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People Analytics Strategy Brief: Building HR Business Partner Data Literacy

Are you getting started with People Analytics or looking to take your HR reporting and analytics capabilities to the next level? This is the second article in a series of People Analytics Strategy Briefs where I discuss People Analytics topics in short form.

Today, let’s talk about data literacy and the HR Business Partner (HRBP) role.

The Data

The Josh Bersin Academy recently posted survey results after asking companies how HRBPs in their organizations are perceived.


Source: Josh Bersin Academy LinkedIn

What do each of these categories mean?

Ignored: It’s rare that anyone comes to us for data.

Transactionally: We’re seen as sources of data, but nothing else.

Core team players: We’re central to linking data, people, and the business.

The experts: We’re seen as the people to turn to for data-driven problem-solving.

What should Your Goal be?

More than 50% of HRBPs are perceived transactionally, and while it’s a small win that HR is at least being asked for data, I suggest the goal for most organizations should be to advance their HRBPs to the Core Team Players category.

Suggested Steps

How do you do that? First, your HRBPs don’t need to be data wizards. You should already have strong analytics expertise or should be working on building those skills in your core People Analytics team.

With that said, what are some steps you can take to advance your organization’s HR business partner data literacy?

1.  Make data-driven decision-making an HR mandate and ensure all HR team members are aligned.

2. Assess HRBP data literacy skills and ask for leadership from your most analytical team members.

3. Use analytics in talent processes and be sure your HRBPs understand and share those analytic outputs with their clients.

4. Encourage HRBPs to influence client projects so that they include data and ensure decisions are fact-driven rather than instinctual.

5. Make your People Analytics professionals available to HRBPs. Set up periodic office hours and make sure they have allocated time for impromptu projects and HRBP mentoring.

6. Begin building some data skills with your HRBPs. Start simple with Excel, and expand from there.


Are your HRBPs perceived to be data-driven? What have you done to increase data literacy? Let’s discuss. Feel free to reach out to me directly or share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Authors

Mike Hoekstra

Mike Hoekstra is a Senior Reporting and Analytics Consultant and a Human Capital Management (HCM) thought leader at GP Strategies. Mike has over 20 years' experience in software and people technologies, including HR, vendor management, and eCommerce systems. Using strategic and technical advice, he guides global HR teams on their people analytics journey, and he leads SAP SuccessFactors Reporting, Workforce Analytics, and SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) implementations. Mike's functional HR experience includes roles as an Analytics Analyst and HR Business Partner at a global consumer goods company. Mike maintains SAP SuccessFactors certifications in SuccessFactors Reporting, Workforce Analytics/Planning—Functional, and Workforce Analytics—Technical. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, and a BSE from the University of Michigan.

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