In recent weeks, Spring had the opportunity to speak at multiple HR events focusing on how an organization can build their people analytics capabilities. For some, this was their first introduction to people analytics, for others, it was an opportunity to see what business decisions can be informed by more advanced analytics.

Two of the most common questions we heard were ‘what if we do not have big data and still want to do analytics?’ and ‘we are a small company with either no or limited resources, where do we start?’. So here are some basic recommendations for those of us that are not working in the Google’s, Amazon’s and Facebook’s of the world.

  1. Identify key business stakeholders to align your initial efforts with business need – take the time to speak with your CEO and senior leaders to see what business issues they are challenged with. Ensure your initial analysis project is closely aligned to business priorities.
  2. Map out the data you have today and evaluate its quality – create a data blueprint that documents the data sources that you have, who owns them, their cadence and quality. This exercise will also allow you to identify gaps in your existing data.
  3. Start with what you have easy access to – most companies have some form of HR data, employee engagement data and financial data. Utilize existing tools like Excel to compile and connect data together.
  4. Create a community of interest – reach out within your own organization and identify those people who are passionate about analytics or interested in learning more. You will be surprised at the level of interest and willingness to volunteer for a special project or stretch assignment.
  5. Prioritize a small project with a quick and meaningful win – leverage your community of interest to brainstorm priority business questions and then map out your first analytical project. Start small and focus where the data is easily accessible.
  6. Keep it simple and share your results using story telling – translate your results into easy to understand findings that are actionable. Use story telling where possible and follow up with action and accountability by measuring outcomes.

For most companies, the business questions to start with are those where you have consistent and easily accessible data – such as ‘what are the predictors of turnover?’, ‘what is turnover costing us as a business?’, ‘what recruiting sources provide us with the most successful employees?’. If you have solid HRIS data, recruitment, turnover and exit data – this can be accomplished relatively easily.

For those companies, who are conducting an employee engagement survey on a regular basis, this is a great data source that can be leveraged in many people analytics projects. The critical element of success here, is that your surveys should be attributable to allow for connection points to other data.

In essence, do not be intimidated by large scale data, new tools, algorithms, and machine learning – not everyone is ready for that kind of investment. Think big but start small and work from there.