Putting People First in People Analytics - Talentoday

Putting People First in People Analytics

From financial services to manufacturing, big data has been revolutionizing the way industries work for years now. An explosion in the volume of available information and powerful tools able to analyze and apply learnings from it all have led to more efficient and effective workplaces processes. It was only a matter of time before data-driven solutions changed the way we think about human resources, too. 

Now, people analytics (PA) has completely reshaped hiring and workforce management for organizations of all shapes and sizes. In fact, big data in HR is big business. According to the Harvard Business Review, “up to 70% of executives consider the implementation of PA capabilities as a top priority and predictions are that the value of the global big data analytics market will be around $68 billion by 2025.”

But is there a hidden cost behind this shift to data-driven decision making? 

People Analytics 101

MIT Sloan professor Emilio J. Castilla defines people analytics as, “a data-driven approach to improving people-related decisions for the purpose of advancing the success of not only the organization but also of individual employees.” The key in this definition is the dual impact being described; properly designed, these applications can benefit both organizations and individuals alike. 

To get there, companies are tasked with analyzing countless data points. Consider all of the valuable information HR teams gather from the start of the hiring process through the duration of an individual’s employment lifecycle. This information can include but is not limited to:

  • Resumes
  • Interview Responses
  • Soft Skills Assessments
  • Performance Reviews
  • Salary History

Each bit of data reveals a new portion of the picture of the complex individual behind a given job title. Add enough of these pieces together and a detailed panoramic view of an entire organization comes into focus. That’s the real power of people analytics - the potential to unlock connections within an organization previously unseen by traditional HR practices. 

How to Keep the People in People Analytics

Unfortunately, there’s a flip side to companies embracing PA in a big way. When mishandled, these efforts can send the wrong messages to a workforce and - even worse - double down on biased decision making. 

Here’s how to avoid the potential dehumanizing effects of applying people analytics at your organization:

  • Practice data due diligence. Put bias in, get bias out - it’s as simple as that. As pointed out in, “Using People Analytics to Build an Equitable Workplace” historical data can come with years of bias already baked into it. For example, previous hiring practices or review structures may have been inherently biased against particular groups of people. Steps very well may have been taken to rectify these issues. However, your AI tools will not understand these changes when processing the data. Therefore, “while algorithms can help interpret past data and identify patterns, people analytics is still a human-centered field, and in many cases, especially the difficult ones, the final decisions are still going to be made by humans.” Understand and accept the limitations of automation upfront, then confront them with thoughtful human intervention. 
  • Communicate your commitment to humanity. The core of people analytics (and human resources, for that fact) is people. It’s not about cold, calculated efficiency; it’s about making work better for everyone at a basic, human level. Leaders need to communicate this overarching goal at every step of the way when implementing PA principles across an organization. Rather than boiling people down to facts and figures, express the ways in which analyzing these data points can lead to improved interpersonal relationships, personal and professional growth and, ultimately, a happier workforce. 

People First

At best, the big data revolution can be interpreted as a hopeful reimagining of our future. At worst, it is a cautionary tale about what happens when we reduce our humanity to a series of data points. People analytics has the potential to positively impact the way we build and manage teams. Yet, that potential will be squandered if we fail to recognize the human beings behind the data. 

Talentoday provides science-driven people analytics to fuel better decision making at all points of the employment life cycle. Learn how our MyPrint assessment can provide a deeper understanding of your employees’ personality traits, motivations and behaviors.