I’m surmising this based on gut feeling rather than statistics, but I’m pretty sure that some of the stereotyping of people in certain careers is actually true a high percentage of the time. You tend to need to identify yourself as a “people person” when you’re working in HR. Perhaps even more obviously, those working in finance are “numbers people”. The traditional rivalry between the two could be likened to a personified battle of qualitative versus quantitative. No wonder they rarely get on. However, like the two data types, they’re much more powerful when they’re combined than they are in isolation.
Although I got a B in maths at school it was my weakest subject. I always told myself I wasn’t naturally gifted but secretly I think I didn’t try as hard because I thought it was pretty useless. When I started work and there were four positions in accountancy and one in community work, guess which one I opted for. I thought accountancy was boring. However, I turned out to be more of a psychologist than a people person. I found statistics (yes maths!) actually appealed to my very logical side. I married a statistician slash maths genius (I often find little bits of paper with sums written on them discarded around the house), and there I found myself as a Human Resources Manager who actually loves spreadsheets.
Rather than being “the best of both Worlds”, this has, at times, been made to feel like a disadvantage – as if numbers have no place in one of the company’s key functions. As was pointed out at the Tucana People Analytics conference, many companies promote their people as being their “number one asset”, but do little or nothing to measure that. Yes HR (or people) analytics is the new trendy thing but from my previous experience it’s mentioned in one of two contexts – both incorrect. Either people kid themselves that they’re doing analytics every time they report a few performance figures or it’s mentioned in hushed tones as something scary, complicated and out of reach.
So I’m heartened to learn that only the former of these is correct. There are other people like me. Analytics is a lot about presentation and asking the right questions. Fancy programmes are not necessarily required, just practice. Who wouldn’t want a simple but powerful tool to determine the function’s impact and solve real business problems?
But it can’t be done in isolation. So HR needs to finally swallow hard and make a truce with finance. Both sides need to make concessions and understand a little better what the other is about. We need to remember we actually have mutual goals of driving value and performance – though we may have differing viewpoints on how that is best achieved.
Now I know that I’m not alone – I’m part of a small, but growing, minority. A statistics loving HR Manager may be a rare thing, but it’s also possibly the next big thing. And that’s very exciting.