Inspiration for this article comes from a fellow data enthusiast’s comment on my previous article, suggesting how understanding “HR” is also crucial to succeed in people analytics. I reflected on that, and yes, I couldn’t agree more! If you’re someone fascinated by people analytics but holding back because of the lack of HR background, this article has some tips from personal experience to set perspective, smoothen the transition and blend in. It is a learning journey but definitely doable!
Revelations about HR (people) analysts:
People analyst origins
Before delving any further, it’s worth considering, where are today’s people analysts coming from? Given that this is a niche, new and upcoming field in the market, people analysts today might be born from other existing roles depending on factors like specific expertise an organization is looking for to solve their business problems. People analysts, thus, are being born out of other existing roles like business analysts, data analysts, or even core HR professionals that happen to be good with data. Core HR professionals here are simply staff belonging to the HR organization, embedded within HR COEs (center of excellence or, in other words, HR functions) like recruiting, business partnering, etc., with a knack to explain numbers.
Though there are dedicated learning paths/certifications on HR analytics, companies are seldom mandating this on their job descriptions to hire people analysts, conveying that transferrable skills from other areas are completely (still) acceptable. These transferring individuals are perhaps accessed to be the most adaptable in applying their core analytical expertise to immediately benefit the HR organization, just opening up to this field. Regardless of all the technical know-how that an analyst might already have up their sleeve, perhaps the most valuable skill to create an impact in people analytics would be to sharpen the art of storytelling.
Why storytelling will make you a superhero in people analytics
We probably know that storytelling in this context is basically making sense of the numbers being analyzed, churning a story out of the results, and pitching it in a way to address the business problem the analyst is tasked to solve. Trust me, within people analytics; this is not so easy. Simply because of the skill to relay the story most of the time to a non-technical HR audience. This is not a surprise because people analysts typically do not report into technical functions like Data Engineering or Data Science. They usually report within the HR organization for various reasons like, firstly, you’re dealing with the employee’s sensitive data that is only for HR eyes. Secondly, your project stakeholders are mostly HR professionals from various HR COEs. And this is where HR domain knowledge is SUPER crucial. Just imagine how holistic it would be to understand the business closely through the eyes of the HR teams supporting them. And that, combined with your analytical expertise, would give rise to the most impactful storytelling superpower.
Transitioning from out-to-insider
How it happened with me
I had an engineering education and engineering data analytics professional background before transitioning into the HR organization. I’ve had the opportunity to position my HR stint in different COEs — recruiting, global mobility, and business partnering. All of which allowed me to digest what kind of problems those domains address for and with the business and how then the power of analytics can aid data-driven decisions. It takes time, but the transition is complete once the impact starts becoming apparent to your audience.
How the same approach might help you
You may be like me, a non-HR professional with prior analytics expertise, or the opposite, a core HR professional with no analytics expertise. Either way, if you’ve now decided to move into people analytics, then here’s something that might help. It is no new advice that — when something is new, you need to work extra hard to familiarize yourself until the new becomes the norm. To aid that familiarization, I would strongly recommend embedding yourself (or work super closely) within the team that gives you exposure to the missing expertise, and that would, in return, fulfill you as a people analyst with experience. Only by being there and doing that, solving business problems alongside those business-fronting HR teams, can you truly see the value-add you can bring to the table and truly become an “insider.”
Completing the equation — what are the ideal values for “X” and Y”?
Honestly, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all here. But my personal belief to make a successful people analyst and impactful contributor are for — Y > X, meaning more weightage on the analytical expertise. Depending on which end of the spectrum you start from, non-HR+core analyst or core HR+non-analyst, the Y starts higher or lower accordingly and can be adjusted. Every organizational need, the business problem might differ and require X or Y to dominate or come together in harmony to ultimately solve the task on hand. So the key is to think through based on the variables made available, question the unknowns, and become the adaptable “solution-chameleon”!
Credit: Shilpa Sindhe