The 21 best HR Analytics articles of 2015

The growth of analytics within HR has been steady rather than spectacular, but I sense that 2016 could be the year of the great leap forward. Only 10-15% of organisations have what could be termed as ‘mature’ people analytics functions, but interest levels amongst the other 85-90% has arguably never been higher.

As such, this collection of my favourite people analytics articles of 2015 should be a useful resource for those interested in this subject. It includes contributions from ‘in-house’ practitioners, vendors, analysts, influencers and commentators on the people analytics space.

So, in no particular order, let’s get started…

1. Josh Bersin | People Analytics Takes Off: 10 Things We’ve Learned

The first of two entries by Josh Bersin examines the ‘State of the Market’ for people analytics and includes a number of fascinating findings including i) growth will be exponential, but we are still in the early days, ii) most companies still don’t really know what People Analytics really is, iii) modelling is valuable but implementing models (i.e. change management) is key, and iv) we have to work together – we are all learning now – i.e. (and to borrow from Lars Schmidt’s and Ambrosia Vertesi’s #HROS initiative) HR Analytics Open Source.

2. Andrew Marritt | 2015 in People Analytics

Andrew is one of the most respected practitioners on the HR Analytics circuit and his firm Organization View is growing rapidly. This article provides his retrospective view of 2015 and confirms my own impression (and that of Josh Bersin’s above) that analytics has gathered significant momentum with HR leaders over the last 12 months – marvellous news for all of us operating in this burgeoning space.

3. Inside HR | What HR Metrics Are Investors Most Interested In?

This article in Inside HR reports on a joint study between Harvard Law School and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute. It reveals the growing interest from the investment community into the correlation between human capital and financial outcomes such as return on equity, return on investment and profit margins. The study (see full report) establishes a meaningful connection between the two implying that “companies with a convincing HR story and strong data to back it up are likely to receive a welcome reception from many institutional investors.”

“Companies with a convincing HR story and strong data to back it up are likely to receive a welcome reception from many institutional investors.” Aaron Bernstein, from Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program

4. Josh Bersin | Developing Advanced Talent Analytics – Why it matters to CFOs

Continuing the theme of the potential financial benefits of people analytics, this interview with Josh cites the findings of research into the benefits enjoyed by the 14% of companies who have already developed mature talent analytics capabilities. As well as generating better talent outcomes in terms of leadership pipelines, cost reductions, efficiency gains and mobility, perhaps the most telling finding was that the share prices of these pioneering 14% outpaced the S&P 500 by an average 30% from 2011-14. If that doesn’t make the case for people analytics, I’m not sure what does.

5. IBM – Starting the Workforce Analytics Journey – the first 100 days

Getting started is the theme of this excellent white paper from IBM, which features contributions from acknowledged thought leaders like Jeremy Shapiro and Jonathan Ferrar. In his foreword, Shapiro muses that whilst interest in the topic is booming, HR as a whole is still learning how to set up effective analytics capability. The first 100 days are critical to the success of any business initiative, which makes this white paper all the more indispensable for would be HR analytics leaders. Aspirants are guided through a series of steps, collectively designed to lead to maximise impact within those priceless first 100 days.

6. Patrick Coolen | The 10 Golden Rules of HR Analytics (revisited)

The next six entries in our list come from leaders of in-house HR and people analytics functions and includes one CHRO. First up Patrick Coolen, who is widely recognised as one of the leading practitioners in this space and who is a superlative conference speaker. In this hugely popular article, Patrick revisits and updates his own 10 Golden Rules of HR Analytics, providing an invaluable insight into the work he and his team are doing at ABN Amro.

7. Prasad Setty | HR meets science at Google

Prasad Setty, VP of People Analytics & Compensation at Google, provides a fascinating insight into the extent that data and analytics are synonymous with people based decisions at the tech giant. Setty describes how Google has used data to inform promotions and validate the importance of managers within the organisation, as well as outlining gDNA, a longitudinal survey investigating the importance of work-life balance.

8. Amit Mohindra | Three ‘Laws’ of Workforce Analytics

One of the most widely respected ‘in-house’ practitioners, Amit Mohindra (now of Apple) outlines his three ‘laws’ of people analytics in this popular article: i) The demand for workforce analytics grows exponentially; ii) The consumption of workforce analytics requires effort; iii) Workforce analytics trumps workforce planning – in most circumstances.

9. Lorenzo Canlas | How we built Talent Analytics at LinkedIn

Lorenzo, LinkedIn’s Head of Talent Analytics, describes the two-year journey of setting up the function in order to achieve its stated purpose to help leaders make evidence-based talent decisions that enable LinkedIn to achieve its vision and mission. The slideshare below from Will Gaker expands on the story.

10. Thomas Hedegaard Rasmussen | Is Your Analytics Predictive and Prescriptive?

Thomas leads the well-respected HR Data and Analytics team at Shell. In this excellent article he argues that it doesn’t matter whether your analytics are predictive or prescriptive and that it is far more important to use common sense and act on the insights derived from analytics. Thomas goes on to suggest that anyone pitching the difference between analytics, predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics is either trying to sell you something, doesn’t know what they are talking about or both.

