The widespread use of data analytics has been transformative because it gives companies a way to dig into large datasets (e.g. ‘Big Data’) and pull out the information required to make better decisions rather than relying on gut feelings or instinct alone. It brings quantitative power into business conversations and allows for better decision-making and repeatable results.

A more recent development is the concept of ‘talent analytics’ (also called ‘people analytics’), which uses the same data analysis techniques to examine employee data. The goal is twofold – to understand the work habits and processes that drive existing top performers, and to apply these insights to the job applicant pool to find the next wave of high achievers.

One of the most important decisions to make regarding a talent analytics initiative is deciding who will be involved. After you’ve mapped out the strategic objectives (the questions that you want answered) and the desired outcome of implementing a program, the next step is to identify the people who will take the lead.

Finding the best people for the job is not easy, particularly if you are searching for internal staff to assist with the process. Success in any data program requires that the right people be in the mix, which means going beyond traditional HR roles and expanding the team to include data scientists, statisticians, and mathematicians. In a recent article by Karen Higginbottom she discusses the skills to look for in an HR data analyst, namely analytical and coding expertise, proficiency with spreadsheet applications and databases, and domain knowledge regarding HR issues. Being able to work comfortably across departments and possessing business know-how are also important according to Higginbottom. She also makes the point that an HR data analyst does not need to be in HR – the job role requires a broad understanding of data from multiple business units in order to maximize the insights gained.

While it’s certainly true that using analytics in a business context is not a new concept, the exponential increase in data and the vast improvement in ways to parse and analyze it means that the potential value to businesses can be game changing. And putting the right people in charge of your talent analytics program is an important first step.


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