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The use of talent analytics may be creating a need for HR staff with specialized training. One source for these skills is programs that offer master's degrees in analytics. Another may be a new program at American University that combines analytics with HR management.
American University, or AU, is making talent analytics, which is also called people analytics, a core part of the HR management training in a new master's degree program, said Robert Stokes, the director of the Master of Science in human resource analytics and management at AU.
Stokes said he believes AU's master's degree program is unique, "because metrics and analytics run through all the courses." He said metrics are a part of that training in talent management, compliance and risk reduction, to name a few HR focus areas.
Programs that offer a master's degree in analytics are relatively new. The first school to offer this degree was North Carolina State University in 2007. Now, more than two dozen schools offer similar programs. There are colleges that offer talent analytics training, but usually as a course in an HR program.
These master's programs produce graduates who can meet a broad range of business analytics needs, including talent analytics.
"We definitely have interest from companies in hiring our students for their HR departments," said Joel Sokol, the director of the Master of Science in analytics program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It's not the highest-demand business function that our students go into, of course, but it's certainly on the list," he said in an email.
Sokol also pointed out that one of the program's advisory board members is a vice president of HR at AT&T.
Analytics runs through all of HR
The demand for analytics-trained graduates is high. North Carolina State, for instance, said 93% of its master's students were employed at graduation and earned an average base salary of just over $95,000.
Interest in master's degree analytics training follows the rise of business analytics. The interest in employing people with quantitative talent analytics skills is part of this trend.
What HR organizations are trying to do is discover "how to drive value from people data," said David Mallon, the head of research for Bersin by Deloitte, headquartered in New York.
"It wouldn't shock anybody" if a person from supply chain, IT or marketing "brought a lot of data to the table; it's just how they get things done," Mallon said. "But in most organizations, it would be somewhat shocking if the HR person brought data to the conversation," he said.
Mallon said he is seeing clear traction by HR departments -- backed up by its just-released research on people analytics maturity -- to deliver better analysis. But he said only about 20% are doing new and different things with analytics. "They have data scientists, they have analytics teams, [and] they're using new kinds of technologies to capture data, to model data," he said.
The march to people analytics
"Conservatively, our data shows that at least 44% of HR organizations have an HR [or] people analytics team of some kind," Mallon said. The percentage of departments with at least someone responsible for it -- even part time -- may be as high as 67%, he said.
The AU program's first class this fall has about 10 students, and Stokes said he expects it to grow as word about the program spreads. Most HR programs that provide analytics training do so under separate courses that may not be integrated with the broader HR training, he said.
The intent is to use analytics and metrics to measure and make better decisions, Stokes said. An organization, for instance, should be able to quantify how much fiscal value is delivered by a training program. This type of people analytics may still be new to many HR organizations, which may rely on surveys to assess the effectiveness of a training program.
"They're mining -- they're watching the interactions of employees in collaboration platforms and on your intranet," Mallon said. "They're bringing in performance data from existing business systems like ERPs and CRMs," he said.
The best-performing organizations are using automation and machine learning to handle the routine reporting to free up time for higher-value research, Mallon said. But they are also using these tools "to spot trends that they didn't even know were there," he said.