People Analytics Starter Kit

Companies are starting to realize that there is competitive advantage to understanding their people. With that in mind, demand for analytical

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Richard Rosenow

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Companies are starting to realize that there is competitive advantage to understanding their people. With that in mind, demand for analytical understanding in HR is rising. In the past few years, People Analytics has gone from a niche field to a mainstream focus for HR departments globally.

With that new attention, there’s a corresponding interest in learning about People Analytics, but from the reporting on the topic it can seem daunting to dive into the numbers. To help out there, I’ve been on a mission for a few years to try to make People Analytics / HR Analytics more accessible. It’s an incredible field and I can assure you there are easy on-ramp options and ways to bring a data-mindset into daily life in HR.

To drive towards that mission, I’ve put together an update of my “HR Analytics Starter Kit” series. I originally put those together a few years ago and they are overdue for an update due to the incredible growth of the field. I’m incredibly excited to get this out there because every resource below has helped me in my own career and I’m thrilled to get a chance to share these works further.

So in the article below, I’ve pulled together books, articles, podcasts, courses, advisory, and other resources that I point people to regularly when they reach out to me. I added some commentary to the books and articles and for other sections I’ve just pulled what I could into one place. This collection isn’t the “complete People Analytics links” page (although it did get long), but more of a central place of core resources to kick-start your journey.

I hope you enjoy the collection below, but more importantly I would love it if you could add to the series. If I missed your favorite resources / articles / books, please post your favorites in the comments below and I’ll add them to the lists where I can. There’s so much out there and I’m here to learn too.

Quick note – a close observer may notice that I did change the name deliberately to “People Analytics” Starter Kit from the previous title of “HR Analytics”. Might be the focus of the next article, but if I can editorialize quickly, I think it is time to bring the field from 40+ names down to one. I’d love to discuss this more too in the comments.

There are a lot of articles out there now about People Analytics. This list below is my attempt to put together the fastest way for someone to get a feel for People Analytics as a field. If you have a limited amount of time to get up to speed, I feel like you’d be in pretty good shape after reading through these articles.

Already a powerhouse in the field of HR, Josh Bersin from Deloitte is also one of the most prolific authors in the HR analytics space. From what I can tell, his article “The Geeks Arrive in HR” was one of the first eye-openers introducing People Analytics to a mainstream audience. If you’ve only got time for one article, this one is a few years old now, but holds true as a good introduction to the space.

Tom Davenport and Jeanne Harris are the authors of a book called “Competing on Analytics” which is a seminal work in the field of business intelligence. This stand-alone follow-up in HBR with Jeremy Shapiro shows how practitioners in HR are applying the concepts from his analytics work to the HR field. It makes a clear case for how companies can compete in HR analytics.

Another “classic” article for the field (back in the ancient days of 2013). This article from the Atlantic remains one of the most complete articles I’ve seen on the field of People Analytics to date. It touches on highlights, promises, and dangers of the field and I think most importantly inspires readers about the potential.

This HBR article gives a great deep-dive into the results of an analytical study. Sales improvement is one of the most clear ROI areas that People Analytics can tackle and Ryan Fuller and the former Volometrix team (acquired by Microsoft) lay out an incredibly tangible result in this study.

Extended Tutorial: How to Predict Employee Turnover – John Lipinski

HR Open Source ( Lars Schmidt and Ambrosia Vertesi) is a movement I’ll reference a few times in this article. This HROS study that they laid out with the team from OPower is a clear picture of how a function can (and should) take action on insights.

Ben Teusch wrote this article back in 2016 and it still rings true today. At the time in 2016 most of the articles, content, resources that were available online were exciting stories about what People Analytics could do or why you should start a People Analytics function, but there were very few resources available to learn how to actually DO People Analytics. There are a few more now (courses section below), but overall I think this article is core reading for anyone thinking about contributing back to the People Analytics body of knowledge.

As an immediate follow up to that call to action, this article by John Lipinski is still one of the best tutorials I’ve come across for doing People Analytics. He lays out the why and the how for predicting employee turnover (including code) in this excellent tutorial.

The LinkedIn team has done an incredible job here. This article is a full breakdown of the past and current state of the People Analytics market. If you’re trying to source talent for People Analytics, looking to build a case for a team, or stay on top of the current landscape, this article is critical.

These collections are where I go to stay up to date on the field. There are many more out there (please post about them in the comments!), but here are a few that I’d recommend to people getting started in this space.

