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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Editor’s note: we want scientists in HR and we want them now


Welcome, everyone, to HRZone’s June 2013 Technology Supplement.

No-one is surprised at the speed of change in technology spheres. It’s expected to move fast and hard.

What’s really interesting is whether related spheres can keep up with the pace of change.

I recently asked a software company CEO (you can read the interview in this supplement) whether HR software would ever replace the need for qualified HR personnel. He said we’d always need HR personnel; HR software would be utilised to make their jobs, and the HR function, more efficient.

I agree wholeheartedly.

But there’s another side. The need for data-driven decisions in HR, and the degree to which HR software can deliver this, will change the skills that HR practitioners require.

Employers will need practitioners that double as analysts, able to draw conclusions from amassed data and feed this information back to the board to inform strategy. They’ll need to make evidence-based decisions in all areas, including talent management, succession planning and remuneration.

HR personnel have long been praised for their ‘people skills’ and ability to make decisions based on intuition and experience. Now they’ll need to add data interrogation skills to the mix.

There are some commentators who have pointed to the need for science in the HR department for many years. Now they can sit back and enjoy their moment of glory.

How will this need change the ways our HR staff are trained? Will data skills form part of a standard CIPD qualification? Will our HR departments be increasingly looking to build talent pipelines direct to the mathematics department at MIT?

Big questions. And we’ll need to answer them, because HR software will continue to drive the need for daily data analysis.

Enjoy the supplement!

Best wishes


3 Responses

  1. Economic and Computing MsC’s
    We large 51000 workforce across 23 countries in Africa, Middle East and Asia and have found employing fresh Masters graduates in harder economic and computing sciences in HR has assisted greatly in us generating different types of insights which although early days have impressed CEO and CFO.

  2. Data in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing…

    Thanks Jamie, I enjoyed the article, and the underlying point that HR is becoming data-driven to an ever greater extent is an important one.

    However, I want to sound a note of caution over the idea that existing HR practioners should be pressed into service for the task of data analysis. The interpretation of data and the subsequent translation of that data into meaningful information is a skill that needs to be honed as part of a data specialist’s toolset, which takes a certain amount of time and professional focus.

    As an IT professional specialising in data management and business intelligence, I’ve seen a worrying number of costly mistakes made by procurement, engineering and commercial professionals, who were nevertheless extremely capable within their own area of expertise, but unfamiliar with the translation of data into information.

    I agree that the data generated by HR software, in addition to that gained from other sources, has the potential to be extremely valuable to the organisation. However, I would urge that the services of a skilled data team or consultancy be engaged to ensure that you are extracting the maximum value possible from that data.

    There’s no point having all that data at your fingertips if the picture drawn with it is inaccurate or misleading.

  3. Who is driving the data car?

    Yet again HR is following the latest fad (big data) instead of driving how it is utilised within HR. I also suspect if it takes off (I am still to be convinced) the finance function will take it off HR. I agree HR needs scientists in their midst, social scientists testing hypotheses and undertaking research to determine where and how big data can improve the running of a business, as understanding the ratio of hours worked to profit earned or other new fangled ratios will not help HR understand why?

    HR needs to ask why and so what not yes please

    — Senior Employee Benefit and Reward Consultant

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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