Will HR Lose the Battle Over Analytics?






Most HR organizations have been slow to adopt analytics – too slow, in fact, in the minds of many impatient business leaders.  Our research conducted last year showed that just 14% of HR organizations in the U.S are using advanced or predictive analytics to make talent decisions. These companies have created strong analytics teams with a diversity of skill sets and have established data governance processes for data quality and integration.


Despite the prognostications that 2014 would be “the year of predictive talent analytics,” things haven’t changed all that much. I keep hearing the same questions from HR leaders over and over again: “How do I get started with analytics?” “How do we clean and integrate our data?” “How do we upskill our staff to be more data savvy?”

If HR continues to drag its feet, it risks losing control over its data, and its chance to gain some real power within the organization.

Witness the articles in support of CFOs owning analytics within corporate America. CFOs understand the value of data and are already using analytics to help them understand and predict margins, pricing models, and potential new revenue streams. For decades Finance has been using analytics to better understand where the business is strong and where it needs improvement.

CFOs could be a natural fit to lead analytics across the organization – taking over responsibility for HR analytics, marketing analytics, and operational analytics. Most CFOs are in a position of power within their organizations. They already control much of that data on company financials and operations.  They have credibility and are seen (in many companies) as the source of truth.  They understand data and know how to use it.

In many organizations, HR falls short on all of the above. Which is why HR risks losing control of its talent data to CFOs, who may be looking to further expand their leadership roles and spheres of influence throughout the company – and who are tired of waiting for HR leaders to “get it” when it comes to analytics. 

I’ve already talked with several companies over the past two months that have centralized their analytics across functions. In a some cases, the CFO is running the analytics organization. In others, it  falls under the COO or CIO.  This should be a wake-up call for HR leaders. The battleground over corporate data is threatening to heat up, and HR can’t throw up the white flag and  lose its stake in the one area that promises to bring it credibility with executives and power over talent and business decisions.

If your HR organization is still new to analytics, here is one thing you can do: Find a business leader who is willing to partner on an analytics project to solve a problem (e.g. reducing turnover, improving engagement, reducing accidents/theft/leakage, etc.) Put together a skunks works team, borrowing talent from another department if necessary or partnering with a university or external supplier, and look to get a small ‘win.’  After that, evangelize the results and find another internal stakeholder or two to partner with on another, slightly larger, project.

After you have a few small wins and have built some credibility with business leaders, you can ask for some additional resources and start building an analytics team. Many HR people say, “I can’t get the funding for analytics,”  and it's no wonder…since they haven’t proven the value and their credibility yet. 

So start small – look for a  supportive business leader with a pain point  – and grow from there. Any don’t wait too long, or before you know it, your CFO may be managing your talent data.


Madhura Chakrabarti

Employee Engagement & People Analytics Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Madhura leads the people analytics and employee engagement research practices at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Highly regarded for her work in analytics, employee engagement, organizational development, and preemployment hiring assessments, Madhura helps corporations make data driven talent and business decisions. Her work has been published in the Journal of Business and Psychology and the Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work. Madhura has a doctorate in industrial / organizational psychology and a master of arts degree from Wayne State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Delhi, India.

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