At some point, David Green became a stand-alone media company for People Analytics content. David is not only publishing about the field through curated collections of articles, interviews, and case studies, but also driving it forward with original thoughts and content. I’ve put a few links to some key articles below, but realistically you must connect with David on LinkedIn and Twitter to get the full experience and it’s my #1 most recommended way to stay up to date with People Analytics.

Science for Work is an independent non-profit focused on making the world of work better by connecting practitioners to research. Quote from their blog says it best:

We identify and select the evidence we consider most relevant. We critically evaluate its trustworthiness – to give you only the highest quality information – and then we summarize findings and implications for your practice in a 5-minutes reading.

It’s an incredible resource for staying up to date on research and I’d highly recommend connecting with the organization and authors on Twitter and LinkedIn.

HR Open Source (HROS) is an ambitious project by Lars Schmidt and Ambrosia Vertesi to create a global community of HR practitioners. The articles that come out of this project are full, clear, and valuable. I try my best to stay up to date with their work.

Re:Work is the external face of the Google People Analytics movement. They publish interviews, research, and frameworks to help the world practice data-driven HR. This is a great site to bookmark and come back to when you need a boost of inspiration or to check first before embarking on a new project. Their recent interview series with People Analytics leaders has been fantastic.

I’ll write more about the Wharton People Analytics Conference later, but one of the best things about Wharton is that they publish the insights from their events broadly. Research, interviews, and even some of the keynotes are available online.

The Deloitte Human Capital Trends report by Deloitte Insights is one of the most cited reports that comes out each year in this People Analytics space. Deloitte and Bersin by Deloitte are both research and industry trend powerhouses. Deloitte Insights reports have great statistics and the People Analytics landscape for when you’re building the case for People Analytics. Madhura Chakrabarti (one of the lead authors) does a great job promoting the best resources from this collection.

You’ve read the articles, you’ve seen the collections, but you’re looking for more content! Luckily for the readers out there, I’ve put together a mini-syllabus of some essential works in the field. Again, this isn’t comprehensive of all of the amazing works out there, but it’s a good starting place.

But if I’ve missed your favorite book on this topic or if you’re an author with a new book on People Analytics – please feel free to send me link to it or better yet, a copy of it! I’ll do my best to read and review anything that comes my way on this topic.

Work Rules is a look behind the curtain at the daily life, bodies of work, and incredible results of a fully functioning and mature People Analytics team. Laszlo Bock, former CHRO at Google, is an engaging author who is deeply passionate about leading from the research. This book manages to inspire and also be tactical about the methods and work required to get to the promised land.

When Power of People came out, it was nothing short of a relief to see it. Power of the People is the first book that I’ve seen that details how to build and grow the organizational capability of People Analytics. It is truly a foundational work. If you’ve been asked to start building a team or understanding how People Analytics works as a function, this needs to be the first book you buy.

Don’t let Brad Pitt fool you – Moneyball is a perfect read for People Analytics practitioners. The book, not the movie, by Michael Lewis shows how an organization (The A’s) uses data to select and grow their team (baseball players) to drive performance (wins). The book has some technical insights that can be pulled into People Analytics, but even more so I’ve found that it’s one of the best ways to introduce executives to the field. I personally don’t watch baseball, but being able to say “Moneyball for work” and seeing an executive’s eyes light up makes this book critical.

Another great technical guide on how to launch a Predictive Analytics team and project. Jac Fitz-Enz is a “father of modern People Analytics” and this work is a great reference for launching into this space. If you’re in the field today and want to go deeper into the technical side of the field, this is also a great book to read to take that next step.

Building on the 1st edition and the article that I referenced in the first section, Competing on Analytics has been released again with new content for the last decade of revolutions in Analytics (Analytics 2.0 and 3.0 as the authors refer to them). What I like most about this book is the starting point of ‘Analytics’ and how broad that makes the examples and techniques. There is so much we can pull from other fields outside of HR and this book is a great access point to those resources. Competing on Analytics is a core read to anyone working in analytics.

Storytelling with Data is nothing short of brilliant . If you’re finding that your analysis is sound, but you’re not getting traction in communicating to your audiences, Storytelling with Data is hands down the best way to up your game with regard to visualization and getting your point across. I also personally love Cole Nussbaumer’s examples too as she draws from her background as part of Google’s People Analytics team.

There are three books I recommend to anyone looking to improve their statistics background – the Cartoon Guide to Statistics, Statistics in Plain English, and Naked Statistics. These are all three irreverent, readable, and shockingly comprehensive of a stats 101 course. Even if you’re feeling pretty good about your own statistics knowledge, these are strong starting points for learning more about how to teach stats to others or how to communicate the results of your projects to non-technical audiences. I reference these books constantly.

