Analytics Is Not Better HR Reporting

We’ve all recognized there is a certain hype and faddishness in people analytics. That’s okay; it’s bound to be part of anything new. We’ve all rushed forward trying to get a handle on what’s real, what’s exaggerated, and how best to move forward.

If we were seeing just the normal evolution of a new approach, then I’d have nothing to worry about. We always have to go through the process of separating the wheat from the chaff.  However, I fear some organizations have taken a look at the chaff and incautiously thrown most of the wheat out the window too. They’ve missed the real value of HR analytics.

I’m not too worried about the fate of really advanced analytics. Sophisticated companies will continue to push forward on that and the rest of us will benefit from the advanced work that HR technology vendors are doing. What I worry about is that some organizations have come to believe that analytics is just a new word for better HR reporting.

If an analytics effort is consumed with better reporting (including dashboards) then it will probably get exiled to the island of tedious HR practices. This island is where work that no one much cares about goes. Yes, we need reporting so we’ll keep doing it; but it won’t be adding much value so it will stay on that unloved island.

What people seem to miss is the mid-level analytics where you are answering business questions as best you can with the available data. This may include HR-focused questions such as “What’s the best way to speed up the recruiting process?” or business-focused questions such as “What are the human factors that will lead to better control over inventory?”

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If your CEO has funded advanced analytics without really committing to it, then that budget is at risk once the hype fades. If your analytics team is buried in better reporting, then everyone will soon lose interest. Either way the people analytics function will be in trouble. The road to analytics success lies in the middle ground where it focuses on making better decisions by taking the time to look at data.

Special thanks to our community of practice for these insights. The community is a group of leading organizations that meets monthly to discuss analytics and evidence-based decision making in the real world.  If you’re interested in moving down the path towards a more agile approach to people analytics, then email me at or connect to me on LinkedIn.

David Creelman, CEO of Creelman Research, is a globally recognized thinker on people analytics and talent management. Some of his more interesting projects included:

  • Conducted workshops around the world on the practical aspects of people analytics
  • Took business leaders from Japan’s Recruit Co. on a tour of US tech companies (Recruit eventually bought for $1 billion)
  • Studied the relationship between Boards and HR (won Walker Award)
  • Spoke at the World Bank in Paris on HR reporting
  • Co-authored Lead the Work: Navigating a world beyond employment with John Boudreau and Ravin Jesuthasan. The book was endorsed by the CHROs of IBM, LinkedIn and Starbucks.
  • Worked with Dr. Wanda Wallace on “Leading when you are not the expert” which topped the “Most Popular List” on the Harvard Business Review’s blog.
  • Worked with Dr. Henry Mintzberg on peer coaching, David’s learning modules are among the most popular topics.

Currently David is helping organizations to get on-track with people analytics.

This work led to him being made a Fellow for the Centre of Evidence-based Management (Netherlands) for his contributions to the field.



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