HR Relies on Data, But Few HR Departments Hire Data Specialists

Skills Data

Most HR departments are involved in analyzing workforce metrics at their organization, but only 15% of them have a data scientist or analyst who’s dedicated to the work.

“While HR is almost always involved in analyzing HR metrics, data analyst positions focused on HR metrics are the exception rather than the rule,” said Andrew Hellwege, surveys editor with XpertHR, which conducted a study on the topic.

“As data and analytics continue to grow in importance, investing in this type of analyst position may help organizations strengthen their workforce management and ultimately better achieve their business objectives,” Hellwege added.

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But although Hellwege believes on-staff data specialists can be advantageous to HR, he told Human Resources Executive that COVID-19 and the recession-battered economy make hiring those professionals difficult.

“Given the financial strains and economic uncertainty of the pandemic—and a potentially slow economic recovery—many organizations may be unlikely to invest in a new HR staff position when struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “So, it may be some time before this type of position catches on.”

Data Scientists in Demand

Even before the recession began, data professionals were in high demand, with their pipeline hampered by a lack of trained candidates and their expectations for generous compensation. Today, the pipeline issue remains, and budgets are challenging for different reasons.

Meanwhile, HR technology vendors have been incorporating data tools into a greater number of products, and pursuing designs that make those features accessible to users who may not have a data background. Employee relations platform provider HR Acuity, for example, has focused notable effort on making data available to users of its tools, for example. Workforce Logiq recently launched features to help talent acquisition teams decide on where to source talent and whether remote work makes sense for a particular role.

Many Cooks in the Kitchen

For its 2020 HR Metrics Survey, XpertHR questioned 420 U.S. employers with a total of about 770,000 employees. It found that while HR is almost always involved in analyzing workforce metrics, other departments may be involved as well.

Among organizations that analyze at least one HR metric, 48% said the finance department is also involved, followed by 28% that reported operations staff’s involvement. Few organizations indicated senior leadership (4%), an outside firm (4%) or IT (3%) analyze HR metrics.  

The most commonly analyzed metric—examined by 70% of respondents—is employee turnover, the survey found. Others are time to fill (49%), employee absence (44%), training costs (37%) and cost per hire (36%).

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