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Why HR analytics doesn’t mean an invasion of data scientists

Never mind biker boots or top-to-toe tartan: Talent Analytics is the hottest trend around in the field of HR today.

What’s so head-turning is that talent management used to be a soft space – we weren’t able to reliably measure the things we intuitively believed to be true.  But the days of instinctively assuring the board “this will work” are over as businesses are mandating a more rigorous approach to getting the right people with the right talent in the right place at the right time for the right cost. There is a big competitive differentiator at stake, too: analytics involves not simply reporting what has already happened in an organisation but predicting what could or should be in future.

There’s a tendency to assume that HR types are more predisposed to the warm-and-fuzzy aspects of people management and qualitative assessments than number-crunching.  However, my degree is in psychology and included a number of modules on experimental design and statistics, so I’m no stranger to the language of behavioural analytics.

Where I need help is in understanding what data is available, not just in traditional HR systems of record but the digital exhaust trail created through everyday activities.  The big piece is integration – ensuring the right systems are connected – and IT plays a vital role in that, as well as guiding me through the minefield of associated issues such as data quality, security, privacy and change management.

So I’m starting to think about the array of potential uses for talent analytics: screening new recruits, staffing new projects, identifying the common traits of high performing individuals or teams, figuring out who to promote, and even predict who’s a “flight risk”.  This goes way beyond the basic metrics we track at the moment, like headcount and turnover, but what excites me – and the CEO – is that we stand to gain a much better idea of where to place our bets in HR to advance the business. On that basis, Talent Analytics isn’t a passing fad, but a staple for every HR wardrobe.

To find out more about maximising the effectiveness of HR data to make the CEO listen, watch the recording of SuccessFactors’ 20 Minute Master Class with best-selling business author, Bernard Marr.

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      Author's profile photo Ferenc Acs
      Ferenc Acs

      Hello Laura,

      I like your blog post. In the relatively new field of HR analytics we have indeed to be careful in selecting the relevant markers in the pool of data that is available. I see the danger in creating something like a kitchen.sink regression, where a model explains out data (persons) quite good but we have no idea what it means! BTW: Similar but more advanced: "Neural Network Analytics"

      I think the work of early system theorists like Dietrich Dörner (Lohausen) or Winfried Hacker & Walter Volpert (Action Theory) might help here. Only statistics is really not enough - a background in system theory and psychology would help.