HR analytics has been firmly established as a necessity for HR departments both large and small. Every day there are new vendors, consultants, and software companies that will provide all types of analytics to help you engage employees, strategically plan your workforce, improve your recruitment efforts, and optimize nearly all of your HR processes.
However, with this increased demand, finding skilled HR data analysts has become difficult. There is a shortage of data scientists and data analysts overall and even a more severe shortage of data professionals who are conversant with HR. There is some argument whether it is easier to hire data professionals and then teach them about HR rather than teaching HR professionals about data analysis. This article will not provide a definitive answer to the argument. Rather, the purpose is to give you tips on how to inexpensively train HR professionals in data analysis. Whether you choose to hire data professionals and train them in HR or not, having your HR staff conversant with at least the basics of data analysis can only help both HR and data professionals work more effectively together.
So, how do you start training your HR staff in data analysis? I suggest a three-step process using freely available software and training resources culminating in a practical capstone project. I have set this up for small organizations and government offices so; you can rest assured that this is a well-tested model which is easy to implement and track.
First: download and install RStudio (the Open Source version [https://www.rstudio.com/products/rstudio/]). R is an open-source statistical package that is widely used in the data analysis community. There are plenty of free online training sites and free books that will take your users from a neophyte to an accomplished data analyst. RStudio’s website lists many free online courses [https://www.rstudio.com/online-learning/]. Another great site is the videos on the LearnR YouTube channel [https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLearnR].
Second: use these online resources to help your staff train themselves in statistics and data analysis. A great place to start if your HR staff needs a refresher course in statistics is the interactive multimedia “Online Statistics Education” online book [http://onlinestatbook.com/]. Once your staff is ready, they can then work through the numerous free data science courses available on “Big Data University” [https://bigdatauniversity.com/]. What I especially like about Big Data University is that it has a badging system which is a great incentive for your staff and a good way for you to track their progress.
The final step in the process is the most useful for the organization and your employees – create a capstone data analysis project that will be applied to a real organizational need. In fact, I suggest you may want to create the capstone project while the staff is going through steps one and two. If the HR staff knows that they will have to demonstrate their newly-acquired skills soon, this will help focus and energize their training efforts. With just an investment of time, you can quickly create data-savvy HR staff.
Today, IHRIM hosted its second Workforce Analytics Forum of 2016. For those not familiar with the events, they offer:
- Collaborative Networking: Rather than your typical 1-to-many mega-conferences, they purposefully keep the audience small, offering attendees the opportunity to interact with each other, meet the presenters, and get solutions to their own challenges.
- Real-World Examples Bolstered by Academic Research: Case study presentations from some of the world's leading experts on workforce analytics supplemented by academic thought-leaders (consistent with IHRIM's rich heritage of university partnerships).
- New Technologies: Innovative thinking in analytics is often driven by technology vendors and consultants. For example, the Data Hero Analyst challenge features analysts and vendors using modern technologies (plus Excel) to visualize workforce data in front of the audience.
- Content for Beginners and Seasoned Practitioners: New to workforce analytics or in it for the long haul? The Forum features a mix of simple frameworks for attendees to adopt while going deep on statistical modeling.
Today featured presentations from several top-notch analytics experts (specific names can be found in the program). Some of the most interesting comments by presenters included:
- Leaders pay me for good (HR) intuition – I want to make sure that intuition is backed by data
- Any firm can buy the data analysis they need; what’s important is that HR connect the data to the internal consumer’s question
- In choosing between improving our analytics sophistication or our alignment with the business, we chose the latter – it’s a bigger bang for the buck
- We avoid high cost/low impact analytics projects “like the plague”
- Analytics will become commoditized over time – attrition models are increasingly the same, from company to company
- Our job (as analysts) is to put leaders in a position to raise their batting average
- HR analytics is one of the top 3 capability gaps in HR (the others are Leadership and Culture/Engagement)
- With a small team, we need to democratize analytics and deliver self-service to the front lines
- Change management is under-utilized as a role in my analytics team
- Approaching analytics with a glass half-full mentality helps smooth its adoption (optimizing success>reducing unfavorable outcomes)
- Selecting the right methodology (decision trees, random forests) is important
- When visualizing data, eliminate as much clutter as possible
- There is almost no variable that, when changed in real-time, will change the leader’s decision
- Turnover rates don’t matter – turnover pain does
The Forum continues tomorrow with the Data Hero Analyst Challenge and several more presentations…
Written by Mick Collins