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Building an Analytics Team for Human Resources - Part 2

Fotolia_95426510_XSIn Part 1 of “Building an Analytics Team for Human Resources,” I talked about how I’ve often found that HR tries to manage analytics out of the HRIS department and that in 75% of the organizations where I’ve seen this occur, the organization failed to create and sustain an analytics function. This is likely because the team doing analytics lacks one or more of the necessary skill sets required in a true analytics team. I discussed the consulting skills that are needed in Part 1. In Part 2 I’ll continue with the others:  project management, and analysis/data design.

Project Management and Systems Skills

1. Data Management. Ideally there will be someone on the analytics team who already loves data and wants to be the data guru. This person will thrive on making sure that the data is consistent and standardized. They’ll want to be part of a larger data governance team that identifies the downstream impacts to the data when changes in processes are made. They’ll beg to be part of new processes so that the data being collected can be used for analysis. They’ll want all the data to be of the highest quality, although they understand there will be limitations given the disparate systems that exist. Ultimately, the data guru will be focused on understanding the various source systems and how each one can be used for creating measures and metrics for analytics.

If no one on the team is already begging for this role, the organization can help a current employee acquire these skills, or hire someone from an external source. While applying these skills requires extensive knowledge of the organization’s internal systems and how the data is stored, an external resource will frequently know this, unless the organization has highly customized its systems. Internal candidates might be working within another part of the organization, including IT, and borrowed for HR analytics work.

2Project Management. A team member with strong project management skills is important during the implementation of any analytic technology solution, but there should also be someone on the team that continues to play this role even after implementation is complete. There are always new analytics projects and there should be a team member who is tracking activities, due dates, and the overall value it brings to the business.

The organization can build this skill set internally. In fact, the employee in this role can bring a unique perspective to the team if the person comes from a different department.

3Data Security/ Privacy. Understanding data security and privacy, especially for global organizations, is critically important. An employee in this role should understand the legal side of data and be able to translate that to “permissioning” in the technology solution. That sensitivity and awareness is needed as new data is collected and added to reports as well.

If you have a large team, bringing in an external expert may be an option here. Otherwise relying on and having a strong relationship with your legal and IT teams will help the analytics team understand security and privacy requirements.

4. Technology Savvy. Not everyone on the team needs to be an advanced technical expert, but at least someone should have strong technology skills. That person should help to set the roadmap for analytics tools, and serve as the trainer and go-to resource for the team.

This team member can be brought in from an external source or developed internally. The biggest challenge may be identifying someone who is truly tech-savvy versus someone who has been trained in a lot of different technologies but who might not be able to pick up nuances or learn new skills on his or her own. It could also be difficult if the team leader doesn’t have this strength. It will be important to have someone in this role that continues to develop his or her skill set.

Analysis and Data Design Skills

1. Good with Numbers, Statistics, Data, Analytics Skills. While you may need advanced statistics capabilities, having people who understand basic math, means/averages, medians, percentiles, and ranges is even more important. You’ll need people that can look at a chart and interpret it. Having team members who can tell when the data is off or can question the data is more important than having someone with advanced statistics knowledge. You may eventually need someone with more advanced skills (for example, if you need to perform complex regression analyses), but having someone who can present a simple distribution is important as well.

This team member can be someone who is brought in to the organization or developed internally. Similar to technological savviness, the biggest challenge may be identifying someone who is truly analytical versus someone who has been trained in analytics. Unlike the other skill sets, everyone on the team really should have some numbers sense. While there may be team members who are much more focused and advanced than others, this will be key to being successful.

2. Design Skills. I see this as an undervalued skill set. In the days before computers, this was seen as a specific skill to be developed, but since then, thanks to easy-to-use and omnipresent software, everyone has become a designer. I believe there is an artistic side to this skill, and while many people can be taught to be strong designers, finding someone with a passion for the visual representation of data and who understands the artistry in that representation would be a wise addition for any successful analytics team.

Organizations will be more successful if they acquire someone with these skills or partner with an area of the organization that has them. Not all analytics need to go through a design process, but having this resource will make the communication around the data more meaningful.

While reporting teams need many of the skills I’ve described in these posts, they can still be successful with a focus on project management and systems skills. However, to be successful a true analytics team needs members with all of these skills. It may happen gradually, and take some time for the team to come together, but when you have the right people in place, the analytics team can make a huge difference in the way your organization views its data and makes decisions.

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Jamie Strnisha

Jamie Strnisha is a consultant with the Workforce Analytics practice.

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