Who are you, my fellow “People Analytics Leader”?

The “People Analytics leader” understands all employee data and its impact on business performance. It goes far beyond the HR kinds of soft metrics.

The “People Analytics” domain is gaining a lot of attention worldwide, though most of the people I meet in the Israeli HR arena have not decided yet to formalize such role within HR departments. I believe that times are changing, and new practices will surely shake the state of affairs. Meanwhile, data scientists can keep offering external consultancy for HR analytics in the Israeli market. Realizing that at least 40% of the workforce will be freelancers in the next few years, as many studies predict, data scientists can continue to develop their skills to work and manage without borders, particularly in the domain of People Analytics.

The decision to outsource HR analytics activities have been long discussed. There are many reasons why a business should consider hiring an external data scientist, e.g., quality of work, tools, costs, and schedules. But the key consideration, is the fit of the analysis project with the long-term strategic planning of the company. Unfortunately, HR analytics doesn’t play a key strategic role in many business YET. Hence, many companies choose not to develop internal HR analytics capabilities, but rather buy the expertise, and thus save tremendous resources.


HR ability to run analytics

However, had a local HR group decided to include a People Analytics position, would it be capable to expansively run the analytical processes in-house? I doubt. Apparently, even among large corporations, which spend huge amounts on people analytics, the progress of HR analytics is pretty slow. DDI Research, for instance, found that HR tents to focus on metrics with little meaning outside the HR function, therefore lack of credibility to create models that connect talent metrics to financial outcomes. Moreover, HR is less adept at communicating business terms, and using storytelling and visualization in its messaging, essential skills for exploring and explaining any outcomes of an analytics project.

Nevertheless, with the perspective of traditional Job Analysis in my mind, I keep encountering some new people analytics positions here and there, mostly within local representative of leading companies in tech industries. Enthusiastically, I explore the combinations of skills and responsibilities, and as much as possible, the processes which this role is involved in. As Josh Bersin stated, “People Analytics, as a business discipline, has arrived”, and there must be a growth in this market. But what kind of leaders are emerging?

People Analytics leader is in charge of combining all the data of people in the company, in order to deal with business challenges, e.g., sales productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction. This leader must understand all employee data and its impact on business performance. It goes far beyond HR kinds of soft metrics. The leader must understands not only data management, statistics, and visualization, but rather the professional language of partners within the company, who can assist in implementing the analytics insights. So, should companies start looking for Unicorns?


A multi-disciplinary role

Obviously, the People Analytics leader is a multi-disciplinary role. In that view, new discussions, among talent acquisition professionals, is emerging. In a new podcast about building People Analytics team, the People analytics leader was described as a person who has a combination of strong qualitative and analytical skills, along with emotional intelligence and behavior insights. Data Science background, solid understanding of Statistics and programming skills, are only part of his qualifications. As a “knowledge worker” the People analytics leader must have the abilities of conceptual thinking, forward thinking. He must also handle with ambiguity and complexity. Those abilities enable him to define the right questions, understand the information needed, structure problems in terms of factors and variables, and anticipate outcomes of different choices of action.

While People analytics leaders aren’t all over my professional environment yet, I believe that my modest contribution is to preach the gospel to HR departments. Awareness is a primary step for change, and the change I hope to see is many new professional partners, in the domain of People Analytics”, within HR departments. Hopefully, my own experience, along with what I learn from leaders in the field, would be a useful resources for those who are struggling the recruitment and the starting activities of the first People Analytics leader in their organization.


Dan Schawbel, “10 Workplace Trends You’ll See In 2017“, www.forbes.com
Erik Van Vulpen, “The Myth of the full-time data scientist“, www.analyticsinhr.com
Evan Sinar & Rich Wellins, “Gaps in Both Will and Skill Explain HR’s Struggles with Analytics“, www.ddiworld.com
Josh Bersin, “People Analytics Market Growth: Ten Things You Need to Know“, joshbersin.com
Gil Press, “The Hunt For Unicorn Data Scientists Lifts Salaries For All Data Analytics Professionals“, www.forbes.com
Paul Edelman & Michael Housman, “Episode 011: Paul Edelman – A conversation with the Founder of Edelman and Associates” soundcloud.com


About the author:

Littal Shemer Haim brings Data Science into HR activities, to guide organizations to base decision-making about people on data. Her vast experience in applied research, keen usage of statistical modeling, constant exposure to new technologies, and genuine interest in people lives, all led her to focus nowadays on HR Data Strategy, People Analytics, and Organizational Research.


4 Replies to "Who are you, my fellow “People Analytics Leader”?"

  • comment-avatar
    Littal Shemer Haim
    June 24, 2017 (9:48 am)

    Here is a great article for anybody who looks to work in People Analytics. It is a great reminder that there is more than one path to any outcome. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-best-way-get-more-women-analytics-dont-make-them-jennifer

  • comment-avatar
    Littal Shemer Haim
    July 21, 2017 (8:53 pm)

    Here is another important perspective, by David Creelman: “The ideal leader for people analytics is more like a bright management consultant than a mathematician. Their interest is in finding and addressing important opportunities for the business. Analytics is their tool of choice, so yes they’ll have an appreciation for the techniques, but their focus remains on getting business outcomes as quickly and cheaply as possible.” Read Creelman article here: https://www.eremedia.com/tlnt/dont-hire-a-data-scientist-to-lead-your-people-analytics/

  • comment-avatar
    Littal Shemer Haim
    September 15, 2017 (7:38 pm)

    “People Analytics is one of the most talked about disciplines within HR”, says David Green. “Interest in the subject continues to soar, adoption levels are on the rise”, and in his experience at least, “people analytics is increasingly acknowledged as a core element of HR’s response to the challenge (and opportunity) presented by the future of work. Read how People Analytics is moving from the periphery to the center of HR.

  • comment-avatar
    Littal Shemer Haim
    October 3, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    “Workforce analytics skills are a key development area for UK HR professionals who want to progress their HR career”, new XpertHR research finds .
    “Workforce analytics skills place highly as a future development area, cited by more than one-third (37.5%) of respondents, and beaten only by organizational development (42.6%) and business acumen/awareness (41%)“. Interestingly, “male HR professionals are significantly more likely than their female counterparts to cite workforce analytics as a requirement for their current role”.

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