Not just for journos. Poring over data, and a bit of Google’s HR practice.

My regular reader(s) will probably know that I’m a fan of the Guardian newspaper and its on-line efforts.  It does a fine job with data, both in terms of sourcing it and visualizing it. Have a look at the website and data blog here.   I’ve also ranted about the need for more numeracy in HR on a number of occasions. This post will be more of the same.

Leading newspapers are making  effective use of visualization today. As an  example,  the US treasury bond ownership graphic is far more impactful than a simple listing.

It goes deeper than just a nice graph though, at a recent lecture at Leeds Trinity College,  Guardian Data Blog editor Simon Rogers presented with Tim Berners-Lee about data journalism.

Data journalism involves visualising or scrutinising often complex amounts of statistical information.

TBL had this to say.

"Journalists need to be data-savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you’ll do it that way some times.

"But now it’s also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country."

It seems to me that most professions could do with a solid dose of data visualization and the accompanying scrutiny. I’m not talking here about expensive tools, but about the love of data, and the joy of finding stuff out, getting stuck into the numbers.

I’ve given a couple of lectures on HR topics, and I’ve been hammering home on the analytics topic, but I think next time, I’ll bring some more data visualization to the party. I strongly believe that we need to see more focus on data visualization across all areas of business, but the HR department needs serious help.

I was pleased to read that Google came up with its 8 rules of management.  At first sight they  seem a typical list that one would find in any airport management book, but they are rooted in an empirical study.  Google has built its business on analysing data, so it is  not surprising that they decided to root around in their own HR data.   I do wish more HR departments would fall in love with data.

I think it is possible to be “people-centric” and “data driven” at the same time. Using numbers  to inform decisions and drive buy in isn’t treasonable.

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Get your HR VP an iPad.

 

I’ve just read Stephen’s note on the iPad in the enterprise. (Gartner subscription required) here is the summary.

CEO Advisory: Seize the iPad Opportunity Now

The Apple iPad and associated ecosystem are likely to disrupt existing technology usage profiles and business models. CEOs should take a moment to ensure that the potential opportunity is being seriously evaluated inside their enterprises.

It got some press coverage here.

If I was working in an HR IT department, I’d buy one myself and give it to the HR VP. I’d make sure that it had a simple dashboard (check out roambi as an example)  with half a dozen HR and business relevant measures on, some relevant alerts and their email, key presentations, some budget stuff and the Dilbert widget.

Then let him/her loose on a meeting with other executives.

I reckon you’d get a really good ROI on that iPad investment come bonus time. You might also get a whole lot more budget for a proper HR analytics project.

I’ve rambled on about the iPad and UI a couple of times.

I’m on the look out for innovative UI work in the HCM technology space. Both Kronos and Cybershift recently impressed me with their UX work for time & attendance management on the iPhone. Vendors, if you have done something innovative on the iPad, do let me know. Users, if you are actually using the IPad in an HR context I’d really like to know more.

Evil HR lady nails it. Bring on the math(s) and stats.

cross posted on my Gartner blog.

I read many HR blogs, and one of my favourites is the Evil HR lady. She blogs a much of her HR stuff on the BNET site.

I have been speaking to a lot of HR audiences lately, and sometimes they get a little uncomfortable when I bring up the analytics topic. Most HR departments don’t do a good job at analytics, and then they wonder why they don’t get the budgets to make an impact on the business.

One of my suggestions to HR is to hire a good numbers person, someone with strong undergraduate or preferably graduate statistics.

Looks like this is exactly how the Evil HR lady got her start.

I had a master’s degree in political science, with a strong emphasis in statistics.  Since you never see a “Help wanted:  Political Scientist” sign in the window, I knew I needed to look outside my field of study.  What I really wanted to be was a trainer.  I knew that trainers often work in Human Resources departments, but how in in the heck was I going to get a job in HR?

Well, first, I went to a temp agency and asked to work in an HR department.  “I’ll do anything!” I said, and I meant it.  If the temp agency had sent me to wash windows in an HR department, I would have done it.  Instead, they placed me as an admin (I can type!), and for 6 months in a couple of different assignments I worked as an HR admin.  Then, I saw a job posting.  Job title?  HR Metrics Specialist.

What on earth does an HR Metrics Specialist do?  Well, I didn’t know, but one of the qualifications was the ability to do statistics.  That, I had.  So, I applied, interviewed and was hired.  My boss told me flat out that the only reason they had hired me is that I appeared to be the only person in the universe with a modicum of HR experience and the ability to do statistics.

