One of the biggest challenges is gaining access to the necessary data required to perform meaningful analyses and derive useful insights. HR data is often scattered across various systems like payroll, performance management, learning management, recruiting, etc. Integrating data from these disparate sources and making it available in a centralized location for analysis takes significant effort. Important data elements may be missing, stored in inconsistent formats, or contain errors. This requires extensive data cleaning and standardization work.
Once the data is accessible, the next major hurdle is understanding the business context and objectives. HR processes and KPIs can vary considerably between organizations based on their culture, structure, strategy and industry. Without properly defining the scope, goals and Key Performance Indicators of the analytics project in alignment with business priorities, there is a risk of analyzing the wrong metrics, developing solutions that do not address real needs, or failing to communicate insights effectively. Extensive stakeholder interviews need to be conducted to gain intimate knowledge of the HR landscape and what business value the analytics initiative aims to deliver.
Selecting the appropriate analytical techniques and models also presents a challenge given the complex nature of HR metrics which are influenced by several interrelated factors. For example, factors like compensation, training exposure, leadership ability, job satisfaction etc. all impact employee retention but their relationships are not always linear. Establishing which combinations of variables highly correlate with or help predict critical outcomes requires exploratory analysis and iterative model building. Choosing the right techniques like regression, decision trees or neural networks further depends on the characteristics of the dataset like its volume, variability, missing values etc.
Model evaluation and validation further tests the skills of the analyst. Performance metrics suitable for HR predictions may not always be straightforward like classification accuracy. Techniques to assess models on calibration, business lift and true vs. false positives/negatives need expertise. Ensuring models generalize well to future scenarios requires division of datasets into training, validation and test samples as well as parameter tuning which increase project complexity.
Presentation of results is another major challenge area. Raw numbers and statistical outputs may have little contextual meaning or influence decision making for non-technical stakeholders. Visualization, explanatory analysis and narrative storytelling skills are required to effectively communicate multi-dimensional insights, causal relationships and recommendations. Sensitivity to the business priorities, cultural dynamics and political landscape also needs consideration to ensure recommendations are received and implemented positively.
Change management for implementing approved interventions or systems poses its own unique difficulties. Resistance to proposed changes could emerge from certain employee groups if not managed carefully through effective communication and training programs. Ensuring new processes and policies do not introduce unanticipated issues or negatively impact productivity also requires testing, piloting and continuous monitoring over a suitable period. Budgeting and obtaining investment approval for technology or other solutions further tests analytical and business case development abilities.
Sustaining the analytics initiative through ongoing support also necessitates dedicated resources which few organizations are initially equipped to provide. Maintaining model performance over time as the business environment evolves requires constant re-training on fresh data. Expanding the scope and re-aligning objectives to continue delivering value necessitates an embedded analytics function or center of excellence. This challenges long term planning and integration of the capability within core HR processes.
While data access, understanding business needs, selecting appropriate techniques, evaluating models, communicating findings, implementing changes and sustaining value delivery – all test the comprehensive skillset of HR analytics professionals. Success depends on meticulous project management coupled with strong collaborative, storytelling and business skills to address these challenges and realize the targeted benefits from such strategic initiatives. A holistic capability building approach is required to fully operationalize people analytics within complex organizational settings.