HR Reporting vs. People Analytics

HR Reporting vs. People Analytics

The Great Debate

When I first began writing this site, this post looked quite different. After sharing my first few posts with my wife, she hesitated to provide real feedback. I pulled out of her that my writing was dry.

I approached topics like reporting vs. analytics how I thought I should. Neutrally. Without emotion. Lacking genuineness.

I didn’t want to offend. Potential readers and feel practitioners. But mostly, I didn’t want to go against the experts that I’ve admired greatly, read feverishly, listened eagerly, watched endlessly. They’ve risen to the top of this now-lauded profession.

Yes, There Is a Difference


From my experience, the distinction matters little. If you can provide value to your organization and your people, will your CHRO care that you wrote 495 lines of R code or used a pivot table in Excel?

As the discipline of People Analytics grows, we all must resist the temptation to overdo it just because we can. I love a good script, and I’ve been guilty of going too far because I can. And I’ve been met with confused faces.

I do better when my team comes to me with their work. They’ll share the complex details behind their analysis, and for a fleeting moment, I’m drawn in and geeking-out right alongside them. But, my business leader hat goes back on the moment I realize they’ve focused on their process and not the result. Then the questions begin to find out about the insight.

Inevitably, there’s some disappointment. They wanted to show how hard they’d worked and how advanced their technique. Sometimes, they’re right on point and well-ahead of what I thought they’d deliver. Other times they are more enamored with means, not the end. They’re human, and just like me, they’re explorers. Deep-down, I love that (don’t tell them that – but I already have).

The means, not the end, to me right now seems to be the distinction some want to make between Reporting and Analytics. One is “harder” than the other. Insight is insight – wherever it comes from.

How to Set Up Your Team

It depends.

Some organizations will go so far as to maintain a great divide between the reporting team and the analytics team. Some analytics leaders swear they’ll never produce a single report. For others, likely smaller organizations, you may have the same team producing reports and insights, it may even be the same individual.

Separate the Reporting and Analytics Teams

Sure, if your organization is large enough, or you can get the headcount approved you’ll almost definitely want to go this route.

  • It also allows the team members to develop their skills uniquely suited to their role
  • The business continues to receive all of their regular reports and any new requests from the Reporting team
  • The Analytics team is freed to dive deep into their advanced analytics projects
  • Requires Headcount. And Leadership
  • Does require coordination for access to data
  • If you can do this approach, do it (generally) – who can’t use more heads (wait, this is probably against some insight of People Analytics…)

A Combined Reporting and Analytics Team

  • Doesn’t require the headcount of separate teams. Small organization’s can start to develop analytics and insights
  • The same team is putting together data sets and the analysis
  • Can be difficult to move to more advanced analytics – bandwidth may be limited
  • Requires tremendous discipline to develop skills
  • Difficult (possibly impossible) to spend time exploring items that may not lead to actionable insights



If I still haven’t convinced you, that’s OK. I’ve still looked up the definitions of each for myself.

Reporting to relate, as what has been learned by observation or investigation.

Analytics the patterns and other meaningful information gathered from the analysis of data.


A Journey of a Thousand Miles

Eventually you’ll get to a place where the difference between Reporting and Analytics is perfectly clear. Eventually maybe. I’ve evolved my practice with analytics for the previous few years, and I’m not ready to end one for the other. I continue to find value in both. Because my partners find value in both.

Analysis. Investigation. Call it what you want, then go find something valuable.



For a different take read this.

For the record, I prefer Linux.


Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash