Whether we realize it or not, data analytics is already a big part of our everyday lives. Think about your Amazon account. Have you noticed that Amazon recommends related products when you go to check out and shows recommendations when you first go to the site? Amazon achieves this by logging every click, search, purchase and even items you remove from your cart. Why? Because each piece of data influences and informs decisions made to create a seamless and intuitive customer experience that ultimately affects their bottom line.

In this blog series, I’ll take a look at how data analytics—for our purposes: people analytics—can create an Amazon-type experience for HR leaders, where the customers are the employees. We’ll also break down three focus areas in which it can make the most difference.

What are people analytics? 

But first, you might wonder what people analytics is. In short, analytics is the study and use of data—for our talent purposes, employee data. Human capital literature identifies three types of analytics: 

  • DescriptiveWhat happened in the past? Helps measure and understand outcomes. 
  • PredictiveWhat will happen in the future? Projects future outcomes based on past data. 
  • PrescriptiveWhat must we do? Uses more sophisticated data techniques like multivariate modelling.  

As we look at how organizations utilize these analytics types, we can assess progress by looking at the levels on the Analytics Continuum. In order to truly understand the rapidly changing labor market and make headway with the workforce of the future, companies need to quickly move up the continuum and get prescriptive with their data. It’s the only way to truly improve HR practices and optimize the way we find, select and support tomorrow’s employees. 

HR data use needs to shift from anecdotal to transformational.

One of the best parts about people analytics is, in most cases, you already have what you need to get started: the data. Most companies already have information such as hire date, time at level, number of promotions, employee satisfaction score, etc. for their employees. Almost any employee-related data point you have can be assessed in leveraging people analytics to solve problems, but now you need to make the best use of it. Rather than turning to data only when you need it, why not have it work for you all the time to help make key decisions and create solutions to some of your most perplexing people problems?

Intriguingly, while 86 percent of companies state that analytics for talent management are a strategic priority, only six percent of companies are satisfied with their analytics capabilities. Part of this might be because many HRDs I speak with explain their teams hold back, fearing their data isn’t “perfect.” But, waiting for perfection could mean missed opportunities and loss of financial gain that maximized data can bring. For example, analytics-savvy companies have an average 30 percent higher1 stock price.

What HR problems could we solve with people analytics?

Retention, recruitment, engagement, diversity, workforce planning… the sky is the limit for what people analytics can do to help enterprise talent teams. With data based from surveys and employee information alone, your HR team can start to make more informed people decisions and address top concerns. But first, you need to assess the data you already have.

People Analytics best practices to get started:

  • Take inventory of your employee data.
  • Understand who ultimately owns and manages the information.
  • Evaluate current and future accuracy.
  • Understand what data will be useful and what can be used.

The brilliant thing about people analytics is that it’s possibly the most cost-effective HR solution for any organization. Why? You already have the data you need. And it’s been sitting there waiting for you to let it have its day in the sun.

My next post will focus on how people analytics can answer key questions around workforce planning. Until then, contact me here or connect with my colleague Colin Strasburg to find out more on the benefits of prescriptive use of data in your HR organization.


  1. Statistic from Human Capital Institute materials.

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