HR analytics skills: strong demand but short supply

Those with analytics skills are becoming harder to catch and retain, says SHRM

HR analytics skills are becoming a priority area for HR as data and analytics move up the HR agenda, according to research from the US Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).

HR departments are the second most common functional area for data analysis roles within US organisations.

Seventy-one per cent of HR professionals surveyed by SHRM say their organisation has data analysis roles within the accounting and finance department, while 54% have such roles in HR. Roles requiring HR analytics skills are more common at larger organisations.

SHRM found that 79% of organisations with 10,000-plus employees have data analysis positions in HR – almost double the number at organisations with fewer than 10,000 employees.

The SHRM report – based on responses from 398 SHRM members – defines data analysis skills as “the ability to gather, analyse and draw practical conclusions from data, as well as communicate data findings to others”.

Data analysis skills are a key growth area in the US labour market. Over past five years, 65% of organisations have increased the number of positions requiring them.

More than half (59%) expect to increase the number of data analysis roles over the next five years.

But the strong demand for data analysis skills risks outstripping supply: 78% of HR professionals had found it difficult or very difficult to recruit for data analysis positions in the preceding 12 months.

Return on investment

This means that HR must work hard to ensure a good return on investment on employees with such skills.

Employees in data analyst roles with moderate skills require “near-constant learning and training to stay up to date”, says SHRM.

The in-demand nature of data analysis skills also means that retaining employees can be challenging.

For roles requiring more advanced data analysis skills, “HR will experience even more difficulty with skills shortages, recruitment and retention,” SHRM warns, adding: “HR will need to prepare through rigorous workforce planning to deal with these challenges.”

In the UK, HR metrics and analytics are a high priority for HR and are already in use for 32.8% of HR professionals taking part in a recent Personnel Today/XpertHR webinar.

A further 20.9% say HR metrics and analytics are not in current use, but represent an immediate priority for HR, while 27% say they are a priority for next one-to-three years.

The most common barrier holding UK HR professionals back from gathering or making full use of HR analytics is difficulties gathering data, cited by 31.1%. HR analytics skills are the fifth most common barrier, mentioned by 9.8%.

Building HR analytics skills

For HR professionals who are getting started with HR metrics and analytics, building these skills should be a priority, according to consultant and business writer Steven Toft, speaking in the Personnel Today/XpertHR webinar.

HR needs to focus initially on “just being able to read data and understand it, understand the patterns in data,” he says. “The more you do this the easier it gets, the more skilled you get at looking at data and spotting the patterns and spotting the obvious flaws in it.”

Once it has built HR analytics skills, HR is uniquely positioned to derive insights from people data by combining “quantitative and qualitative judgement,” says Toft. “This is where your HR judgement, your understanding of the organisation, actually comes in. It’s a mixture of the hard data and the intuitive. The two are not exclusive.”

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