Why we need a new model for HR: part 4, people analytics and science

Evolving the HR operating model is a strong calling for the people profession and not, as some might have you believe, more HR for HR’s sake.

On the contrary, with the 'compression' of huge, complex macro issues, coupled with daily challenges and problems to solve, it’s essential for the people in our enterprises, that HR positions itself in a sustainable, impactful and considered way.

In part three, we explored a significant additional practice and approach: product management.

In this piece perhaps more recognisable sciences and approaches in two areas: analytics and psychology.

And to all the evidence-based practitioners: truth, fact, validated information into discernible actions and processes.

Other articles in this series:
Part one: An introduction to HR 3.0
Part two: Outline of the HR 3.0 model
Part three: People as product

I won’t labour the point about data and analytics as this is a drumbeat that has been evident for well over a decade.

People and performance analytics practice is still maturing but certainly in larger HR/people and culture teams it is evident, strengthening and enabling.

It would be wrong for me to skirt over this and say we’re now strong in analytics because there is still much for the HR profession to do to both collect, curate, analyse and utilise more data and evidence-based insight.

What I will advocate for is a richer balance of data and insight beyond baseline demographic and trend data (for example diversity-based characteristics, plus engagement survey responses, absence and attrition data).

We need more insight into prosperity measures.

By this I mean the following value in the following forms:

  • Human (engagement & motivation, wellness, flexibility, versatility)
  • Social (cultural elements, belonging/inclusion, togetherness, fairness and equity)
  • Natural (purpose, sustainability/environmental footprint, community strength)
  • Material (products, assets, reusable commodities)
  • Intellectual (knowledge, experience, specialisms/expertise)
  • Financial (income, spend and investment)

Both the CIPD’s 2017 Human Capital research report land the work of academics describe these six forms of value as the essential ways to truly measure 21st-century success and not simply the financial or KPI scorecards.

In the my 2021 State of HR review, performance analytics and value creation was the top repeat skill in over 40 reports reviewing the next stage of HR’s development.

Creating a distinct domain, a 'people and performance analysts' function, in the HR 3.0 model, elevates it from being part of a centre of excellence or business partner specialism.

The function links directly to roles in the HR 3.0 model connected to meaning making, relationship stewarding and systems designers, product managers, people operations and practice leads.

This strengthened aspect will become the HR 3,0 standard 'code' and platform to build on and operate through.


Data science needs to be complemented by people science 

Another more specific domain for HR 3.0 is people, social and occupational psychology.

The people profession is fortunate to have many practitioners with higher-education level qualifications in psychology.

It isn’t a mandatory requirement, though some people in the profession have shared with me that capability in psychology should be mandatory.

In the HR 3.0 model, I’ve designed it as essential that we feature a prominent people science aspect.

In larger enterprises, a people science/psychology function would be a fully resourced domain with one or more practitioners.

In smaller enterprises, it will be part of someone’s role or an acquired capability on demand through partners etc.

There’s a strong correlation between the analyst function and a combined force of powerful insight to influence decisions based on the evidence from the data trails and a psychology-based practice.

Predicting human behaviour is notoriously difficult but not impossible.

Decisions made on emotional change management are as critical as functional, legal and process.


HR’s vicarious trauma

There is another consideration for a stronger sense of a psychology-based and people science domain. Not limited to, but certainly pertinent to the concept of vicarious trauma.

Again, not just something an HR professional endures, however, we have to accept that in most cases, where people at work (or outside of work) are suffering from a critical incident (chronic illness, violence and abuse, debt, crime and so on) HR professionals are often turned to for help.

Many practitioners I know describe this aspect as some of the hardest and most challenging parts of their role, hence the vicarious trauma definition.

So, our psychologists can become our practice supervisors for HR - offering support for vicarious trauma but also giving us a chance to hone our practice, explore emerging capabilities and develop ourselves to add more value to the profession at large and the organisation we are a part of.

In a summary of the HR 3.0 model so far, we’ve looked at:

  • Strategic connectivity and relationship building
  • The concept of more product management approaches to the things we create
  • Enhanced practices in evidence, data, science, supervision and psychological strength

But the impact we have, and the most impactful course of action to take towards that impact, needs analysis and science. People and performance data, psychology and wisdom.

We need science, evidence, fact, and insight in order to design and deliver the impact our people deserve.

In the next instalment, we will look at systems designers and people operations: design, process, delivery.

Perry Timms is founder of PTHR and in 2023 was inducted in the HR Most Influential Hall of Fame