People Analytics vs. HR Analytics Google trends

People Analytics vs. HR Analytics Google trends

A few years back I completed my dissertation on data-driven Human Resource Management.

This specialized field is often dubbed HR analytics, for basically it’s the application of analytics to the topic of human resources.

Yet, as always in a specialized and hyped field, diifferent names started to emerge. The term People analytics arose, as did Workforce analytics, Talent analytics, and many others.

I addressed this topic in the introduction to my Ph.D. thesis and because I love data visualization, I decided to make a visual to go along with it.

So I gathered some Google Trends data, added a nice locally smoothed curve through it, and there you have it. As the original visual was so well received that it was even cited in this great handbook on HR analytics. With almost three years passed now, I decided it was time for an update. So here’s the 2021 version.

If you would compare this to the previous version, the trends look quite different. In the previous version, People Analytics had the dominant term since 2011 already.

Unfortunately, that’s not something I can help. Google indexes these search interest ratings behind the scenes, and every year or so, they change how they are calculated.

If you want to get such data yourself, have a look at the Google Trends project.

In my dissertation, I wrote the following on the topic:

This process of internally examining the impact of HRM activities goes by many different labels. Contemporary popular labels include people analytics (e.g., Green, 2017; Kane, 2015), HR analytics (e.g., Lawler, Levenson, & Boudreau, 2004; Levenson, 2005; Rasmussen & Ulrich, 2015; Paauwe & Farndale, 2017), workforce analytics (e.g., Carlson & Kavanagh, 2018; Hota & Ghosh, 2013; Simón & Ferreiro, 2017), talent analytics (e.g., Bersin, 2012; Davenport, Harris, & Shapiro, 2010), and human capital analytics (e.g.,
Andersen, 2017; Minbaeva, 2017a, 2017b; Levenson & Fink, 2017; Schiemann, Seibert, & Blankenship, 2017). Other variations including metrics or reporting are also common (Falletta, 2014) but there is consensus that these differ from the analytics-labels (Cascio & Boudreau, 2010; Lawler, Levenson, & Boudreau, 2004). While HR metrics would refer to descriptive statistics on a single construct, analytics involves exploring and quantifying relationships between multiple constructs.

Yet, even within analytics, a large variety of labels is used interchangeably. For instance, the label people analytics is favored in most countries globally, except for mainland Europe and India where HR analytics is used most (Google Trends, 2018). While human capital analytics seems to refer to the exact same concept, it is used almost exclusively in scientific discourse. Some argue that the lack of clear terminology is because
of the emerging nature of the field (Marler & Boudreau, 2017). Others argue that differences beyond semantics exist, for instance, in terms of the accountabilities the labels suggest, and the connotations they invoke (Van den Heuvel & Bondarouk, 2017). In practice, HR, human capital, and people analytics are frequently used to refer to analytical projects covering the entire range of HRM themes whereas workforce and talent analytics are commonly used with more narrow scopes in mind: respectively (strategic) workforce planning initiatives and analytical projects in recruitment, selection, and development. Throughout this dissertation, I will stick to the label people analytics, as this is leading label globally, and in the US tech companies, and thus the most likely label to which I
expect the general field to converge.

Want to learn more about people analytics? Have a look at this reading list I compiled.

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