People Analytics – Getting Started

Historically speaking, the HR function has lagged behind in terms of using analytics to make decisions. That is changing, though. An area of analytics known as “People Analytics” applies descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics within the HR areas. HR must move beyond simple metrics and KPIs and move to a place where analytics can be used to make better data-based decisions. One of the things that we are doing at New England College of Business, where I teach as a adjunct faculty member, is help HR students build their competency in metrics and analytics.

Students download and install the Tableau Desktop data visualization software and learn how to make dashboards, and each week they build additional competency in the features and capabilities of Tableau. At first, the focus is on connecting Tableau to a specialized HR data set, where they explore the data through answering questions about a case study. Students are asked to create numerous visualizations and dashboards that explain the current situation at this fictitious company in the case.

Students explore data in different ways, and explore the use of different visualizations to help them build a narrative about the case. They answer some basic questions such as “what is the makeup of the organization in terms of gender”, and some of the more challenging questions of diversity and pay equity. The case and data set embed numerous data challenges and the data was designed specifically for the purposes of students “discovering” the reality of the organization. From there, students make recommendations by developing a presentation that includes visualizations and a narrative about areas for further exploration and areas where the business can utilize data to make better evidence-based decisions. Part of their studies includes learning how to help a company mature in its analytic capability. The main idea is to start with small wins, by demonstrating the power of the data visualizations and being able to tell a story about the data.

The case study was developed by Dr. Carla Patalano and myself, as part of designing and implementing the HRM560 HR Metrics course. Our data set is available through, a machine learning community that hosts a variety of data sets. I also use this data set to show companies examples of what they can do with Tableau and has generated a lot of interest in the last year or so.

It’s a very exciting time for HR because of the availability of data and tools like Tableau that really make HR professionals’ lives a bit easier. In HR, it’s easy to get started using visualization tools that help HR uncover new insights in their data.