The Data Scientists Have Arrived in HR

Considered by many to be the last true bastion of gut decision making, human resource departments have largely managed to escape the datafication process that is occuring across the entire C-suite.

Until now.

Global organizations must now deal with dramatic shifts in conventional approaches to talent acquisition, retention and leadership planning. These shifts have led to an intensified call for analytics to inform decision making in relation to people. It is simply no longer justifiable for HR leaders to ignore the deep pools of data at their disposal that can augment strategic decision making.

Leading the way forward is Google, whose People Operations (POPS) unit has claimed “All people decisions at Google are based on data and analytics”. The search engine giant is not alone – companies such as Pfizer, AOL and Facebook all use people analytics to predict performance, retention and engagement.

A degree from a top university has zero correlation with a hire’s ability to write good code.

This is an example of the type of data driven insight our Data Scientists are revealing in our people analytics work. Whilst nuggets of insight such as these are relatively common, they are not typical. Most of the results we generate in our data driven work merely confirm the biases and hunches we all have about how individuals, teams and organisations operate. The true value in people analytics lies in the ‘we didn’t expect that’ type of result that can make a million dollar impact to the bottom line.

People analytics is not a panacea. HR departments who have moved to the top of the analytics value chain will still make bad hires and roll out ineffective training programs. The difference is that data driven HR departments are iteratively reducing incorrect decisions and increasing correct decisions in aggregate terms over time. It’s this iterative gain approach that is getting HR leaders excited about people analytics.

I am passionate about data driven HR because it’s a win for everyone – including the employees. When workforce analytics is done well, it’s more likely that the right people end up in the right jobs with the right reward structures in place. Management and shareholders win too – a more engaged and productive workforce is a workforce that is contributing more toward the bottom line.

No LinkedIn post would be complete without an inspirational quote, and in this I’m not willing to be an outlier. None other than Napolean Bonaparte tells us:

‘War is 90% information’

The famous French general did not even live in the era of big data, and yet he attributed the majority of his success to having the right information. As the war for talent continues, let us arm ourselves with data science and people analytics!