I’ve been ranting on about this topic for ages, here are a few.

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/09/07/scrabble-and-hr/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/06/08/via-a-comment-via-a-link-the-three-sexy-skills-of-data-geeks/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/02/23/accountings-big-problem-according-to-archibald/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2009/02/19/banging-on-about-hr-analytics/

http://blogs.gartner.com/thomas_otter/2008/12/06/measuring-twice-cutting-once/

so it is nice to see some validation…

Mathematics is a beautiful thing. Spend 20 minutes in the company of Benoit Mandelbrot. (click here if you can’t see the video)

 

If Hans Rosling can do this with demographics on a global scale, why can’t HR do it with their data? (click here if you can’t see the video)

 

By the way: Jim Holincheck and I recently published quite a bit of research on workforce analytics, and there is buckets of cool stuff on pattern based strategy on Gartner.com

The World Cup and HR analytics.

Several vendors have sent me links to World Cup related versions of their analytics tools. Some of them are really clever. I can drill down into skills, real time results and so on.  Neat stuff, mashing up data sources from all over the place, with compelling charts and stats, and good social sharing features. Easy to use, no training required.

Yet it is a sad indictment of analytics space in that vendors can quickly cook up engaging, immersing and rich dashboards for the World Cup, whereas most HR dashboards are poorly designed, unimaginative, dull and have very limited adoption. 

  • My advice to analytics vendors. Take the learning from how you have visualized football players and apply it to your workforce analytics offerings.
  • My advice to HR departments. Look at the World Cup dashboards and do it with your workforce data. You have the data, you have the tools. By the time Germany are crowned champions in a few weeks time you could have it built and deployed.

Via a comment via a link. The three sexy skills of data geeks.

Readers of this blog and my Gartner research will know that I am a big fan of analytics. Not the really the tools, but the skills to take numbers and turn them into something useful. I’m not a statistician, but I know several. I’m even friends with a couple (meaning, in this instance, more than one, rather than two statisticians in a significant relationship).

Tony Hirst, who I linked to the other day about the UK politics mashup, came back and commented on my blog, so I followed a couple of his links and I ended up at the delightful Dataspora blog.

The post the three sexy skills of data geeks is excellent. Here is the concluding paragraph, but read all of it.

Put All Three Skills Together: Sexy. Thus with the Age of Data upon us, those who can model, munge, and visually communicate data — call us statisticians or data geeks — are a hot commodity.  I grew up before the age of geek chic, when the computer wizzes were social pariahs, and feature-length movies were dedicated to nerds seeking revenge.  But in the last decade, Steve Jobs became an icon, the Internet became cool, and an entire generation of tech kids grew up well adjusted.  They even built the social web to prove it.   I believe the same could happen to statistics and data geeks too.

I spent Friday night on the phone with a large company asking about how to sort out their HR analytics issues. My advice was to hire such a person, and not worry too much about whether you need to do the charts on tool a or b. I didn’t put it quite as eloquently as model and munge though.

Banging on about HR analytics.

Regular readers will know this is one of my regular themes. HR,  analytics and a bit of cricket.

Tom Davenport, over on his Harvard blog, picks up on how HR could learn from Basketball.

How do analytics spread in sports? It usually starts with a few individuals who have seen their application in other domains (Daryl Morey of the Rockets, for example, was a fan of Bill James, the baseball stats Geek of Geeks), and figures they will work in a new context. Some like-minded rich people bankroll the experimentation (in the Rockets’ case, owner Leslie Alexander), and the team starts to perform pretty well (Houston had a 22-game winning streak last year despite injuries to key players). New metrics get developed–both by teams and amateurs outside them. Then other teams catch on. The last time I checked about a year ago, roughly half of NBA teams had statisticians on staff.

I wonder how many HR department have statisticians on their staff?

As a boy I wasn’t good enough to be in the cricket team, so I ended up being the scorer. I enjoyed it, and since then I have had an interest in how to measure performance. My German friends think it very odd that I can derive enjoyment from following a text based cricket commentary for 5 days, but anyway. There is beauty in these numbers (unless you are an Australian cricket fan).

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  I’m continuing to focus on HR analytics in my research, I recently did a note on absence management. Absence  costs UK organizations 3% of payroll, yet less than 50% of organizations measure or analyse it.  Time to train up a few scorers I think.

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photo from vapours cc flickr. thanks.