Tech Insights: How HR Analytic Tools Are Making a Great Leap Forward

I recently spoke to Richard Eckel of Macromicro (the company makes an HR analytics package) and the picture he painted should make us (even more) excited about the future of HR analytics.

One of his key messages is this: HR analytic tools are making a big leap forward.

The old way of doing analytics, which might be called “Request & Wait” is being eclipsed by new tools that let us “Explore & Inquire”. Here’s how they work:

Request & Wait: Decide what information you want; ask an analyst to prepare it, wait…

Get the results. This usually leads to a new question. Ask, wait…ask, wait…

Explore & inquire: Look at a visual representation of the data (e.g., retention by department); notice a trend; check by gender; notice an anomaly; drill down to that issue; look at the whole thing again by region…

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Visual, fast, and easy

Let me spell out what impresses me with the Explore & Inquire approach:

  • It’s visual, so you can notice things as opposed to having to ask exactly the right question.
  • It’s fast, so you can follow up on inquiries in real time.
  • It’s easy, so it can be run by an analytically minded person, not necessarily an analytics specialist.

If, like me, you have grown up in a world where getting reports was slow and difficult, you may be truly surprised by what these new tools can do.

What is interesting?

  • The Explore & Inquire approach is possible because HR data is generally not that big and doesn’t change that fast. This means you don’t need real-time data; instead you can periodically pull the needed data into a standalone database optimized for HR analytics.

What is really important?

  • New analytical tools built specifically for HR allow us to explore data much more easily so that we can answer a great many more questions — even when we don’t start out knowing the right question to ask.
  • “More easily” doesn’t mean super-easy. We still need to build the capability to use these tools and a culture that ensures the findings influence decision making.