Of all of the roles in the HR world, HR analysts have one of the least defined job descriptions. But that doesn't mean that they aren't important! On the contrary, HR analysts are crucial in the business world and are more critical now than ever. Not only that, but it looks like that importance will only go up from here.
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Before we can understand why they're so important, we need to understand a simple question: what is an HR analyst and what did they do? And maybe even more importantly — could you see yourself taking on this position in the future?
First, what exactly is people analytics?
The definition of people analytics, also known as HR analytics or workforce analytics, is that it is "used to create and assess insights into an organization’s workforce to determine – and even discover – the contribution of every employee towards meeting strategic objectives, generating revenue, reducing costs, and mitigating risks, to name a few. HR collects employee data [metrics] and through analytics, that data is reviewed to understand what needs to be done to ensure organizational success."
What is an HR Analyst?
Let's take a minute to talk about the HR analyst role and that of a very similar position of HR data analyst or Business Analyst. An HR data analyst rarely has any contact with the people within the company they work for. Instead, they pore over data, both from within their own company and national and international trends in the HR world.
An HR analyst (without the data), does a lot of that but also is focused on the company itself, perhaps still having contact with the actual employees within the company where they work. In many ways, this makes the job of the HR analyst similar to that of the HR business partner, as some companies have for people who act as a liaison between the HR department and the business itself. However, you should remember that an HR business partner is more focused on the communications part of the job versus the data analysis.
The duties of the HR analyst role depend largely on the company they work for, which is why it needs to be clearly defined from the beginning. For example, some companies are looking for a person with predominantly soft skills while others are looking for someone to crunch numbers and do research all day long. Regardless, an HR analyst will help the HR department overall in understanding trends, patterns, and possible strategies moving forward.
In the real world, we can look at actual postings for this position. What do employers actually want for this role? The two primary traits these listings mention are system improvement and being a liaison between departments. That should give you the idea in a nutshell!
Why is this role so important?
HR handles many essential aspects of day-to-day business. Whether or not it's fair to say this, many people look at HR as the department that puts out fires whenever they come up. But the fact is that HR needs to be involved with long term decisions of the company as a whole. For example, what type of people should be working at the company, how much they can earn, what kind of benefits they can expect, and such issues. Just because we don't see human resources as often as we might see our direct management or team members doesn't mean that they aren't working hard to keep things going behind the scenes.
An HR analyst not only takes a look at what's happening within the company, but what the general trends are overall so that the company can plan for the future and understand what's happening in the present. Often, people who make the big decisions are more concerned about the business itself and may not be aware of where things stand in the HR side. The HR analyst role plays a crucial part in ensuring that the people who make those decisions have the information they need to help the company now and in the future.
Want to become an HR analyst?
If you want to become an HR analyst, there are several skills that you need to have in your back pocket. Let's take a look at them one by one and see if you have what it takes!
Human resource expertise
This really shouldn't come as any surprise. For you to really become a good analyst, you need to understand what it is exactly you're doing. This is why it generally takes a few years of experience in the human resources space world to qualify someone to have this position.
What exactly is the point of human resources? What is expected by both employees and management? What role do you play in the overall success of the company? These are the sorts of things you really need to understand in-depth to qualify to be an HR analyst.
Comfort with data
Being comfortable around data is crucial whether we're talking about an HR data analyst or a general HR analyst. A lot of people get into human resources because they like to deal with people, but this role requires you to become a lot more familiar with graphs and spreadsheets.
There's going to be a lot of number crunching to really understand the data in front of you and the need to understand what all these numbers mean. Besides just the research itself, you'll also need to know how to explain that data and have deep knowledge of the three types of HR analytics (descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive), which brings us to the next point.
Something else to consider is the career path that this position can take you on. If you find yourself as an HR analyst, it makes sense that not only would you have to be on top of your game to get the job in the first place, but that you would also become more qualified for a higher position in HR management.
A lot of the information out there will not necessarily reflect your local market. There's a good chance that some of the information you're reviewing will have references to other parts of the country and maybe even other parts of the world. But what may work in Barcelona may not reflect the reality of Tacoma, Washington.
Understanding the differences between various business structures across the globe will help to put the information you're analyzing into perspective. Sometimes, you may need to disregard certain data while others may inspire new and exciting ideas for your company. Your job as an HR analyst is to understand the context of the information you're looking through and how it can apply to your company.
Strong communication skills
All that data isn't going to make a lick of difference unless you understand how to communicate that in a way that other people will understand. Keep in mind that if you have this role, it probably means that you are above average when it comes to understanding and analyzing data. The people who ultimately will receive this information will obviously be very talented in their own right, but they may not have the same understanding of this data that you do.
How do we fix this? After analyzing the data, you're going to have to present this information to somebody who will do something about it. This most likely means that you're going to be writing out reports, so be sure that your writing skills are where they should be and that you are clearly explaining all of these concepts so that your general audience can understand them. Also, be prepared to talk about this information as some of it may need to be clarified.
How much do HR analysts earn?
If you want to get into this line of work, it makes sense that you would like to know the type of compensation you could expect. Since we mentioned previously that this is a position that requires some years of experience under your belt, it would make sense that you wouldn't be gaining entry-level pay. Of course, the exact amount of experience you have and where you live will play a significant role in what sort of salary you can command.
According to Salary.com, the average salary can range from about $50,000 to as high as $90,000 depending on where you work. If you're in small or midsize cities, you can expect to be on a lower scale than people in larger cities like New York or Chicago.
Something else to consider is how these are starting salaries for the position. If the job is done correctly, you may find yourself in a position to be invaluable to your employer so that you can expect major consideration for better wages in the future.
Make the most of the HR Analyst position
If you're reading this, there’s a good chance that you want to be an HR analyst, may currently be one, or want to hire one for your HR department. Regardless of where you currently stand, we are sure that you want to be the absolute best at your job as possible or want to fill the HR analyst role you have with a competent, data-literate HR analyst. So how can you do that and what if you don't have an HR analyst on your team yet?
Since you're going to be dealing with so much data in the HR department, often a dedicated analyst role is required. It would stand to reason that you would want to make sure that you have the best information at your fingertips. Unfortunately, that usually means having to navigate a vast sea of data sources and disparate HRIS and HR management systems (HRMS), not to mention employee engagement and other HR systems, often with each boasting a hefty price tag, and even more costs in having to wrangle the data in spreadsheets in order to then visualize it, regularly for your HR reports.
Automate your HR analytics and reporting process
What if there was a cost-effective way to not only have your workforce information in one platform but also make it easy to find those pearls of insights you’re looking for about your workforce? That’s where a data warehouse and HR data visualization software comes into play, along with the alternative of a business intellegence (BI) tool like Tableau, PowerBI, or Google Data Studio.
Check out a comparison of available options to automate the HR reporting process with a dashboard.
If you don't have a dedicated analyst and data scientist on staff, don't fret. Most small and even medium-sized organizations are on the same boat. Lucky for you, there is a very specific solution to help you put the "human" back in "human resources" by reclaiming time you would have otherwise spent wrangling data and creating spreadsheets manually.
Discover HR analytics dashboard solutions here. We at Human Resource Webinars have personally vetted for automating HR analytics, reporting, and HR data visualization.