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Aug 1, 2022

It’s probably fair to say that people analytics has finished its hype cycle.

Most analytics practitioners have their feet firmly on the ground and are busy improving data quality, dashboards, and the skillsets of HR professionals who use their data.

Sure, analytics hasn’t been as magical as it was promised, but we should all know by now never to take hype about a new tool too seriously.

All this being so, the sorts of question I’m often asked is where does people analytics go from here? Or, once we have all our basic analytics in place, how can we continue to improve decision-making?

The answer is to shift from a focus on data to a focus on evidence and to shift from talking about analytics to talking about evidence-based management – or EBM.

Here are the key steps you’ll need to start making this transition:

1) Don’t start with data, start with the decision you are trying to make

Analytics tends to focus on big data and analysis; EBM starts with a decision or a goal and then seeks the best way to achieve it by looking at the evidence.

2) Use all the evidence you can get your hands on

Evidence includes all the data we are familiar with in people analytics, but it can also be evidence from academic research, stakeholder interviews, insights from experts, etc. Since one rarely has a single great source of evidence you have to gather all you can.

3) Pay attention to the quality of evidence

The opinion of a manager on-the-spot should not be ignored, but it is normally of lower quality than a proper academic study. Get all the evidence, but pay attention to the quality of that evidence when making a decision.

4) Don’t be put off by the overly academic tone of some EBM advocates

A lot of EBM advocates come from academia, and they are used to communicating with other academics, not HR practitioners. So listen to their points, use what is helpful in your circumstance, but don’t worry about the rest.

5) Recognize some managers don’t like the term evidence-based management

Like anything, EBM can be misunderstood or misused. Don’t expect managers to embrace you when you say you want to do EBM. Simply suggest that if we want to be successful in achieving a goal, then we should spend at least a little bit of time seeing what evidence we can scrounge up to help inform our decision.

And finally…

I’d also recommend following the work of the Centre for Evidence-based Management – most notably that by Rob Briner, and Denise Rousseau.

And…just maybe, consider renaming your department from “people analytics” to “people analytics & EBM”.

After all, we all need to work together to take people analytics up to the next level.


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