What are the challenges facing People Analytics?

What are the challenges facing People Analytics and how should you navigate them? In the second of a series of videos interviewing leading People Analytics experts, hear from Heather Whiteman, Michael Arena, Michelle Deneau, Geetanjali Gamel, Jeremy Welland and Richard Rosenow on the opportunities for the People Analytics profession.

So what are the challenges facing the People Analytics profession?  Well, here's a few points captured form the video above.

1. Data governance

Understanding that people are at the heart of People Analytics, and that data is the lifeblood of the tool, we must consider data governance and privacy as of the utmost importance. How we collect data, store it, identify it, leverage it, and keep it safe, especially in these times when cyber security faces such extreme challenges. Setting policies in place, regularly reviewing protocols and new technologies, and updating your employees so they understand the steps you are taking to ensure their data remains safe are all key. It goes without saying that GDPR is a critical component and consideration here as well, no matter where your company is based.

2. Leveraging existing enterprise resources

Though People Analytics may be the new kid on the block in your company, it is really important that you look to other analytics and IT teams throughout the business. Understanding that it is another level built upon the foundation of a data server and warehouse, perhaps analytics modeling that finance or operations are already using, it is important to identify and leverage the enterprise resources that exist. The challenge can be in evolving those resources where people analytics requires an additional level of access or functionality and getting buy-in related to the cost/ benefit.

3. New frontier

While the volume of information on People Analytics is growing, the expression ‘there is no handbook’ is very true. This is in part because it is still a relatively new and evolving field, and in part because of the uniqueness of business models, problems and solutions.

That means HR teams must learn as they go. They must identify and solve problems, and goals, along the way, all the while convincing key stakeholders of the value of the effort. This will mean trying, testing and sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding. The positive here is that it will only take a few successes to gather the evidence needed to be able to continue trying.

4. Looking outside HR

HR is often very inward facing and it can be hard to recognise, or be willing to take advantage of, external opportunities for support. When it comes to People Analytics and looking at the insight it can drive, and the hurdle that can be presented in terms of successfully rolling out a plan from all that has been learned, HR departments can significantly benefit from the ability to tap into a business partner network who can understand and interpret findings. Like getting a second opinion from a physician who is not living the symptoms, not feeling the pain, someone who has third party perspective can be invaluable in truly understanding the data and possible solutions.

The challenges to People Analytics exist but understand they are not a barrier, rather hurdles to overcome, knots to be untied, minor detours to be followed, along the path to greater understanding of your people and how they contribute to the business.


Ian Bailie is the Managing Director of myHRfuture.com 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.