How can I be more successful at People Analytics?

“How can I be more successful at People Analytics?”

This was the question I was asked by the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of a multi-national well known brand at a client meeting in late 2018.

She explained that she wanted to build a “proper” people analytics function in their organisation. She went on to explain that her stakeholders (CEO, CFO, Board) were frustrated that they could not even get a basic dashboard of people information in a regular, consistent format, despite a multi-million dollar investment in HR technology. This exact situation is one I have come across again — twice — in the last fortnight.

In every situation, highly capable HR executives are struggling to get value from and find success with People Analytics.

Coming back to the CHRO conversation, I used the Nine Dimensions for Excellence in People Analytics model developed by David Green & myself to help answer the question. In particular, I outlined seven questions that she should ask herself. Her answers to these questions would lead her to a successful roadmap for analytics.

You can take our Seven Question Survey to see what your current level of excellence is in People Analytics. Click the button here to take the survey and receive an immediate high level assessment of your People Analytics capability.

And for more information on the seven questions — read on!

1. Do you have an Ethics Code of Conduct for People Analytics?

This question is routed in the fact that the more open you are about People Analytics, the more your employees and managers will trust you and the more they will engage with you for data.

In a survey that Insight222 undertook in 2017, 81% of people analytics projects were found to be jeopardised “often or sometimes” by concerns related to ethics and privacy (see Figure 1). More recently in January 2019, an Accenture Strategy article ( Decoding Organisational DNA: Trust, Data and Unlocking Value in the Digital Workplace) found that 92% of employees are open to the collection of workforce data about them, but only if it provides personal benefits.

If you demonstrate openly that you handle workforce data ethically as well as according to laws and regulations, then you are likely to get more traction. I recommend establishing an “Ethics Council” to devise and implement a Code of Conduct for the ethical and wise analysis of workforce data. And this “Ethics Council” should also be accountable for ensuring there is a “fair exchange of value” to employees themselves when undertaking People Analytics.

Figure 1: 81% of People analytics projects are jeopardised ‘Often or sometimes’ by Ethics & privacy concerns

Figure 1: 81% of People analytics projects are jeopardised ‘Often or sometimes’ by Ethics & privacy concerns


2. Are your People Analytics projects selected and prioritised using proper governance and criteria?

The discussion on this topic is very simple. Do you have a group of people from across the business who meet regularly and use defined and agreed criteria to select and then prioritise the work that People Analytics does?

If you do not, then People Analytics will usually remain an “HR for HR” function with limited impact.

By establishing this “Board of People Analytics” — of which one role is to select and prioritise projects — you increase awareness of and provide direction for People Analytics. You will focus on business (not HR) topics. Figure 2 shows the recommended composition for a “Board of People Analytics”.

Figure 2: REcommended Composition for a “Board of People Analytics”

Figure 2: REcommended Composition for a “Board of People Analytics”


3. Do your senior business executives sponsor People Analytics projects?

This is simple. For all of the most significant people analytics projects in your organisation — do your business (not HR) executives sponsor each project.

In other words, do they help define the business problem, clarify the intention, discuss possible outcomes, provide their own time to unblock things when the project gets stuck, provide (or fight to secure) budget, people or data, and help communicate the outcomes and recommendations. And — do they become obsessed about making changes as a result of the work.

“Last month, my project failed after six months. The HR Executive “didn’t like the insights”. Therefore he ended the project and did not implement any recommendations. I think he felt threatened because the analytics showed the opposite of what he “wanted to do”.

Like the quote above from a European People Analytics Leader (who, quite rightly didn’t want to be named), there is frustration that working with HR Executives can result in wasted effort.

The answer is simple. Get a Business Executive to sponsor all important people analytics works.

4. Does your Chief Human Resources Officer invest in People Analytics?

Ah, this is my favourite discussion topic with HR Executives!

Often HR functions implement multi-million dollar investments in HR technology thinking that they will offer a panacea for all analytics — as well as fixing other problems. Unfortunately — people analytics requires more than just spending money on fancy technology.

In summary — the CHRO has to lead from the front. They have to make tough choices to move spend away from other HR areas and invest in People Analytics. OR they must use the analytics projects themselves to create an ROI for the business and then use some of that return on investment to reinvest back into People Analytics.

In one retail organisation in Europe, I have suggested exactly this. Ask for just 1% of the return and you will be able to double the resources in your team. And in turn return 99% back to the company.

In summary, CHROs who seriously invest in skills, technology AND data, will succeed in People Analytics..

Figure 3: Chief HR Officers should invest in Skiils, Technology and DATA

Figure 3: Chief HR Officers should invest in Skiils, Technology and DATA


5. Does your People Analytics Leader have the skills to “get things done”?

At a People Analytics conference recently, the person next to be leaned over and said “the People Analytics Leaders that seem happiest are those that are performing interesting experiments on small portions of their organisation”. I whispered back — “Yes, but are they having much impact?”

Simply put, the best People Analytics Leaders have the following skills in abundance:

  • Business Acumen — they understand the business and are able to influence at the most senior levels. They understand corporate politics.

  • Consulting - they can define the right business problems, manage complexities and affect change.

  • Communication - they can tell stories, engage people and inspire action.

Make sure your People Analytics Leader has these skills. Develop them, help them. Or recruit a new one!

6. Do you measure the ROI of your People Analytics projects?

Ok — so not every people analytics project is about financial return. Yes, some of them manage risk, some engage employees and managers more and yet more focus on the employee experience.

But let’s not get confused. Analytics projects and work that shows a clear return on investment, will get attention. And it will give you the opportunity to get more investment (see question 4 above).

There are numerous examples such as the one from Nielsen shown in Figure 4. By working with the Finance Team, and with the help of getting a clear sponsor (see Question 3 above), Piyush Mathur (then People Analytics Leader) gained traction, helped employees manage their careers better and returned significant value back to the business. See The Power of People for more details of this case study or watch this video.

figure 4: Nielsen people analytics project showed clear financial return (from The power of people, Pearson 2017)

figure 4: Nielsen people analytics project showed clear financial return (from The power of people, Pearson 2017)


7. Are your HR Business Partners capable of having evidence-based discussions?

This is critical. If your HR Business Partners cannot translate analytics, talk “numbers” and feel comfortable in a fact-based business conversation, then it is going to be hard to make an impact in people analytics. The entire “front office” HR team should have a level of data literacy such that they utilise analytics as an integral part of their job.

This does not mean that years of intuition are ignored. Oh no! Nor does it mean HRBPs have to be statistical wizards!

No. What we mean here is this: Does your HR department cultivate a culture of analytics so that HR Business Partners are comfortable talking analytics.


To ensure success in People Analytics — focus on seven key questions. You can test your level of excellence in People Analytics by taking this Seven Question Survey.

For more information, you can contact Jonathan Ferrar or any of the team at Insight222. Our mission is to “Put People Analytics at the Centre of Business” — so if you want help with any of the seven questions above — call us.


Jonathan Ferrar is the CEO and co-founder of Insight222. He is a globally respected speaker, author and business adviser in HR strategy, workforce analytics, and the future of work. Jonathan has worked in corporate business for 25+ years for companies like Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Lloyds Bank, and IBM where he served as executive manager for 10+ years. He is a keynote speaker, co-author of The Power of People, and Board Member of the CIPD.

Online Training on People Analytics

If you are looking to learn more about how to get started in people analytics then 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.

You can subscribe to all the courses at myHRfuture Academy here and get 12 months access to all the content.