When HR analytics was new, analytics teams would search around for something useful to do. Once those teams became established, however, everything flipped and there were more requests for projects than the team could handle.
So how does an HR analytics team decide which projects to spend time on — or rather, not to spend time on?
Here are three types of analytics projects that can drain a team’s productivity.
1. Moonshot Projects With Little Chance of Succeeding
The CHRO or another senior leader might have an idea for an analytics project that would provide some revolutionary insight. Perhaps they have a suspicion that the productivity of teams can be predicted by looking at various psychometric profiles of the team members.
If this worked, it could lead to much more successful teams. It’s a moonshot because there are many different types of teams and these types may not be comparable, many different psychometric tests we could use, and generally a lack of data on team productivity.
I’m in favor of a bold project, but only if it’s entirely OK for that project to fail. In most cases, analytics teams can only afford a handful of failures, especially if they are expensive projects that take a long time to execute.
2. Projects the Analytics Team Is Doing to Keep Themselves Busy
When there is a lack of direction from the business, analytics teams may come up with their own projects. Often, they will have heard about something another company has done, such as assessing flight risk, and decide to reproduce that in their organization.
The trouble with these projects is that since no one asked for them, no one may be interested in the answer. Even if the answer is clear — for example, the prediction of who is a flight risk is reasonably good — the organization may say that this isn’t a priority. Or that it’s good data, but there is no way to act on it. Or just generally show no interest in understanding the work.
3. Poorly Thought-Out Requests From the Business
Managers often come up with ill-formed requests that they think might be interesting. For example, they may want you to look at the educational background of everyone who got promoted in the last 10 years, cut by department, demographic data, and the tenure of the people involved. The analytics team can certainly do that, but why? What question is the manager trying to answer? What decision will they make once they have the data?
Sometimes there is no question at all. It’s just something the manager thought might be interesting. Maybe there is a question, but the answer won’t affect any decisions. Maybe there is a question that could lead to a decision, but the data the manager asked for won’t provide the answer. In all these cases, the analysis is a waste of time.
The Engine of HR Analytics
The engine of HR analytics should be requests that stem from an important, clearly defined business issue that the organization is ready to act on. The ability to identify such issues is the most important skill the HR function needs to cultivate. This doesn’t need to be led by the HR analytics team; however, since they are the ones most impacted by wasteful projects, they are the ones most motivated to create needed issue-identification capabilities.