How to Start Thinking Like an HR Data Analyst

July 18, 2016 Zuman

Human resource departments have a reputation for relying on instinct and judgment. After all, your company's HR professionals are dealing with people, and people don't often fit neatly into graphs and spreadsheets. At least that's the conventional wisdom - more recent research has suggested they just might translate well into data points after all. For example, the Harvard Business Review found that when hiring, algorithms outperformed people on good hiring decisions by at least 25 percent. That's just hiring - across all HR functions, data and strong analysis can make a huge difference in your results. Here are few ways to start focusing on numbers:

1. Start Tracking Data

You can't begin to understand numbers you don't have. That's why the first and most important step toward establishing HR data analytics in your business is to actually track data. Now, nearly all companies are already keeping track of certain data points, such as wages, training and hiring expenses, and employee retention rates using a Human Resources Information System (HRIS). However, these are just a few of the kinds of numbers your HR department can focus on. For example. it could also be useful to take a look at Equal Employment Opportunity voluntary information and compare it to retention rates. This kind of analysis could reveal if there are any groups that thrive or wither in your office environment, and help you improve the situation for groups that don't do well.

2. Get It Organized

Numbers can be incredibly useful, but not if they're scattered all about with no clear pattern or purpose. One way you can make these numbers clearer is by using HR Business Process as a Service, or HR BPaaS. This model takes over some of the low-value transactions your HR department has to deal with and lays out that information in a clear and easy-to-understand way. Not only does this free up your HR professionals to do more high-value work, it also gives them straightforward access to data points they can use to improve the company overall.

3. Think Like a Storyteller

According to the Society for Human Resources Management, a strong storytelling ability is one of the key components of a strong HR data analyst. Though many people think of data analysis as a numbers game, the real point is to uncover the meaning behind the numbers. That's where the ability to weave a story together comes in handy. It's not enough to simply recognize a pattern: You need to be able to think about what that pattern means in the context of other information and your business overall.

4. Ask Questions

Sometimes data is completely confusing. That's OK - what's not OK is letting that confusion prevent you from uncovering the reason the data looks that way. For example, retention rates may go up with salary. However, sometimes outside factors can cause retention to go down even as salaries increase. This is counter-intuitive, and it should spark a flame of curiosity in an HR data analyst's mind. When the numbers aren't behaving the way you expect them to, start asking questions. Investigation is often the biggest step between seeing a problem and finding a solution, so don't be afraid to dig until you come up with a useful answer.

About the Author


Zuman is the premium solution for HR, payroll, benefits administration delivering superior control, lower risk, and enhanced employee engagement for growing companies.

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