Why Analytics Should Come Before Anything Else

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Oct 5, 2018

Peter Navin, the SVP employee experience at Grand Rounds Inc., has an interesting stance on analytics. Typically, HR has all its core functions in place before it tentatively tacks on an analytics team. Peter, took an unusual approach, he always sought to bring in an analytics pro as soon as possible.

The emphasis on analytics flows from his core conceptual model whereby HR parallels marketing. Marketing relies on analytics, HR must do so, too. To take the analogy one step further, if marketing is led by a “CMO (of Customers)”, then HR should be led by a “CMO of People.” In the following excerpt from the book I co-authored Peter explains why he feel analytics should come first in a new HR function.

Normally, a growth company would hire HR business partners to start getting the work done, and only later hire an analytics team to measure the work. In the CMO of People model, you would hire the analytics team early on. At DocuSign, we hired a full-time analytics person right after we had a talent acquisition team, a total rewards leader, and a technology professional online — and we would have filled the role earlier if we’d found the right person sooner.

Analytics comes first because HR can’t be part of the core leadership team without having the numbers. The CMO of People can’t say, “I feel that talent acquisition is going well, all things considered”— they must have data on the recruitment pipeline. They can’t say, “We have a great onboarding system” — they must have data to back this up. This need for data is no different for any other business function.

This is not to say that HR business partners are not a critical element of the HR team; however, in a new company where difficult choices need to be made about priorities, analytics comes first. As the company matures, the usual HR roles will be filled in — because analytics will have already been in place as the roles are filled, they should naturally adopt the habit of using data to support decisions. HR won’t have to unlearn the old data-free way of operating to become analytics savvy; the new hires will grow up that way.

The takeaway is that we shouldn’t see HR analytics as an add-on or as something that well-established companies do. Analytics is fundamental to HR. as much or more so than HR business partners. The key is to get started, use what you have, make the move towards a world of data and get better as you go.

The book is The CMO of People: Manage Employees Like Customers With an Immersive Predictable Experience That Drives Productivity and Performance.

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