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 []). 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 []. Another great site is the videos on the LearnR YouTube channel [].

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 []. Once your staff is ready, they can then work through the numerous free data science courses available on “Big Data University” []. 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.

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