Data in the HR department

Google's Kathryn Dekas on how a data-driven mindset applies to human resources.

Human resources departments are already familiar with data and analytics. These departments track who’s hired, who’s promoted, who departs and so on. But as organizations become more data driven, new opportunities emerge for HR to put data to use.

In a recent interview, Kathryn Dekas, people analytics manager at Google, discussed the relationship between data and HR. Highlights from the interview (below) included:

  • HR data clearly benefits a company, but Dekas said it can also help employees. “If you know the company [you work for] is using data to make important decisions, it provides an additional layer of trust,” she said. “Things are being done based on objective measures over someone’s intuition.” Moreover, if employees have access to their own HR data, they can then use this information to take ownership of their positions. [Discussed at the 00:42 mark.]
  • Dashboards are often a useful tool, but Dekas said a form of data blindness can creep in after repeated exposure to the same metrics. “What you really need is to disrupt the more typical feedback mechanisms with insights based on questions that are relevant at that moment,” Dekas said. “It’s easy to become comfortable in sending out metrics regularly, but what you want to do is think about what’s timely and relevant.” [Discussed at 2:02.]
  • Is there a connection between HR data and the sensor-driven Quantified Self movement? While Dekas said that placing sensors on employees has a “creepiness factor” and isn’t likely to happen anytime soon, she did say there are broader ways to view and define workplace sensors, including employee surveys and other feedback mechanisms. She also drew an important distinction between the default state of personal tracking — where you share only if you want to — and the HR environment, where some amount of employee data is shared within an organization. [Discussed at 3:25.]

The full interview is available in the following video:


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