The new HR analytics centre of excellence

HR analytics at the top firms continues to develop at a rapid rate, but one thing remains certain – that the direction it’s moving continues to demand new skills for the HR department.

When I was part of the global HR analytics team at a global bank I was the only economist in a team of psychologists. Today I’m convinced that the psychologists would be in the minority.

On the opening day of HR Tech Europe’s recent spring event which I chaired we heard from both IBM and Google about the teams that they had developed. Both matched my experiences of what skills are really needed.

Domain expertise – which includes the sort of skills psychologists bring – is essential but so are skills needed to manage, analyse and model large datasets typically captured for a different purpose. This requires advanced statistical techniques. Today these skills are increasingly technology dependent. Is this a surprise? Not really.

In the literature about data science teams we see the pattern time and time again.

  • Domain expertise lets you know what to study. 
  • Statistics teaches you how to study it. 
  • Computer science gives you the ability to study it. 

We add a further skill which we call Design for Data Driven Decisions – 4D Insight is useless unless you can communicate what’s going on clearly.

All of this points to a critical challenge for most HR departments who want to develop their own capability:

  • the skills needed are in very short supply 
  • HR is competing not only with other HR departments but also with other functions 
  • HR will struggle to offer vertical career paths for the best analysts.