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People Analytics requires HR to take risks....despite its aversion to risk!

As CEO's and BOD's increasingly expect cutting edge people analytics programs in their companies HR is going to have to step out of its comfort zone and overcome its aversion to risk and become more innovative and risk accepting.

Companies whose HR leaders are successful in this endeavor will have a distinct competitive advantage in the market because they will have employees that are a better “fit”, are more engaged and therefore more productive.

Here are just a few of the numerous "pusbacks" that HR leaders need to confront and adjust to when starting down the path towards designing and implementing a leading edge people analytics program.

We need better data!

No you don't. Data is never perfect. It is messy and noisy and incomplete. Period.

But for HR departments that are uncomfortable with risk and change this has become the fallback position to stall for time.

The kicker is that no matter how much effort and money and time you throw at trying to improve your data you will never have perfect data. Nobody does. In fact, it isn't just within the HR function that data is noisy and messy and incomplete, it is also the case in ALL functions that use big data and data analytics from sales to marketing to customer support. In fact, it is the same story in the financial markets and even with the Federal Reserve. Data is always messy and noisy and incomplete.

We need to hire data scientists before we start to make sense of this!

No you don't. Sure, you do need to partner with the technology people in your company, find a vendor you trust, and probably hire a consultant or two, but the power of "big data" and "people analytics" is not in the data - it is in the questions that you ask of the data and the solutions you create to fix problems or reward success that is identified by the data.

We will start with the low hanging fruit!

I hear this a lot from HR leaders. It is a good strategy IF HR has a roadmap, and executive and staff buy-in, to get to the higher value fruit ASAP. Since People Analytics requires HR to re-design its delivery focus it is safe to say that if there is not a roadmap to get there, again with executive and staff buy-in, then the company will never take the steps necessary to challenge institutional assumptions about its role within the organization. And it will never implement and run a powerful and cutting edge people analytics program.

Over the past couple of decades risk aversion has become central to HR's view of the world, and at the same time companies have come to view HR as a non-strategic and non-innovation group within the oranization. However, people analytics requires that HR takes risk, especially institutional risk. Or to say it another way, HR needs to move fast and break things in its pursuit of its goal.

This means building an innovative HR culture that expects success but accepts failure when it happens in the pursuit of something big.

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