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  • Prof. Mike Ulrich
    Prof. Mike Ulrich

    Research Launch: What do HR Analytics Career Paths look like?

    While firms have been running forms of people and HR analytics for many years, the various roles within these functions are evolving. Being a younger subset within the HR community, HR analytics professionals often face challenging and uncertain career paths within and after their time within the function. In addition to the normal ambiguity HR professionals experience, HR analytics professionals face the added complication of developing analytical and technical expertise in a field that often lacks, misunderstands, or can’t utilize such skills.  


    Part of the HR Analytics ThinkTank’s mission is to provide free evidence and insights to HR analytics professionals so that they can make better decisions about their careers. As part of this, we are launching a study to better understand the career paths and skills associated with people and HR analytics.


    This study will explore the following questions:

    1. What prepares someone for a job as an HR analytics professional?
    2. What are the job and developmental opportunities within HR analytics?
    3. What are the career prospects for the HR analytics professional ready for something new?

    If you are an HR analytics professional, we invite you to participate in our research by completing this survey (it takes approximately 10 minutes). By taking part you will receive a free copy of the final report in November, and access to all exclusive ThinkTank content. More importantly, you will join our global community in the pursuit to further the people and HR analytics industry.


    What prepares someone for a job in HR Analytics?
    Most people who go into HR do not come from technical backgrounds. This often results in a trepidation (or outright fear) of anything dealing with “analytics,” falsely believing that strong statistical skills are the same as analytical competencies. Similarly, the perception that HR is a “soft” science pushes away people with more quantitative backgrounds. Thus, the supply of people interested in HR analytics careers is weak.
    But, prior research has shown many of the perceptions that keep people away from HR analytics are not true. For the arithmophobic, being an HR analyst is about more than crunching numbers; likewise, for quantitative wizards, HR presents incredibly complex and challenging problems. We thus seek to understand what knowledge, skills, and abilities prepare someone for a career in HR analytics.
    What are the job and developmental opportunities within HR analytics?
    Not every person who works in HR analytics has to be a data expert. In fact, I’ve met very senior HR analysts who can’t open Excel, think classification trees are about forestry, and MCMC has to do with dancing.
    The range of required skills within an HR analytics function can also significantly vary (p<.05) depending on the size and maturity of the HR analytics team. Analysts in smaller or younger HR analytics groups are often asked to have expertise in a wider range of technical, business, methodological, and other skills. But in larger analytics groups, the roles can be more specialized, and someone with deep HR or business expertise but little “analytical” abilities could help their team mature into a more relevant and impactful team.
    What are the career prospects for the HR analytics professional ready for something new?
    The final area we seek to better understand is what do people do when they want to move on from HR analytics. My first two advanced degrees are in statistics, so when I entered a PhD program in management, everyone just assumed I would be a “stats” guy and in many ways this is true–I’m reasonably good with numbers–but I purposefully entered a management PhD program to get away from statistics. Early in this program, I spoke with a senior colleague who was similarly labeled a “stats” guy, and he told me once he was given this label, he had an incredibly difficult time gaining a reputation for anything else. He warned me to avoid this career path unless this was the only thing I wanted to do. Despite my efforts to become an expert in management and HR, many close relatives still think my PhD was in statistics. Sadly, I am not alone; many people who work in HR analytics have a difficult time finding other opportunities within HR and often have to find new career paths if they want to advance to higher levels of management.
    Why participate in this Career Path research?
    By contributing your experiences and perspectives to our research, you will help the HR Analytics ThinkTank team to reveal and confirm myths and hypotheses about the HR analytics industry – made available to our community for free. We anticipate our findings will help study participants benchmark themselves against other HR analytics professionals in similar career stages and roles and provide insights on how they can continue to progress in their careers. We also expect our final report will help break misconceptions that keep individuals from entering this profession and direct companies to new sources of talent. In addition to this, as with anyone who takes part in our research, you will also gain access to exclusive ThinkTank reports, content and webinars.
    Call to Action: Take Part Now
    There are many more exciting questions we hope to answer with this study. We are currently looking for people who are willing to provide us data about their careers (even if you don’t have a formal role in HR analytics). If you wish to participate, we will ask you to complete a very brief survey and share your resume. A few people may also be asked for a short interview. Data will be collected during August and September 2020, and we anticipate sharing our initial findings in November.


    To participate in this research, please take a few minutes to answer some questions and share your career information.

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