Why You Should Be Geeking Out with People Analytics

We love giving our mentees opportunities to share their passions. Today, 2016 Fall mentee, Sarah Ghessie shares why she's all about people analytics.

To say that my career goals have made a complete 180 in the past few years would be an understatement. When I graduated with a masters degree in retailing, I was ready to take on the world as a buyer or merchandiser for a large retail corporation. If you had told me back then that my true passion would lie in the complex world of human resources, I would have laughed in your face. Fast-forward four years, and my idea of a good time involves kicking back with a book on data analysis and human capital (among other things, of course).

I credit my newfound love for HR to my time spent at a startup, where I was the first operations employee. This, at first, basically meant I was the person responsible for everything outside of building, marketing, selling, and supporting the product. You might be asking yourself “what else could there be,” but let me tell you, it was a lot! In my role, I was in charge of internal event planning, supporting our CEO and his calendar, operations, facilities management, vendor relationships, basic finance, and you guessed it - human resources. As the company grew and we were able to hire more people for these roles, I found myself drifting more and more towards the people side of things, and when we hired a VP of People Operations, she encouraged me to pursue an HR certification.

Studying for my certification test opened my eyes to so many areas of human resources, and it was during that time that I was first introduced to the field of people analytics. It peaked my interest, and once I passed my test, my focus shifted to learning more about the field, and it was there that my journey began.

First things first - what is People Analytics?

People analytics is the practice of applying data and analytics to people decisions. It includes everything from recruiting and hiring to performance management, professional development, and training. I’m sure many of you have heard the term “Big Data” in recent years, and people analytics is essentially forming a question like “How can I improve collaboration between Y and Z departments?” or “What attributes make someone successful in X role?” and using this data to find correlations that help answer these questions.

Human resource professionals have been trying for years to quantify the social sciences, otherwise known as the study of human society and social relationships. Social relationships are crucial to organizations for many reasons -- information sharing, ideation, collaboration, and the list goes on -- and the goal of people analytics is to quantify and strengthen these relationships to make the company more effective as a whole.

Okay, so why is this important?

As the field of people analytics continues to grow, organizations will benefit from this data by improving processes, maximizing collaboration, and increasing employee engagement across the company. But how is this relevant to you, as an individual, and your personal growth?

Increased collaboration means increased knowledge sharing, and using data to form well-rounded teams ensures you get to interact with colleagues who are subject matter experts in areas that you might be excited to learn about. It also means that you can identify who you need to go to with questions on specific topics, which helps you produce higher quality work. The knowledge obtained from people analytics also helps organizations improve their learning and development and training programs, which directly benefit you, as an employee, by providing you with knowledge and skills you will actually use to grow as an individual contributor.

Who are some leaders in the field of People Analytics?

There are many companies out there who have begun to invest in people analytics. Technology companies like Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have created departments devoted to this area. Consulting companies like Deloitte, McKinsey, and Booz Allen Hamilton are working with large organizations to provide real-time analytics on their people practices and how to improve. People analytics has even infiltrated the hospitality industry, with the large chains like Marriott and Hilton investing in resources to grow out their people analytics departments. Universities are also devoting time to research in this field, and you can find specialists at places like MIT and Wharton. It is only a matter of time before more organizations begin investing more in data surrounding their people.

If, like me, you are interested in learning more about the evolving field of people analytics, there are some resources available to you at relatively low costs. Massive open online courses (MOOC) are available from educational platforms like Coursera. The Society for Human Resource Management also has a wide variety of articles and research devoted to this field, although you need to be a member to access some of this material. Finally, Amazon has a plethora of books and additional resources on human capital, data analysis, and people analytics.

If, after reading this brief introduction to people analytics, you are as excited to learn more as I am, feel free to send me a note. I am always looking for more people nerds to chat with and learn from.

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