Data & People Analytics: A WorkHuman 2018 Recap

By Cathy Tran

Big data. People analytics. These phrases are tossed around at industry events and conferences, but how do they apply in the day-to-day work of an HR professional?

Many other fields are leveraging the power of data. Marketers, for instance, employ eye-tracking and heat maps to study shoppers’ behavior and improve shoppers’ experience and satisfaction. The financial services industry adopts artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize different business lines. And now, HR leaders are investing heavily in programs to utilize data for all aspects of workforce planning, talent management, and operational improvement.

Within your HR department, what are your pain points? Is it sourcing, recruiting, retaining your best people? Is it diversity and inclusion? Or is it compensation and benefits? All of these areas can be improved by applying a more analytical approach.

I had the privilege of attending the fourth annual WorkHuman, conference pioneered by Globoforce, from April 2-5 in Austin, TX. As someone who is interested in data and analytics, I was eager to learn how HR is collecting information, examining data, and making sense of the numbers. I wanted to know more about what solutions are being offered and how they are benefiting different organizations.

After hearing from keynote speakers, drive-in guests, and breakout sessions, I am optimistic about the ways HR leaders can leverage the power of data to enhance their organization’s brand, culture, and work space. One way is through social recognition.

I personally believe in the power of thanks and recognition. I recently received the Campus Life Award, which is given to a group of graduating seniors who have made outstanding contributions to the Ithaca College community through participation and involvement in campus life. My crowning achievement is collaborating with a career coach to establish the first international students’ professional development series. Being recognized makes me feel appreciated, happy, and eager to contribute more to the Ithaca College campus.

Recognition matters because it makes people feel valued. This in turn energizes a culture of celebrating others’ achievements. It also promotes your company as a great place to work by turning employees into strong brand ambassadors. As a result, turnover decreases, leading to a higher return on investment from your talent.

Studying the importance of recognition and social connection at work is an example of people analytics. People analytics applies statistics, technology, and expertise to large sets of talent data, which results in better management and business decisions. Analytics are being used to solve a wide range of business challenges like recruiting, performance measurement, and retention.

For example, the “Amplify Your Talent Brand with Data and Insights” workshop, led by Kate Hastings and Holly Lignelli from LinkedIn, illustrated the essential value of data in helping a company hire top personnel. Did you know that a person needs between five and seven interactions with a brand before they remember it? This means consistency in employer, talent, and consumer branding is crucial.

Are you currently measuring your talent brand? Some easy ways to track your talent brand are by examining your company’s social media audience, researching employee reviews, and tracking consumers’ discussion about your products and services. Hastings and Lignelli said when employees share brand messages on social media, those messages get 561% more reach compared to a company. Moreover, the engagement on those messages is 8 times greater relative to a brand. Let your talent brand do the heavy lifting for recruiting.

In addition to using data to assist with recruiting, Jesse Harriott, executive director at WorkHuman Analytics & Research Institute, suggests the framework of a successful people analytics team includes these seven pillars:

  1. Workforce planning
  2. Talent sourcing
  3. Talent acquisition/ Hiring
  4. Onboarding & engagement
  5. Employee lifetime value & performance management
  6. Talent attrition/ retention
  7. Employee wellness, health & safety


Jesse also shared a very simple yet effective method to analyzing talent data. Data analytics is about providing an actionable solution to a problem based on the meaning derived from the facts (Fact + Meaning à Action). He suggests using the IMPACT cycle of effective people analytics.

  1. Identify the question
  2. Mater the data
  3. Provide the meaning
  4. Actionable recommendation
  5. Communicate insights
  6. Track outcomes


Analyses are only as good as the effectiveness of the actionable recommendations. When we make better use of the data available to us, we can build a more inclusive and thriving organization that focuses on human connection.

Cathy Tran studies economics and politics at Ithaca College. She graduates in May 2018 and is curious about all things data.
When not studying, she enjoys reading, exploring Ithaca, and having cookouts with friends and family.