People analytics has rapidly become an essential tool for improving individual performance, enhancing employee experience and achieving business goals. But while many companies now have people analytics teams in place, HR practitioners are not all conversant with data or analytics yet. In fact, in nearly 60% of companies, basic data literacy skills are not yet in place across the HR organization.

Basic data literacy of all HR professionals determines an organization’s overall people analytics maturity — and ultimately, the success of the entire business. Data literacy includes knowledge of basic statistical concepts, understanding relevant data sources and formats, ability to interpret common data visualizations and other similar skills.

[Image: Fotolia]
[Image: Fotolia]

As with any new, broad-based skill, building data literacy throughout HR requires a concerted effort at upskilling. To support HR professionals as they undertake this effort, my colleague Jeff Mike and I explored five principles for creating a data-literate HR organization. We found that companies in the process of upskilling their HR organizations tend to employ the following five approaches:

1. Adopt a performance mindset. The mindset needs to shift so that the “analytics upskilling” efforts focus on enhancing the performance of HR professionals on the ground and help them better perform in their current role.

2. Start now using available resources. Digitalization and the need for analytics literacy is evolving very quickly, so HR organizations should curate — rather than create — content, and prioritize training delivery.

3. Make analytics education interesting and easily accessible. Unless the content is engaging, relevant to their jobs, and easily accessible, employees are less likely to respond to training. This may mean replacing traditional classroom-style learning with bite-size content like online videos, podcasts, and internal online analytics forums.

4. Don’t lose focus on the core analytics team. Core analytics teams provide the foundation for people analytics upskilling, but the team members themselves often have very different skills sets and backgrounds. The core team should possess an understanding of those different skills sets within the team and create a unified vision of data literacy.

5. Ensure learning encompasses real business challenges. The purpose of upskilling in people analytics is to create business value. Thus, the training (formal or informal) should embed its lessons in the context of actual business settings.

The need for speed in data literacy

Let’s take a closer look at the second principle, “Start now using available resources.”

Most HR organizations won’t need to invest in producing customized educational materials for improving basic data literacy. Such content is available at little or no cost from external providers, including file-sharing services and educational content providers.

The greater challenge will be curation — that is, the process of finding, aggregating and distilling the available information into something useful to HR practitioners. This can be done by learning professionals or left to the practitioners themselves. These days, we also find organizations using technology, such as language recognition software, to curate content automatically.

An advantage of using available materials is that HR organizations can implement analytics curriculum more quickly. That’s important because business and talent needs are constantly evolving and the need for analytics literacy can’t wait for curricula designed from scratch.

In keeping with the need for speed, HR organizations should aim for rapid implementation. While every HR practitioner should be data literate, companies can prioritize delivery by targeting key HR populations first, and then broadening the delivery scope.

High-performing HR organizations realize that having a strong core people analytics team isn’t enough. To go beyond one-off wins and create enduring, data-driven people practices, they invest in upskilling the entire HR workforce to help increase their PA maturity.

Madhura Chakrabarti is employee engagement and people analytics research leader at Deloitte Consulting LLP. This column originally appeared on Bersin’s blog.

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