Despite discomfort with people analytics, HR’s strategic importance as a business function continues to grow amidst a rapidly evolving (still!) world of work and economic uncertainties. The focus on data-driven decision-making related to an organization’s workforce is one driver for this. HR business partners play a critical role, yet so many aren’t comfortable.

Getting comfortable with people analytics

How can HR business partners get comfortable with analytics? Here are a few things to consider and work through on the journey to data-driven decision making:

  • HR business partners’ analytics skills may require practice and honing
  • Time may be a factor. Their workload may limit or prohibit time to dedicate to analytics
  • Lack of support and mandate required for success

David Creelman, globally-recognized HR analytics thought leader, offers these suggestions to help:

1. Make a distinction between advanced analytics and everyday analytics

My research on successful analytics projects taught me that successful projects frequently use simple arithmetic and estimation. HR business partners don’t need to be taught any statistics; just give them a workshop with some ‘everyday analytics’ case studies. This allows them to see what it’s really all about. It also provides a chance to practice the basic skills they need. Learn more about reporting vs analytics

2. Have keeners self-select for pilot programs

Many HR business partners find the idea of analytics daunting; saying “I don’t have time.” That’s fair enough. Leave that group aside for the moment. Focus on finding just a few people keen on people analytics and let them go for it. After, at the end of a basic skills workshop, ask people to identify their projects that would benefit from analytics. The keeners are the people with the clearest idea of where people analytics are needed. Involve these people in some pilot programs.

3. Provide coaching and support to the HRBPs running the pilots

It is a major step forward when HRBPs‘ pilot programs prove the value from everyday analytics. However, half-a-dozen things can go wrong when HRBPs put analytics to work. For example, they may trip up over dirty data. Or they may make a mistake in how they present the findings to stakeholders. And they’ll almost certainly struggle to define the problem with adequate clarity. Senior HR leaders must ensure access to mentors so there’s someone to talk to when people get stuck.

4. Document and leverage these initial successes

For each pilot, summarize the business issue and how people analytics addresses it in a two-page document. This critical tool will showcase to leadership that HR is progressing with analytics. It’s  also a great teaching (and motivational) tool for the other HRBPs who feared analytics was too hard or too time-consuming. A few good analytics wins documented multiplies more successes.

HR is undergoing a revolution. We can expect that HRBPs will soon be as comfortable with numbers as any other business function. Make that a reality starting now with realistic programs that allow your existing HR team to get some wins.

David Creelman is a globally recognized thought leader in analytics and evidence-based management. Connect to him on LinkedIn or email him at

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