Getting Started with Talent Analytics: An HR Director’s Tale

Picture the scene. The chastened HR Director (HRD) stumbles out of the CEO’s office having received an almighty rollicking. The CEO had just got back from a few days of hobnobbing with his peers, and he was furious. The reason for his ire was the fact that he was so damn impressed with the HR Analytics a company the likes of GE had. He had heard how they used this data to directly inform business strategy, and that the positive impacts on business performance and the bottom line had been marked.

Never one to accept feeling behind the curve in any way to his peers, the CEO wanted HR Analytics and he wanted it now. He’d given it to the HRD with both barrels and, as the shell-shocked recipient reflected, the CEO’s hairdryer treatment made Alex Ferguson’s look like a mere breeze in comparison. He now had a month to compile a plan on something he’d previously regarded as a mere fad—“Data in HR? What’s wrong with intuition?”—the HRD muttered to himself.

Where was he going to start? Remembering that the CEO had blasted, “Big data was the last chance for the HR function to be relevant in the business,” he resolved that he had better start at the very beginning, with the basics:

Read some books. 
First thing’s first, the HRD thought, was to get online and download some reading material onto his Kindle. He was surprised at the number of books there were on HR Analytics, and he immediately felt a bit foolish. He really was out of touch. He bought three books: HR Analytics: The What, Why and How by Tracey Smith, Keeping Up With The Quants by Thomas Davenport and People Analytics by Ben Waber.

Join some LinkedIn Groups. 
Having mentioned the predicament to his Generation Y daughter, the HRD had been advised to join a couple of LinkedIn groups focused on HR Analytics. After much searching and a couple of additional calls to his daughter, for help navigating his way around LinkedIn, he found what seemed to be two excellent groups 1) People Analytics: Data Driven HR and 2) what would become, as time wore on, a very familiar hang out for the HRD, Measuring Human Capital.

Subscribe to some HR Analytics blogs. 
The HRD’s daughter also advised him to seek out and subscribe to some specialist blogs on HR Analytics. The HRD was flabbergasted at how many blogs there were. Some chap called Josh Bersin was particularly ubiquitous; along with Bersin’s The Business of HR blog, the HRD subscribed to the excellent HR Intelligence Blog as well as All About Human Capital.

Start utilizing his Forbes and Harvard Business Review subscriptions. 
Last time the CEO went to Davos, he came back and eulogized to the extended leadership team (the HRD wasn’t on the ACTUAL leadership team, although he was beginning to think he might join if he could crack this HR Analytics gig) with thoughts on how they should all read the likes of and magazines like The Economist and Harvard Business Review. The HRD had wondered if this was truly relevant to him, preferring to occasionally browse the odd HR publication alongside his Harry Potter obsession, but he signed up to the company paid subscriptions in any case. Now, he was visibly shocked at the treasure trove of information he had had access to all along. It was going to take a month to read it all!

Go to a conference and network. 
Being in HR, the HRD liked nothing better than going to conferences and networking with peers. He wondered whether there were any conferences coming up where HR Analytics was a key theme. He was surprised to see that there were 14 HR Analytics conferences in 2014 alone, and he asked for permission to attend a couple events straight away.

Get all James Bond with Google. 
The HRD didn’t know much about HR Analytics (though he was quickly learning how much information is available), but he did have a nephew who worked at Google; he knew that when it came to HR Analytics, Google was the daddy. Indeed, his nephew had sent him an article that had appeared in The Atlantic entitled "How Google Uses Data to Build A Better Worker." He put in a call to see if his nephew could fix him up with a meeting with someone from Google’s People Analytics Department. He chuckled to himself; he would be like James Bond infiltrating Spectre, except he would be going undercover at Google.

Finally, I understand the basics, the HRD thought. Stay tuned for Part 2, which should arrive shortly.

All characters appearing in this work are entirely fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental... though perhaps not a surprise.