The “Smarts” In the Systems You Have Can Make You Really Smart

We are rapidly moving from a world where HR analytics was a dream to one where it’s a well-understood tool. One illustration of this is the evolution of analytics software from general purpose tools to systems that have HR smarts already built-in. This matters a lot to companies that are not making fast progress in analytics. It means you can leapfrog to proven solutions without needing as much in-house analytics sophistication.

One good place to build in smarts is recruiting because many of the questions you want answered are relatively standard. A specialized analytics product like Visier Talent Acquisition knows that the recruiting team will have questions about things like the applicant pipeline, candidate experience, recruiter capacity, campus recruiting and so on. The tool provides answers to all these common questions. If you had a strong in-house analytics team you could do all this by pulling data from your ATS into a general purpose tool like Tableau. However, the lesson is that you don’t need to put the work into figuring out what you should be doing and how to do it; a vendor has already got there. Increasingly you can buy instead of build.

It’s not all roses of course. Some of the free analytics that come embedded with an HR system may not be adequate for the task, so you may need to buy a specialized analytics tool. Furthermore, none of these systems work without data. Visier argues that it’s very good at cleaning data, and sure that’s really valuable, but they can’t produce good data out of thin air.

Personally, I’m also interested in how these tools with built-in smarts will affect the mindset of HR professionals. Recruiters are always being asked questions like, “When will the opening be filled?” In the past they’d make a guess to get the manager off their back; now they can look at a dashboard that gives a prediction based on data. This ability to give answers based on data will change what managers expect of HR and what HR expects of itself. As HR works with these pre-built systems it will get a better understanding of what analytics is all about. So it’s not just that these smart tools will accelerate our capability, they will accelerate our learning too.

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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 effective approach to people analytics, then email me at

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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