How to get started in People Analytics

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If you work for a company that has a human resources department, or are responsible in some way to fill the role of human resources within a smaller company, I would hope that you've heard some of the hype surrounding people analytics over the last year or two. Perhaps you’ve heard it called talent analytics or HR analytics, but at the end of the day it all refers to the same thing. Whatever its name, people analytics is something that is finally getting the attention it deserves and should be incorporated into every company so the business can better understand and help its workforce.

So what is People Analytics?

As each of the names suggest, people analytics is about considering your workforce, candidates, and all types of talent, from a data perspective. People analytics helps organisations move beyond making decisions around hiring, firing, promoting or employee engagement based on gut instinct. Instead, business leaders and managers can now make evidence-based decisions, based on an analysis of data, based on something more sustainable, reliable and forward thinking than how they have typically used to make people decisions in the past. And for those traditionalists rooted in their ability to ‘just know’, people analytics may be the tool they need to help confirm their 'gut feel' before making a decision.

So now what?

Maybe this short introduction has already convinced you that you’re falling behind, that you need to go, go now, to start to explore how to get started with people analytics in your company. Or, more likely, you’ve been hearing about it, and thinking about it, somewhere in the back of your mind for a while and just weren’t sure how to get started.

There is a lot of information and advice on the Internet to get you started – here we take a moment to bow to the great Google – but it can be hard to weed through the garden of information that is there to figure out what is good and what is, well, useless weeds.

David Green is a well-respected leader in people analytics, and, curator of information related to people analytics.  If you don't already follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn, then I recommend you start immediately. (Go here to find him on LinkedIn or here for his Twitter). However, he also writes great blog posts and this post, titled ‘15 Steps to Help HR Get Started with People Analytics’, is also a great place to start to learn more.

Key takeaways

In case you don’t have time to read the full post right now, let me highlight some of the key takeaways on how to get started with people analytics.

Learn the business; focus on the business (not HR!)

The first steps involve a bit of background, starting with ensuring you fully understand the business and its key issues. Before you can solve the problems of a business, which people analytics really intends to do, you have to know the business, including understanding its current and future challenges.

Read, learn, follow, network

It is important to make sure you look outside your company to learn as well as internally. Whether it is books, blogs, conferences, podcasts or online courses, there is a wealth of knowledge about people analytics that is available and still evolving. If you are motivated and driven, absolutely, seek out as many opportunities and forums as you can. However, if you don’t yet have the passion, or perhaps the time, decide which makes the most sense to you and pick one. At the very least, you’ll gain a little knowledge to move ahead to next steps. At the other end of the scale, you may become so intrigued by the potential of people analytics that it becomes your goal to know all you can.

Plan, borrow, build and perfect

Once you have basic knowledge yourself, the next tip outlines how to take action and includes planning a strategy, getting others within your organisation on board, growing a team of experts and pressing ahead. If there is one takeaway from these latter stages I would highlight, it is to move forward with the understanding that you may not get it right the first time. You are, after all, heading into new territory, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new opportunities, going where you have not gone before… Yes, I completely borrowed from Star Trek’s opening sequence here but people analytics is a bit of a new frontier for many. The important thing to understand is that a learning curve is completely to be expected and should not deter you from pushing ahead, and perhaps making some initial mistakes along the way.

Not just a passing fad

For those of you who think that people analytics is all hype or just passing terminology that will go the way of Matrix Management, Business Process Reengineering, or Core Competency, then think again. According to analyst Josh Bersin, author of the Forbes article titled ‘The Geeks Arrive In HR: People Analytics Is Here’, HR analytics, talent analytics or people analytics – going back to the ‘call it what you will’ game - has been around for at least a decade and, because “technical talent has now figured out that the old-fashioned backwater HR department may be one of the most exciting places to work” is only just beginning.

One more thing...

If you are looking to learn more about how to get started in people analytics then you should check out the myHRfuture academy online course on people analytics titled 'An Introduction to People Analytics' that is taught by David Green and Jonathan Ferrar. It's a great introductory course for anyone interested in learning more about people analytics. Click on the image below to learn more and to enroll in the course.


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.