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Understand why people analytics maturity matters

The people analytics market is hot, with rapid growth in vendors, users and revenue.

There are 86 vendors of people analytics technology, after a growth rate of 146% in the last decade, according to RedThread Research. The number of customers leapt 80% between 2017 and 2018, while revenue grew 420% in the same period. Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst at the Salt Lake City-based research firm, discussed people analytics maturity and the overall landscape in an interview at the 2019 HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas.

A lot of organizations are building people analytics teams after a period of experimentation to figure out the value of such teams, Garr said.

People analytics practitioners have a wide variety of skills, though there are some commonalities.

"They all have some sort of data background," Garr said.

Many are data scientists, and some have knowledge of machine learning, she said. Some have strong statistics backgrounds but lack HR expertise.

Organizations are also becoming more adept at implementing people analytics.

"There's more clarity on how to do it, but it varies based on the maturity of the organization," Garr said.

Perhaps people analytics maturity is most reflected in evolving ideas on data.

"There used to be this perception that you had to have all your data right, and you had to be able to do reporting before you could do predictive analysis," Garr said. "We actually know that's not true."

Companies are learning it's fine to get their data "mostly right" and implement reporting and analytics at the same time, she said.

RedThread Research also found some success stories, with more experienced users of people analytics moving beyond early targets like attrition and turnover to more sophisticated analysis of workforce productivity. One company used organizational network analysis (ONA) in conjunction with a leadership development program to understand how people engaged with each other. Then it used the program to help leaders change their behaviors, monitor them through ONA, and eventually demonstrate how both relationships and productivity improved.

Where people analytics maturity lags is in vendors' audience insight. People analytics vendors struggle to understand their audiences, which tend to be split between sophisticated practitioners and HR business partners with less knowledge of analytics, Garr said. And it's not always clear who some products are designed for and how they're supposed to be used.

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