There are now an incredible spread of courses and ways to learn more about People Analytics. I won’t leave a review for each of these, but I wanted to consolidate them for you for easy reference (please let me know which ones I missed!). Some are free and online (Coursera) and some are paid and in-person (MIT short program) and overall I love that there are many different ways to engage with formal learning on this topic now.

People Analytics & I/O Psych focused podcasts: People Analytics oriented podcasts (lots of People Analytics guests as well as strategic HR guests): HR & data-driven workplace podcasts:

I am a self-proclaimed HR nerd when it comes to podcasts. I try to listen to 1-2 a day where I can to stay up to date on current practices and practitioners. There is a wealth of knowledge in not only the People Analytics focused podcasts, but also from the podcasts focused on HR experts and leaders about the HR domain in general.

If you make it through the list of resources above and you’re feeling oriented to the space, but not sure if you’re ready to tackle it alone, the list below is of People Analytics advisory firms that I’ve come across so far. Every one of these websites has great resources and content, but these firms also offer services to assist teams getting off the ground or going to scale with People Analytics.

The list below does not represent any endorsement from me and is just a collection pulled together to help others out here. As a note here, I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of people and organizations and I know that it might be of interest to you to list your organization here as well. Please send me a message and I’d be happy to add you to the list.

Listed alphabetically:

75+ People Analytics Conferences to Attend in 2018

Conferences are an incredible way to connect with your peers and leaders in this space. I was planning to put together a short highlight list below of the big conferences that happen each year, but because David Green has covered this exhaustively (in writing and through attending in person) I’m going to link directly to his resource. Please see his link below for the complete list of conferences in 2018 and when his next one comes out (fingers crossed) I’ll update for 2019.

Lastly, and this one is close to my heart, Meetups are a great way to connect with your peers. I remember the first time I walked into the NYC Strategic HR Analytics meetup and it was like a breath of fresh air to see a room full of people (80+) who all knew about People Analytics, wanted to talk about it, and were currently working in the field! Coming from a small team, that blew me away.

Since getting out to the Bay Area, I’ve been doing my best to get a similar meetup going out here and it’s been nothing short of amazing to get to meet people who care about this space.

If you haven’t been to a meetup before, they’re usually casual and inclusive events, inexpensive (<$20 or free), and oriented towards practitioners or interested groups. It’s a way for people to get together to share their passions, concerns, and challenges with the field. I can’t recommend it enough.

The list below is just a start, but far from comprehensive. I’ve included a link to their meetup page, organizing page, or latest event and then the names of the organizers that I’ve heard from so far for each city. If you’re a practitioner running a People Analytics meetup in your hometown or interested in starting a meetup, please reach out to me and I’ll add you to the list.

People Analytics Meetups

365 women worth watching in Data, People Analytics, and HR Tech

As a final piece of advice, connect with your peers! This is still a new field of work and we’re building it together. The fact that LinkedIn and Twitter exist means that you’ve got no reason not to reach out to someone when you have a question, run into a wall, or need to build something new. Share your wins and challenges and I can assure you you’ll get 10x back.

To kick you off here I’d highly recommend Littal Shermer Haim’s project to highlight 365 women in Data, People Analytics, and HR Tech in 365 days. It’s a great way to see a full landscape of people who influence this field.

Other advice I’d recommend is to add people as you hear about them and to build out your portfolio of influencers. If you’re reading David Green’s blogs, Jonathan Ferrar’s book, or the agenda to your next conference, find those leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn and reach out, connect, or follow. Persistence is key here and eventually your LinkedIn & Twitter feeds will be valuable news sources and a source of community for People Analytics.

Lastly on that note – if you’re interested in this topic (you probably are if you made it this far), I’d love to stay connected with you too. I’ve put together a couple starter kit posts now to help people get up to speed on this topic and I also do my best to share everything fascinating I find through LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m also free to catch up for coffee or a phone call anytime to talk about this topic as it’s a combination of work and hobby for me. I look forward to hearing from you.

Finally, I want to express my gratitude to all of the authors, bloggers, and practitioners listed above. The works you’ve put together, experiences and challenges that you’ve shared, and advice you’ve given has shaped my career completely. Thank you.

And thank you reader for making it to the end! Please stay in touch and add comments, resources, and questions in the comments.

Richard Rosenow

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