HR Tech 2019: How to get started on HR analytics

HR analytics is far from a glamorous job, said Lydia Wu, head of talent analytics at Panasonic North America.

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“My daily job is to untangle hot messes in the organization,” she said with a laugh.

Wu, who spoke on Wednesday at the HR Tech Conference in Las Vegas, shared her lessons learned on establishing an HR analytics function at a mid-sized organization.

READ MORE: Follow along for full conference coverage here.

“When I joined Panasonic a year and a half ago, I was a one-woman HR analytics team,” said Wu, whose background is in consulting.

At Panasonic North America, the analytics function that she created was able to eventually do deep dives into issues such as turnover among millennials, employee engagement and exit-interview processes. Thanks to these efforts, the company has new insights that it’s using to enhance its talent solutions.

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Before all this could happen, however, Wu had to first build support and recognition for talent analytics within the organization.

“Everyone talks about how great talent analytics is,” she said. “But no one ever seems to talk about how to actually get started.”

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Wu based her strategy on a framework of five components: data, customers, tools, people and “you.”

With Data, the first step is to recognize that “everyone suffers from data issues. It’s not just you, so don’t feel overwhelmed,” she said.

The next step, she said, is to “start from anywhere.”

“Once you pick up on a problem, you then ask what’s causing the problem and what it’s affecting. Along the way, you’ll encounter stakeholders in the organization who can help you solve the problem.”

The third step, said Wu, is to adopt a “fix as you go” mentality rather than trying to clean up all the data at once.

“We’re HR, so we can’t hit the pause button on data collection while we do a data cleanup,” she said. “The better approach is to identify a key component that you need to fix–take things one step at a time.”

With Customers, said Wu, it’s your role to be the salesperson, counselor and problem-solver. She broke the process of customer engagement into three steps:

  • Listen like you’re selling.
  • Empathize like a counsellor.
  • Own it like it’s your problem. “When you think of an issue like it’s your problem, then it becomes a whole different ballgame.”

As for Tools, Wu said it’s important to understand that you probably won’t have a big budget to start out with. The key, she said, is to use the organization’s existing tools to get a talent analytics program underway.

“Excel and PowerPoint are amazing things,” said Wu. For visual storytelling, she suggested going on Pinterest to find examples of compelling presentations to help sell the importance of analytics.

Watch our HR Tech videos 2019 here.

With People–or the analytics team–the key is to understand that “the right skill-set is really hard to find,” she said. The wisest approach is to find people within the organization who can help you.

Starting out, your team should include:

  • Someone who’s been in the business and understands the problems the organization is facing.
  • Someone who can use the tools at your disposal. “They don’t need to be an expert coder, but they should understand things like data sets.”
  • Someone who’s a “good storyteller” to help sell the solution.

Finally, there’s “You.”

“You may find yourself asking ‘Am I doing this wrong?'” said Wu. “The answer is probably yes, but then again, so is everyone else.”

When you’re embarking on a task such as this, she said, it’s OK to be wrong.

“Accept the unknown,” said Wu. “Accept the possibility that your hypothesis might not be the right one. The key is patience, persistence and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and be open to challenges.”

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Andrew R. McIlvaine
Andrew R. McIlvaine is former senior editor with Human Resource Executive®.