Do I Have to Be an Analyst?

They shouldn’t worry. While having experience with analytics can be an advantage in a data-driven economy, the HR team doesn’t have to do it alone, said Brian Kelly, head of Mercer’s workforce analytics and planning function in Philadelphia. “You need both qualitative and quantitative experts to make evidence-based decisions,” he said.

And those two skill sets don’t always come in the same package.

Rather than trying to force a qualitative person into a quantitative role, Kelly encouraged organizations to first consider the analytics capability of the HR team. “Look at both their aptitude and their appetite for this kind of work,” he said. “Some HR business people really want to do analytics, while others know the business and are good consultants but may not be as quantitative.”

In that case, he suggested building an internal center of excellence, staffed with current or new employees, who can conduct the statistical analysis and who will partner with HR to jointly present results to the business leaders. Doing this creates traction by combining quantitative experts who understand the numbers, and qualitative experts who know the business and can put the numbers into context, Kelly said. “That is the optimal model for making evidence-based decisions going forward.”