Over the last couple of years, there’s been a good bit of market investment, expanding a strategic capability of Human Capital Management. In an emerging community of practice that spans the responsibilities of Operations, Information Systems and Training / Learning & Development, an awareness has been building that by accurately being able to evaluate individual and organizational capability, organizations can be more dynamic and resilient. Bersin framed this as “People Analytics.” I support their framing. It’s the right name, and I think it speaks plainly to how fundamental the professionals, their practices (and their tools) are to the future of enterprises (and other places where people working together matter).

I know about some of the market investment I mentioned above, especially around the standards (and de-facto standards) that make People Analytics technically possible (note: xAPI, yes, and a lot of others – the plumbing is not the point). In the next year, we’re likely to see the first investments in the professional development and certification of professionals who work in People Analytics. I’ll get to who those professionals are, and what their roles are, in due time. That’s part of the bigger wave I’m trying to catch.

For today, let’s just try and focus on where People Analytics plays. By that, I mean let’s look at People Analytics in terms of what can happen starting today, and prioritize where People Analytics should expand. To do that, I’ll borrow Gartner’s model for Human Capital Management to describe, as a model, how your organization’s HR-Operations-IT group might work today. Cool?

Where People Analytics Plays

The map of where People Analytics capability is going to grow within orgs might look like this…

Gartner organizes strategic services in Human Capital Management in terms of

  • Performance management
  • Workforce planning
  • Compensation planning and strategy
  • Time and expense management
  • Recruitment (hiring and recruitment)
  • Onboarding
  • Contingent workforce management
  • Organization visualization
  • Learning (education and training)
  • Competency management
  • Operations: Workflow and Reporting & Analytics

In terms of thinking about where People Analytics is today, this capability is taking shape from the ranks in Training / L&D, Competency Management and from those folks in HR and IT whose work tends to directly impact each other. I think there will be new roles, new professional competencies and new tools addressing needs of this set of integrated talents. As well, I think that roles like HR Operations or Learning Operations exist is a step in this direction (note: it’d be worth a deep dive into what those roles are responsible for today, and what in People Analytics still needs to be addressed operationally).

As People Analytics becomes a thing, it’s going to impact Performance Management as Performance Management is impacting Training / L&D and will be of tremendous value in Workforce Planning. These areas will be informed by the very same People Analytics capability; they will be impacted with different slices of data from even more sources.

There is a (slowly) expanding market of tools and services that can connect with each other to some degree and create interesting data. There are a handful of tools to analyze such data, and people who know how to use the tools. What’s missing are the people who really can identify the right data-gathering opportunities and align the data collection with with insights that are needed (note: designers who can bridge instructional and interactive design might have most of these skills). I don’t think the data alignment, or the insight management (note: not sure that’s a thing or even a separate thing) is ever going to be truly effective at the turn of a key.

Summary of today’s thought (the tl:dr; version)

Bersin described People Analytics as “bringing together all the people data in the company… to understand and address specific business problems: sales productivity, retention, fraud, customer satisfaction, etc. It often means measuring the effectiveness of HR and L&D programs, but more broadly it means understanding all the employee data you have and its impact on business performance.” That’s not some new thing organizations have to adopt. It’s a capability already growing in most enterprises. In future posts, I’ll work on describing what exists today in organizations to formalize it, and how orgs can develop this capability for themselves, going from where they’re at to where they get the bang worth the bucks.

Your turn

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Corrections? Constructive criticisms? I welcome them all.