Analytics and Human Resources Leadership of the Future

I recently had the fun opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about HR Analytics and how it is reshaping the future of the Human Resources profession. I was the designated practitioner on the panel and my role was to keep us grounded in the realities of leading HR functions on a day-to-day basis.   This panel was part of the recent and exceptional HR Hacking Global Conference.  You’ll forgive me when I give this shout out to Enrique Rubio for the fabulous job he did in organizing and implementing this extraordinary program which drew over 20,000 HR practitioners across the planet.

One of the panel attendees posed an interesting question.  He asked if the HR leaders of the future need to come to the job with an Analytics arrow in their quiver of talents.  Although the question was not asked as if an Analytics background is a pre-requisite for future HR leadership, that was the subtle suggestion.

We, on the panel, had a brief but useful chat about the pros and cons.  If you’ve read any of my prior posts, you probably already know that I asserted that an Analytics background will be helpful but not a requirement.  My arguments were simple and to the point.

  • The role of the CHRO (or equivalent) is far too broad to be defined solely by an Analytics background.
  • Successful CHRO’s assemble direct report teams that bring with themselves (or have within their structures) the range of HR capabilities needed to steer a contemporary HR function. If they don’t, they have a bigger problem than a lack of personal Analytics capabilities.
  • While high impact CHRO’s of the future will absolutely need to draw upon Analytics expertise, it’s more important that they:
  • Are reasonably numerate – you can define reasonable any way you wish but, in this context, I think it means they can understand the data and the implications of the data
  • Are plugged into the business and understand both current and anticipated business challenges
  • Because of the preceding two points, know the right questions to ask and then actually listen to the answers
  • Can interpret the knowledge and insights of their Analytics team to paint a story that will resonate with other business leaders

We are blessed to have a number of great academic thinkers who are helping to shape the future of the Human Resources profession with their ground-breaking work.  Since I was the designated “reality guy” on our panel, I asserted and remain convinced this is all great stuff.  I loved having a Business Intelligence team in my last corporate gig – and I learned a lot, thanks to my team.  However, in order to lead the human capital dimension of a business in 2021 and for the foreseeable future, I believe the most senior members of any HR leadership team need to be strategic influencers.   The ability to understand and deploy Analytics is but one tool they will use to achieve that status.

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts.  I especially welcome thoughtful disagreement.

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