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People Analytics Software: Best Practices From The Experts

Adrian Dixon

September 23, 2016

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One of the fastest growing areas of HR is people analytics. But understanding how to best leverage people analytics software can be challenging.

To help you learn more, I’ve asked industry experts for their advice on best practices for using people analytics software.Benoit IBM Kenexa people analytics

Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée, IBM Kenexa Leader:

The best people analytics software is human judgement.

The key to getting insights first starts with a true desire to answer important questions using data and evidence.

No software will provide that desire for evidence-based learning. People analytics software first and foremost needs to be able to function as a tool to empower human decision making.

And to make it a useful tool, the software has to be easy to use. This means it should be an intuitive, “stream of consciousness” experience for HR when they use it to analyze their data and gain insights.

In terms of people analytics software, Cognos is extremely rich and powerful, although it is an analytics software that can be used for HR rather than a people analytics software per se. It requires a little learning before you become proficient.

IBM Kenexa Talent Insights, on the other hand, is not only a people analytics cloud software, but a cognitive one. It leverages Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing and its artificial intelligence, to guide HR in exploring data and answering questions using natural language. It makes predictive people analytics really easy.

Leela Srinivasan, CMO at LeverLeela Lever people analytics software

For companies at every stage of growth, Lever’s collaborative recruiting platform removes friction from the hiring process, so you can focus on the right candidates.

While there’s tremendous excitement about the potential of people analytics software, it’s easy to feel like you’re in over your head. My advice would be to start simple and to think about how people analytics can improve your understanding and handling of specific business and recruiting priorities.

The starting point should be: what are your overarching objectives?

What business outcome are you trying to drive? From there, focus on understanding the ‘why’ behind your results, drilling into root causes so you can improve over time.

The best people analytics software provides actionable intelligence, rather than just spitting out data. Lever has had comprehensive built-in analytics for a long time now and we recently launched Job Posting Dashboards to ease collaboration and increase dialogue between recruiters and hiring managers.

Teams are now using these dashboards to understand their progress at a glance. By using data and analytics to support their dialogue with hiring managers, recruiters can look forward to building stronger relationships with the business.

In turn, this will drive increased accountability in their process, accelerating the pace and quality of hiring over time.

Erik van Vulpen people analytics software expert

Erik van Vulpen, founder of is the leading blog about people analytics. Erik is an expert in connecting HR processes to business results through quantitative and qualitative methods.

At Analytics in HR, we work a lot with R, SPSS and Weka. The people analytics community often focuses on these more advanced people analytic software tools. However, the most underestimated people analytics software out there is Excel.

First, contrary to people analytics software tools like R, most HR professionals have experience working with Excel. Almost all HR systems offer the option to extract data to Excel. Excel thus offers HR departments quick and easy access to people analytics.

Second, Excel provides HR professionals access to low hanging fruit. It enables HR to quickly merge data sets from different systems, it offers the possibility to reduce large and complex quantities of data into a single pivot table, and it enables you to quickly gain insight into the data by using simple statistics.

The combination of accessibility and ease of use makes Excel a great people analytics software tool.

Excel does have some cons, however. It struggles with very large data sets and only offers limited statistical techniques. A more complex regression analysis that involves multiple variables is something Excel can’t handle.

However, the Excel file format can be easily imported to more advanced people analytics software like SPSS and R that can handle more complex analyses.

Somen Mondal CEO people analytics software

Somen Mondal, CEO of Ideal:

Ideal’s people analytics software technology instantly shortlists the best candidates for your company and increases workplace diversity.

People analytics software is gaining popularity for a simple reason: it’s improving the HR function.

When it comes to recruitment, talent acquisition professionals understand the value of automating low-value administrative work such as screening and shortlisting resumes.

But what they’ve been skeptical about is whether the people analytics software that exists for automating their workload is able to do just as good of a job as they can.

My advice for recruiters and talent acquisition leaders for dipping their toes into more advanced people analytics software is:

Start with a low risk, fast win pilot project.

Pick one role that you want to improve the recruitment function for by using people analytics software and pick a measurable outcome you want to improve.

Resume screening and shortlisting software that lives inside your existing ATS and act invisibly in the background are coming onto the market. This type of people analytics software is low risk for three reasons:

  1. It doesn’t disrupt your current workflow.
  2. It doesn’t disrupt the current candidate flow.
  3. It doesn’t require any IT assistance.

Picking one measurable outcome you want to improve represents a fast win for two reasons:

  1. You are solving a known problem in your company.
  2. You can easily show the ROI of the people analytics software you’re testing out.

The takeaways for using people analytics software

People analytics is an exploding HR area that can no longer be ignored. Industry experts share their advice on leveraging people analytics software:

  • Dr. Benoit Hardy-Vallée, IBM Kenexa Leader, emphasizes that the key to getting insights first starts with a true desire to answer important questions using data and evidence.
  • Leela Srinivasan, CMO at Lever, suggests you start off by identifying the overarching objective and business outcome you’re trying to achieve.
  • Erik van Vulpen, founder of, points out that Excel represents low hanging fruit for HR through its combination of accessibility and ease of use.
  • Somen Mondal, CEO Ideal, recommends testing people analytics software with a low risk, fast win pilot project with one measurable outcome you want to improve.