8 tips for getting people analytics right


Origin Wines HR Director Brandon Gillham takes us through People Analytics 101.

If you haven’t started the journey towards people analytics – the use of data to generate and track insights – time is running out. One of the biggest trends in HR is the mining and harnessing of people related data to make business contributions and inform people strategy. And, for an HR profession that is often accused of being fluffy and lacking robustness, it’s an opportunity to deliver immediate and factual value to the broader business imperative. Whether you’re focusing on recruitment and selection, conversion rates, remuneration and benefits, retention or attrition a clear analysis of the data coupled with some trackable metrics will go a long way to ensuring that your colleagues around the board table take the people agenda seriously.

But with so much information around, where do you begin? There are eight key things to keep top-of-mind when it comes to people analytics. If you follow these tips you will quickly master the art of making sense of people data and be well on your way to taking HR to the next level within your organisation.

1  Start with available data

Don’t reinvent the wheel as this will derail you from the start. If there is a report or body of information that already exists, start with this. In my experience, there is always recruitment, termination and attendance data available to the HR professional. Even if your data collection is manual and “clunky” this is okay. With limited data, you can still create valuable and actionable insights. As you add more detail, your insights will get richer.

2 Understand your data quality

Although the aim here is not to strive for perfection, it is important that your data is of decent quality. Remember that you are going to be identifying trends and making some predictions for the future based on your data so it stands to reason that richer data will offer more opportunities. 

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3 Small and simple for the win

Remember this is an organic process, so start small and keep it simple. Focus on one single pot of data or a single organisational challenge that you have good information on. Tackling a very complex data set or people challenge (for example, staff morale) will scupper your process and leave you (and your customers) feeling frustrated.

4 Focus on organisation relevant challenges

Be sure that you understand what the business will truly value in your people analytics. If you operate in an environment that experiences low staff turnover and high morale, it stands to reason that attrition and retention should not be your focus. It is easy to find yourself drowning in data and getting stuck in analysis paralysis. Make sure that the effort you put into your metrics and analytics is something that will be valuable to your business and in the process boost your credibility by matching business needs to HR deliverables. If you’re not sure what is key for the business…Ask!

5 Steer clear of measuring one-offs and projects

While it may be tempting to report on information linked to an intervention or a project, this could be the kiss of death. One-offs are time-consuming and difficult to replicate. In addition, the insights gained from the analysis are not generalisable to the broader staff base (the results are only applicable to that specific intervention or measure). If you focus your analysis on identifying trends, over time you will be able to focus your actions and continue the value-add to the business in a sustainable way.

6 Report visually

You’ve invested a lot of time and energy wading through lots of data and the best way to represent that effort is visually. Whether it’s an infographic or a set of icons, the most impactful way to illustrate your findings and trends is to paint a picture. It also helps your audience, at a glance, to easily recognise and understand the trends or data you are representing. On the plus side, if you are inspired by the creative and “fluffy” side of HR, this is your opportunity to shine!

7 Consistently disciplined

Analysis requires constant effort. In order to make that effort sustainable, be consistent and disciplined about when and how that analysis is done. If you run a report every month on the 3rd day, make sure that you stick to this EVERY month. Sometimes, when the pressure is on, it’s easy to put things off and convince yourself that next month you’ll do two months’ worth of analysis. It’s a slippery slope that leads to errors or falsifications in interpretation. If, like me, you need the structure of a calendar of events or to-do list for the month to keep you on track then put one in place so that you get it done every week/month without fail.

8 Capability development

People analytics is a muscle that you have to flex regularly to stay in shape. It’s only with practice and application that one gets better at extracting the treasure from this process. Ensure that you and your team continue to grow capability around this discipline and leverage capabilities with marketing or IT to make your analysis and reporting world class.

The important thing to remember with people analytics is that it should be fun AND add value to the organisation or arena in which you work.  There are some really positive, albeit unintended, benefits that we get as HR people when we engage in this new field. Firstly big data, and the interpretation thereof, is a challenge impacting on all functions and facets of the organisation from finance to customer insights, so we are able to lead the way in this new field. Secondly, analysis requires thought and insight and when we display this in analysing trends, we are [perceived as being able to critically scrutinise information.  That’s a very comforting perception for a business owner or CEO. Lastly, people analytics helps to bridge the gap between what lies in the ether and what lies in the facts. Our discipline moves away from being a “bleeding heart” grudge acceptance field to one that has rigour, order and clearly defined measurable associated with it. When we master the ability to deliver value in the numbers and in the humanness of our field, we unlock the possibility of not only changing the organisation but changing the world.


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