11. Mark Berry | Seven deadly sins to avoid with HR Analytics initiatives

Not content with being recognised as a HR Trendsetter by HR Magazine for building a HR Analytics function from the ground up at his former company ConAgra Foods, Mark Berry writes intelligent, witty and refreshingly honest articles. One of his best from 2015 plunges headlong into Dante’s Inferno and reveals the seven deadly sins to avoid when it comes to HR analytics initiatives – repent ye therefore and be converted. Mark is a CHRO that is leading the charge towards a future HR based on data, analytics and insights, and as such is someone aspiring HR leaders would do well to keep a studious eye on.

12. Adam Grant, Cade Massey | What’s behind the surge of interest in People Analytics?

This illuminating discussion between professors Cade Massey and Adam Grant, who jointly lead Wharton’s people analytics initiative, sees them walk through the typical HR lifecycle and explain how data is being used at all stages to improve decision making within organisations. One of the key challenges discussed is why more firms haven’t adopted this. Grant describes the conundrum he is attempting to resolve as thus: “Why don’t more organisations do this? And how can you get senior leaders to realise that just because sometimes these variables are hard to measure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring better science to them?”

13. Giles Slinger | From Gloom to Intervention: A story of HR Transformation

Consistently cited as one of the most exciting HR Tech products around, OrgVue went from strength to strength in 2015. One of its creators, Giles Slinger is also a knowledgeable and witty conference chairperson. This blog summarises his chair notes from the CIPD HR Analytics Conference in 2015 and documents how the mood of the HR profession has moved from gloom to intervention in just three short years.

14. Luk Smeyers / iNostix | 4 Approaches Everyone In HR Analytics Should Be Using

As well as being one of the most exciting SMEs in the HR Analytics space (see 7 HR Analytics Firms to watch, also featuring Organization View and OrgVue), iNostix also has one of the best blogs on the subject. One of their best posts in 2015 provided an overview of the four most common methodologies used in predictive HR analytics projects: Clustering, Driver Analysis, Risk Analysis and Forecasting. Common to each approach is that they i) combine data from multiple sources, and ii) start with a business problem that needs to be solved.

15. Tom Davenport | Clear Storytelling Boosts Value of Analytics

If the key requisite of HR analytics is to focus on the business problem, the next must be the ability to deliver a compelling story that communicates the analytical insights and actions to unlock the problem you are trying to solve. When it comes to analytics, Tom Davenportis arguably the Godfather and this article emphasises the power of storytelling, outlining the options – both human and machine – that are available to enable decisions to be made on the basis of analytical results.

16. Sam Hill | People Analytics – it’s a mug’s game. Isn’t it?

This enjoyable read from Sam Hill of Workforce Dimensions draws parallels between professional gamblers and people analytics practitioners in terms of their shared penchant for research, relationship building and shrewd investment. Sam is certainly on the money (sorry I couldn’t resist) here and proves a much better writer (and people analytics practitioner) than he is a gambler – judging by his own sorry tale of woe with the bookies.

17. Greta Roberts | How HR can harness the power of predictive analytics

The ability to combine business outcome data with HR data when making predictions through analytics is one of the most important trends for HR leaders. Greta Roberts, CEO of Talent Analytics, argues that predictive analytics is a lot easier than people imagine and as well as offering examples around predicting flight risk, performance and business outcomes, outlines three steps for HR leaders to get up to speed with predictive analytics.

18. Michael Carty, Morten Kamp Andersen | How to build a “superhero” HR Analytics team

In summarising November’s CIPD Conference in Manchester, Michael suggests that a lack of data skills is holding HR back from making strategic use of HR analytics. Building a “superhero” HR analytics team could be the solution and this article in Personnel Today goes on to describe the six key skillsets consultant Morten Kamp Andersen believes are required for HR to build the ideal HR analytics team.

19. Tracey Smith | The Ethics of Analytics: A Look into the Dark Side

I had the pleasure of meeting Tracey when I co-chaired Tucana’s People Analytics Conference in London in April 2015. In this article, Tracey explores the darker side of analytics and the somewhat dubious ethics employed occasionally by some consultants and corporate leaders.

20. Mike Roberts | 6 myths about recruiting KPIs and analytics you need to forget

This article on the excellent Data Driven Recruiter blog cuts through some of the hesitancies that prevent recruiting leaders from embracing a data driven and analytical approach. It dispels some of the commonly held myths that mean many talent acquisition functions are still operating with the handbrake on. I particularly like #2 where the myth that it’s too technical and complex to get the recruiting data you need is debunked once and for all.

21. David Green

Finally, if you’ll forgive the mild self-promotion and if you’ve enjoyed this blog you may also want to have a read of a selection of the articles I wrote on the subject in 2015:

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