Here’s What You Need In a People Analytics Leader

You need the right People Analytics Leader in order to build an effective and strategic people analytics function. This person is the key evangelist and visionary for data-driven decision making, and ensures the use of people analytics always delivers values to the business.

Whether you are looking to hire or become a People Analytics Leader for your organization, I encourage you to continue reading and download this job description for use in your talent acquisition efforts!

Role overview

In people analytics organizations with mature people analytics processes, the People Analytics Leader may also go by the title of vice president, senior director or director. In emerging organizations (those just starting their people analytics journey), they may be a manager or sometimes an analyst.

What group do they report into? It could be human resources, information technology, HRIT, HR operations, talent management, and even organization development – but ideally, in order to produce the most value to the business, they should report to a C-level position. And if they don’t yet, they will soon. I’ve even seen some go on to become the CHRO!

Their backgrounds, temperaments, skills, and education are diverse as well, but one shared key attribute is they are continuously learning. Of course, others within the organization play key roles too. The Visier Age of People Analytics Research report found the CHRO or HRBPs are important agents of change here, but the People Analytics Leader’s contributions to the success of people analytics in delivering tangible, measurable value to the organization will be the most profound.

Let’s be clear here: People analytics – also known as workforce intelligence, workforce analytics, HR analytics and talent analytics – is analysis enabled by technology to make better decisions about all aspects of HR and talent strategy, with the goal of improving business performance.

The technology implementation along with change management activities to enable better decisions are key aspects of this role.

Vision and strategy

The People Analytics Leader must have a clear vision of how to lead the organization towards a “data-driven and insight-led culture.” She enables leaders and HR to make decisions about the workforce, while keeping in line with talent strategy (backed by data) and with the goal of moving leaders away from making decisions on gut feel.

In general, the People Analytics Leader must continuously emphasize to her team and other stakeholders that the reason for people analytics is to provide business outcome value.

Another key finding from the Age of People Analytics study indicates that organizations with a high level of people analytics process maturity more frequently achieve business outcome value. Therefore, this leader must understand the strategy of the business and the key metrics that resonate with management (i.e. EBITDA in manufacturing firms, improved HCAHPS in hospitals, revenue in growth companies, etc.). He must also understand how the workforce contributes to the success of the organization from a financial, business and/or strategic sense.

The People Analytics Leader must learn the key financial metrics and then, make sure that any people analytics strategy will present analytics in the financial language of the organization.

At a leading specialty healthcare organization, the analytics leader insisted that all analysis must be in the actual dollars and cents of the hospital system. Why? Because the organization wanted to reduce employee turnover, and use their own salaries as part of their metrics instead of generic national average nurse or specialty technician salaries.

The team looked at onboarding costs and productivity losses based on specific salaries of each position included in the analysis. Previously, using generic workforce metrics had made it too easy for management to dispute national averages given their location and specialty positions.

Value creation

The People Analytics Leader must ensure that every analytics venture from analysis to intervention to action taken result in a return on investment – a responsibility they may share with the CHRO. The leader must have the ability to talk about data to stakeholders in a way that shows WIIFT (what’s in it for them).

This leader must have the people, processes, and technology in place to accommodate requests for insights and data, not only about the workforce and HR, but from business operations and finance as well (especially as the function matures).

The CHRO of a major retail organization shares his experience on creating value:

If you can’t – or won’t – articulate the tangible value of specific people analytics initiatives to your team members, business leaders and employees, you shouldn’t be doing the work! To me, ‘good’ analytics is identifying and analyzing, and operationalizing outcomes that provide value to both the business and its people. It elevates the human element of human resources.

The People Analytics Leader is responsible for enabling people analytics by:

  • Creating, sustaining, and evolving the people analytics technology platform used by the team and the rest of the organization.
  • Leading the change management that ensures analytics usage that achieves business outcomes.

Technology

On the technology front, the People Analytics Leader must identify, select, implement, manage and continuously enhance the people analytics technology portfolio as usage matures. This is because demand for analytics support will likely increase once introduced to the organization. In fact, organizations with advanced people analytics maturity report almost 20% more types of people analytics approaches, which taken together create a more complex technology portfolio.

As such, this leader must establish practices and solutions that will support an increasingly broad variety of business leaders, people managers, and all HR functions and people of all levels in that organization. This means the people analytics team will also need to expand its analytics capabilities with technology solutions that include deep analytics inquiry and special projects.

An immediate goal for the People Analytics Leader (with support from the CHRO) must be on establishing a people analytics center of excellence to support other HR COEs (those focused on attracting, developing, and retaining talent), as well as super users and business users. The leader must implement solutions that will enable self-service people analytics for the rest of the organization.

This will free the analytics team for the ever-increasing sophisticated analytics regime.

Change management

On the change management and enablement side, the People Analytics Leader must develop alignment activities to quickly convince all stakeholders on the need for standard metric definitions and incorporation of a broad set of data. Alignment within HR is a given. Alignment with IT for any needed technical support will also be key. Alignment with finance for agreement on workforce metrics and sharing of financial and operational data is a must.

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This leader will need to identify and nurture people analytics champions and partners – constantly leveling up their skills is key to a successful roll out. It is also necessary to determine whether to deliver analytics to the rest of the organization via HR business partners or direct to people leaders.

Determining which population to work with depends on the level of analytics skills this group possesses, and whether your organization has done the transformational work to automate processes and transactional activities.

At Merck KGaA, the implementation is led, not by technology people, but by organization development. They do not train on the product, but rather ask business leaders to come to sessions armed with workforce issues they have. For example, they may come with a question on “how can we become a more agile organization.” From this question, they are guided to explore mobility using to see if they have the right mix of internal and external hires. The end result is that 3,500 people managers are direct users of people analytics. At the same time, HR can now serve the business more strategically.

Team management

Part of enablement is also managing a growing people analytics team. Initially, this may include people assigned to analytics from IT or HRIT who have expressed an interest. But as the organization matures its capabilities, the team may evolve to a broader set of roles including data scientists, research psychologists, industrial organizational psychologists, and storytellers.

At one high-tech firm the analytics team includes all of the above roles. The technology people are being developed to better understand HR and to become better communicators and to be more empathetic to those not familiar with research analytics techniques. At the same time, the HRBPs and non-analytics savvy people are being developed to be able to create hypotheses, test them, communicate them, and develop interventions derived from their analysis with the end result of creating value.

Beyond the organization

The People Analytics Leader has responsibilities that will go beyond the four walls of the workplace. She will manage the relationships with key technology vendors. She will also connect with the broader people analytics community. She may present at key conferences. She will constantly be expected to bring back new ideas, new technology offerings, and leading practices back to the organization.

No longer a nice-to-have

The People Analytics Leader role is key to the success of any analytics effort. At a minimum, it must encompass vision and strategy, technology work, and most importantly, enablement activities. It may start small, but it will expand and be an impactful and satisfying role. Those stepping into the shoes of being a People Analytics Leader can make a profound difference!