Challenges of People AnalyticsBy Ettie Holland on 01.11.2016
People analytics is a no-brainer. I know that, you know that. Everyone knows that. But most organisations still aren’t using people analytics effectively, if at all. If you fall into that category, this post is for you. Read on to discover the 7 most common people analytics challenges – and how to overcome them.
How to Overcome The 7 Biggest People Analytics Challenges
#1–You don’t trust analytics with people decisions
Maybe you’re not implementing people analytics because you don’t want to implement people analytics. Most HR professionals will admit to making past hiring decisions based on little more than intuition, and to some extent that makes sense.
Intuition is a valuable resource, and it certainly has a part to play in the HR equation. Indeed, the Chartered Management Institute ran an illustrative study on the role of intuition in the hiring mix, and all respondents confessed to making intuition-based decisions. Intuition rears its head in phrases like “she felt right”, or “we instantly knew he’d fit in” – phrases you’re no doubt familiar with.
Realise that analytics and intuition is not an either/or situation, and we can use both to make better HR decisions. Use people analytics to help you narrow down a shortlist of applicants, for instance, before making your final decision in the traditional way. People analytics can help you identify attrition risk employees, but the human touch is what helps ensure they stay.
#2 – You’re overexcited
If you’re excited about people analytics that’s great – and it is something to be excited about – but exercise a little caution. Don’t be tempted to ‘go Google’ on your first time out. Instead, aim to achieve small wins early on, so your confidence, buy-in and experience start to snowball.
Be ruthlessly methodical in your approach. A couple of weeks ago we explored the methodology behind effective people analytics – it’s critical to stick to this.
#3 – You’re overwhelmed
It sounds trite but the only solution is to get stuck in. We adopt new practices when the cost of not doing so becomes greater than the cost of doing so… but you really don’t want to wait that long.
Right now, people analytics gives you a real competitive advantage, but there will come a point that not using people analytics is a real competitive disadvantage. Right now, the majority of organisations are still getting to grips with people analytics. It’s OK to make mistakes, right now. Leave it too long though, and everyone apart from you will be people analytics fluent, and you’ll be a dinosaur.
#4 – You’re snowed under a mountain of meaningless data
We’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again: without a story, data is just data. It’s meaningless. Many organisations find themselves with an abundance of data, but a total lack of meaningful insight. People analytics is useful when you use it to solve business problems. If you’re simply collecting swathes of information without linking that back to organisational goals, you won’t be successful.
If you want to solve business problems, you first have to know what those problems are. Go back to basics. What’s important to your business? What people problems are you facing? What do you hope people analytics can help you improve? What hypotheses could you test?
#5 – You don’t have C-Level buy-in
If you want to stop decision-makers writing off people analytics as a false dawn, you have to demonstrate value. As we wrote last week, one of the biggest benefits of people analytics is the ability to prove ROI but it is admittedly a chicken and egg scenario.
The key here is to slowly build credibility, by delivering small successes. As we said above, your long-term success really does depend on getting those early wins. You’re more likely to be successful if you bite off something you can definitely chew, so the same advice applies as elsewhere. Start small and be methodical.
#6 – You don’t have the right people
We’ll look at this in more depth next week, but people analytics demands a new type of HR professional. We need people who are analytically minded, but also storytellers. People who can read data, then craft a story that compels at board level. These skills aren’t easy to come by.
I’m not saying you should go out and hire a handful of data scientists. You could, but data scientists are massively in-demand and command a sky-high salary. Plus, odds are that you’re not actually in a position that you need a data scientist anyway.
Rather, this is as much about attitude as it is ability. If you don’t have someone advocating for people analytics within your organisation, you’ll struggle to be successful. You need people who are able to embrace change. People who are willing to err and evolve and who aren’t intimidated to do either.
#7 – You’re drawing the wrong conclusions
You’re already implementing people analytics, and you’re acting on the conclusions you’ve drawn. It feels like you’re doing everything right. Except nothing’s improving.
In this case, the problem here could well be with the conclusions you’re drawing. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to confuse correlation and causation.
Don’t rush into conclusions. Be rigorous in your approach and look for all possible correlations. Then you can hypothesise which correlation has a causative effect, and then run more experiments to test that hypothesis. When you’ve got multiple pieces of evidence pointing in the same direction, only then can you draw tentative conclusions.