How do we build career paths for People Analytics teams?

Many companies (69% according to the 2017 Bersin report on High Impact People Analytics) are now realising the importance of People Analytics skills as a core part of their HR function. You need only look at the number of People Analytics jobs that are now advertised online to understand just how critical this area has become to the future of HR.

If part of the goal of a People Analytics strategy is to provide insights that will help to support, advance and retain talent within an organisation, then we cannot forget the career path of the People Analytics team as part of that overall strategy.

In a recent interview between Geetanjali Gamel, the global leader of workforce analytics at Merck & Co., Inc., and Insight222’s David Green, they examine both the essential challenges and a way forward for People Analytics teams.

The challenge

Geetanjali shared several insights she gained that suggest, whether because of the team structure or the newness of the People Analytics team within a company, there is very little opportunity for growth or advancement in the field. She noted that, although there are often several individual contributors on a People Analytics team (analysts, data scientists, consultants etc), inevitably they are only being led by one People Analytics leader, leaving only one position for the other members of the team to aspire to.

She also suggests that the specialised nature of the role can make movement more challenging. This can be because transferable opportunities are not always evident in other parts of HR and the team is often considered to be a specialised “COE” within HR, which limits their potential to move laterally or upwards. It is well known that movement within any team can create a diversity of skills, approaches and perspectives, and there are definitely parts of the broader HR function that would greatly benefit from the types of skills that we typically see within a People Analytics team.

Setting a strategy

In the interview, Geetanjali shared her own strategy, a Capability-Capacity-Connectivity model based on the idea that if a company could build capability, reallocate its capacity and drive connectivity between this specialised team and other parts of the business, that new career paths and opportunities could be both created and discovered.

While that may seem to be a fairly basic assumption since that can be one of the key strategies in HR, applying it to the HR team itself is often something that is overlooked.

People Analytics for the masses

Perhaps not the masses, but part of the capability portion of the strategy Geetanjali describes focuses on increasing data literacy among internal HR clients and empowering the larger HR team with the capability to perform at least some of the analyses they seek independently. Not only does this create greater understanding of analytics within the company, and helps to ensure that the insights from analytics projects are applied successfully, but it also frees up the analytics team from some of the more time consuming or mundane tasks that can occupy their focus and block the opportunity for their own skill development.

Within the team, Geetanjali also turned to identifying technical and strategic competencies for targeted development. These not only improve the function of the team but also help develop that team as more well-rounded professionals through some of the skills acquired through the overall exercise.

Be creative

There are other strategies for creating opportunities for those in People Analytics to use their unique skillsets in other areas of the business, to solve problems related to functions other than HR, or for applying HR knowledge to other aspects of people management, away from the numbers and data side of the function that can create other opportunities.

The opportunity for People Analytics professionals to move into analytics teams in the business and take their knowledge of HR and people management practices is one clear opportunity for career progression. There is also a great opportunity for HR analysts to apply People Analytics know-how in other parts of HR and to use these techniques to partner more effectively with the business in many of the broader HR roles which can allow them to stretch their capability and experience for their benefit and that of the company as a whole.

Like the old story of the cobbler’s children who went shoeless, the people driving People Analytics can often be overlooked as a focus group for the very strategies and insights that they generate. We are definitely at a point where analytics skills are increasingly important across all of HR and that will hopefully benefit career development for People Analytics professionals as well as the HR profession as a whole.

Building the skills of the future for HR

If you are looking to learn more about People Analytics and the future skills for HR then do take a look at the latest online courses on myHRfuture academy. It contains online training for anyone interested in learning more about the future of HR and skills in People Analytics, design thinking, digital HR, the future of work and many others. Click on the image below to learn more and to enroll in the academy.


Ian Bailie is the Managing Director of and an advisor and consultant for start-ups focused on HR technology and People Analytics, including Adepto, Worklytics and CognitionX. In his previous role as the Senior Director of People Planning, Analytics and Tools at Cisco Systems, he was responsible for delivering the tools and insights to enable and transform the planning, attraction and management of talent across the organisation globally. Ian is passionate about HR technology and analytics and how to use both to transform the employee experience and prepare companies for the Future of Work.