People analytics — the use of data to attract, develop, and retain talent — began percolating in the business world a decade ago and has evolved in the past few years as a critical part of the human resources field.
“People analytics helps organizations to make data-informed decisions and move out of the rote role that human resources sometimes previously had,” said Dr. Stephen Hill, associate professor and graduate program director of the People Analytics and Leadership program at Nazareth University.
The program began in 2021 and its first master’s degree cohort graduated last week. Nazareth also offers a shorter graduate certificate program in people analytics. Students graduate with key skills and experience in the discipline, such as using people analytics to attract and retain talent more objectively and equitably than in the past.
Senior vice presidents in human resources from across the region are part of the program’s human resources advisory group that ensures the program is in sync with what professionals are seeing and doing in the people analytics space in the field.
“We have a lot of organizations in Rochester that are doing great things in human resources, including people analytics,” Hill said.
The Rochester Business Journal reached out to three local human resources professionals to learn more about people analytics and why it is now an integral part of the human resources landscape.
Steven M. DePerrior – Burke Group
Steven M. DePerrior is the managing principal of the Burke Group, a Rochester-based firm that specializes in retirement plan consulting and administration, actuarial consulting, and compensation consulting. It has a diverse client base with companies that average about two hundred employees.
“To me, people analytics is gathering a great deal of information so we can maximize the investment we make in human resources,” said DePerrior, who believes people analytics has taken off over the last few years in part because of labor supply issues brought about from the pandemic. “It’s harder to find really good people at all levels and companies are looking for ways to hire good people and keep them.”
He explains that companies have traditionally made considerable time and monetary investments in using data to understand their customers but have now realized they need to use data to understand their current and prospective employees too.
“Employees are the people who know the most about your customers, so you should know more about them,” said DePerrior, who notes people analytics is a powerful tool for talent management, leadership development, performance management, learning and development, employee engagement, and gaining a better understanding of the culture of one’s organization.
Keith Williams – Consiliarium Group, LLC.
Keith Williams is managing partner, strategic consultation, and relationship management at the Consiliarium Group, LLC, a Pittsford-based employee benefits consulting firm launched in 2016.
He says the top reasons businesses should use people analytics are to:
“From an employee engagement standpoint, we can use data to make sure people working remotely feel like they’re still connected and part of something,” said Williams, as an example of the many ways people analytics can be used. “Are they participating in online team-building events? Are they participating in wellness programs?”
Williams cautions that data is just data until it becomes actionable, though, and converting that data into something useful takes skills and resources that smaller companies often lack.
Larger companies typically have data scientists in human resources on staff, Williams said, but smaller companies will need to lean on consultants or vendors to not only source the data but turn it into something helpful. Companies of all sizes will also need the support of their C-suite because using people analytics takes a commitment.
“If you commit to using data it can make your business more profitable, engaging and fun for employees,” Williams said. “We’re all fighting for good people. Data, if used properly, can make your business a better employer of choice.”
Marc Simmons – SimcoHR
One of the biggest challenges for mid to small size businesses looking to use people analytics is technology, according to Marc Simmons CEO of SimcoHR, a Rochester firm that streamlines human HR, payroll, employee benefits and risk management. Their clients are companies that typically have between 5 to 300 employees and are located in the greater Finger Lakes region.
“To me, people analytics means the ability of a business to use data to either reinforce decisions or help make decisions,” said Simmons. “In our market, the biggest hurdle is that a lot of businesses have technologies that don’t speak to each other. There is no way to use data because nothing is set up.”
Simmons says that SimcoHR’s mission is to bring data analytics to small businesses. One of the ways the firm does this is by helping businesses set up functional systems that work together and are simple and easy to use.
“Less than 1% of small businesses use data analytics through a single platform,” said Simmons, who strives to bring all of a company’s systems under a single, easy-to-use sign-on. “We meet with businesses all the time that have different vendors. Our mission is to get all these systems functioning together so that you can use data analytics and become competitive with larger companies.”
Simmons notes some of the commonalities that small businesses with a properly functioning people analytics program have are systems that work together, data sets that are extremely simple, action plans, awareness and adherence to legal aspects of data collection, and systems in place to measure the data collected.
Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.-