HR Analytics Pitfalls: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Them

Many companies today have a fully dedicated HR analytics team, replete with data scientists, a solid budget, data access, and high-quality reporting tools that help decision-makers and leaders make better people decisions that drive long-term success. But what if you don’t? What if you are a team of one?Today we’re going to focus on three simple steps you can take right now to avoid some common HR analytics pitfalls and get your analytics efforts off the ground.

It’s easy to be scared away by all the things you don’t know and all the resources you don’t have but you shouldn’t be.

No, you don’t need to beg for budget dollars and no, you don’t need to wait until that magical “top talent” walks through the door bringing data wizardry to the rescue.

You can start small and you can start now.

Step 1: Focus on Problems, Not Tools

This is the Golden Rule for HR Analytics.

In a nutshell, it means focusing on people problems that are worth solving and not being overwhelmed by all of the jargon and technical stuff you don’t know. Don’t waste time researching Tableau v. PowerBi or Python v. R v. [insert the flavor of the day].

Start where you are at, talk to people, and figure out where you can help someone solve a people problem that delivers value.

Are they facing engagement issues? Recruiting challenges? High turnover? Start with the things their leaders asking about, the things are causing THEM stress. Get some numbers, identify potential sources of the problem, dig deeper, and then repeat. Don’t worry about being perfect or fancy.

Step 2: Get Small Wins

At the early stages, don’t worry about making a big splash or biting off more than you can chew. Just go for the small win. Provide basic insights and basic guidance where there was previously none. That’s good enough right now.

It might be something as simple as a few figures highlighting turnover or performance trends. It might be a basic table showing the different promotion rates according education, seniority, performance, and/ or company tenure. If someone else cares about and it helps them solve a real problem, then it has value.

Over time, as you gather these small wins, you’ll gain the confidence of colleagues and leaders and you’ll see an increase in your opportunities for impact.

There’s nothing better than growing your personal or team-level HR analytics capabilities while incrementally helping your organization all along.

Step 3: Build Slowly, Build Consistently

This one is basically built into everything we’ve covered so far but let’s call it out explicitly.

Don’t know where to get started? Talk to people, identify specific problems, start small, and build slowly.

Don’t think you have the data chops you think you need? Start with some plots and pivot tables in Excel, build slowly, and work with it everyday, even if it’s just 20 min.

Don’t know enough to tackle the big problems? It doesn’t matter. Start small, gather small wins, and build your knowledge slowly and consistently. If you are really consistent, your small daily improvements will quickly turn into a new set of powerful tools.

Eventually, you’ll start asking bigger and badder questions and you’ll feel the itch for some new stuff like statistics or coding.

The difference now is that you’ll be working on a specific problem with a specific technical barrier against a stronger background of experience and problem knowledge. This means you’ll know WHAT you need to learn and WHY you need to learn it. This is the foundation of efficient and effective knowledge acquisition.

Call it “just-in-time learning” or whatever else you want. It works.

If you eventually reach a point where it makes sense to grow your team and bring in other people with higher level analytics skills, you’ll know exactly why you need them, the precise problems they need to help solve, and what to ask them to be sure you’re getting the right people for the job. You’ll also have a history of organizational impact which will make your budget discussions easier.

HR Analytics Pitfalls: Final Thoughts

Analytics is a huge domain and hugely intimidating for HR professionals starting out on their HR Analytics journey. It doesn’t need to be. If you start with these steps, you’ll avoid some of the biggest HR analytics pitfalls that sidetrack even the those most well-meaning and diligent analysts and leaders.

Focus on problems and what you know, not tools and what you don’t know.

Be humble, go to the source, ask questions, and find ways that you can use data to understand and solve their people problems.

Start small, be of service, and generate insights, no matter how small. Then do it again, then again, and then again.

Over time this consistent, linear input will lead to a decidedly non-linear impact for your organization and your career.  

Other Resources

Taking a step back can also getting your ideas rolling and help you see the bigger strategic issues at play:

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