stuff done. At all times, he’s working with a laser focus and a drive towards our goals. There isn’t much that can derail him.   

Let’s be honest, we don’t all have this laser-focus and, even when we’re excited about getting started with something new or progressing towards a goal, it’s easy to derail ourselves by way of  barriers, distractions and sometimes outright excuses.

When it comes to building your people analytics capability, there are many things that can impede your progress. This week (and the next two) we’re going to explore some of the beliefs, barriers and excuses that can impede your progress, and what to do about them.

Here they are:

  1. People Analytics is really complex. Do we have to go it alone?
  2. People Analytics means advanced statistics, mathematics and predictive models - and this scares the heck out of us.
  3. Can't my (new) HR Systems provide these analytics?
  4. IT is the Go-To group for business intelligence and analytics in our company.
  5. I don’t have the budget.
  6. HOLIDAY BONUS - To be revealed :)

We will cover 1 and 2 this week with the remaining three in the upcoming weeks.

1.  People Analytics is really complex. Do we have to go it alone? 

Yes, it's complex if you want to build it yourself. No, it's not complex if you want to partner with industry experts who do this day-in-and-out.

Think about this...

When was the last time you designed and built your own car? Home developed some medicine to combat your child’s sore tummy? Created and self-manufactured your own dry-wall for your new house?

These three ridiculous but totally relevant examples demonstrate how we all rely on partners and suppliers to achieve our goals - whether it be driving to work, staying healthy, or safety and security at home.

The same holds true for People Analytics. If it is important to you, and valuable to your business, let commercially available products and experts help you out.

When it comes to People Analytics, there are many layers of complexity and given the dearth of practical, affordable, simple-to-engage HR analytics “pureplay” solutions in the marketplace, we’ve asked our HR team members to take this on (in addition to their other activities).

While some of our HRIS/HR Operations/HR Reporting colleagues accomplish amazing things with minimal tools, many struggle and are stuck catching their breath and limited to the power of spreadsheets.

We must remember that People Analytics should be viewed as a “capability” - with a relevant business focus, data and technology, and people to facilitate data-driven dialogue, decision-making, and change.

It is not about a specific spreadsheet, a data warehouse, a data dictionary, a predictive algorithm, or a specific dashboard. It is about all of these things coming together, optimally in a simply packaged capability, to deliver something of value to your business.

Think again about the build-your-own-car analogy. When the ultimate goal is to find transportation to work, the following paths are possible:

Path 1 - design and build your own car, pass your drivers test, learn how to drive

Path 2 - pass your drivers test, learn how to drive, buy a car

I would imagine most of you would choose Path 2. And some of us, given the specific need and other choices commercially available, might invest in a bicycle or a bus pass?

Bottom line, we’ve had to home-build and cobble together HR reports, dashboards and “analytics” over the past 2 decades and they have largely missed the mark, underperformed and been an inhibitor (versus an accelerator) to making progress in data-driven HR.

Don’t just take it from me.  Mark Berry, a thought-leader in HR analytics, speaks from experience when he positions ‘partnering with external experts in analytics as a winning proposition for many organizations, especially small-to-medium size organizations that may lack the scale to sustain the employment of tenured data scientists.’  In this iNostix interview, Mark shares how, having been down both paths - building internally and buying, he has emerged with a preference for leveraging external expertise. “why would I try to ‘build’ something internally when I can ‘buy’ deeper expertise on the outside?” If anyone could build it internally, it would be Mark, but he sees the value and benefits of partnering.  

Surely, it’s time to rethink.  Yes, People Analytics is complex but you don’t have to go it alone. It’s possible these days to partner with experts who can focus on the complexities, while you focus on delivering value.  


2.  People Analytics means advanced statistics, mathematics and predictive models - and this scares the heck out of us.

I recently jumped at the chance to collaborate with globally recognized thought leader in HR analytics and evidence-based management, David Creelman. In the session, David spoke extensively about making a distinction between advanced analytics and everyday analytics - where in his global research on successful analytics projects, his biggest surprise was how often successful projects only used simple arithmetic and estimation.

This is key, a concept we fully support at PeopleInsight, and is also corroborated by industry analyst heavyweight Josh Bersin from Bersin by Deloitte who estimates ~4% of all HR analytical needs are at the top level of maturity - and “Predictive” in nature.

This means, and we have hard and fast evidence of this across our customers at PeopleInsight, that when it comes to using your HR, Talent and Workforce data to drive business decisions, most of the requirements and high-value usage are actually through fairly simple arithmetic and estimation….things we learned the fundamentals of in Grade 6.

Grade 6 math, however, doesn’t make juicy stories which can be spread virally on social media platforms like how Google uses predictive models in making hiring decisions. We’ve all read them and they are very cool, but they are few and far between.

My perspective is in alignment with David’s and Josh’s - while the journey may take us to the top of the food chain of caviar and champagne, most of the world runs on (or maybe more appropriately, strives to run on) meat, potatoes and water.

So the lesson for this one is don’t hold yourself back because you’re not at the stage to jump into predictive analytics - you don’t need to be. Maybe you’ll get there but the key is to start with the foundation, the simple metrics and insights that yield compelling stories and can drive real change. For most, being able to connect disparate data sources and access a single view opens up a plethora of opportunity for insight, for decision-making and for progress.  This is often the destination or true business need so don’t let the glitz and glam of that caviar and champagne hold you back. Remember, simple can be great. 


As a footnote, we’re excited to have David Creelman join us for a guest blog in the new year! In this special Industry Expert 5 Minute Friday, David will provide some tips for teaching HR Business Partners to be analytics savvy! We can’t wait.



Check out our Top 5 HR Dashboards, Scorecards & Analytics. These are some of the best when it comes to telling the HR story in a way that addresses business questions and stimulates discussion with your audience.  

 HR Dashboards Scorecards Analytics Top 5

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