Guide: Adopt an analytics mindset

Choose your data and metrics

It's tempting to start with the data you have rather than the data you need. At Google, the People Analytics team tries to understand the challenge before choosing what to measure to try and solve it. Asking the right questions and developing clear hypotheses are critical before starting to think about the right data and metrics.

What’s the distinction between data and metrics? The number of hires made in a quarter is a piece of data. The costs to make all the new hires in a quarter is another piece of data. You can combine the two (dividing the latter by the former) to create a “metric” called cost per hire. The metric is more valuable information than the individual pieces of data because it can be tracked over time and compared across groups to study trends and patterns. For example, you can see some of the data and metrics the Workforce Analytics team at the Gap collects and how they use them to draw insights for their organization.

Some of these data and metrics might be readily available from your HR systems. For other information, you may need to actively collect the data. For example, you may ask your employees about their attitudes, perceptions and beliefs. At Google, the annual employee survey “Googlegeist” captures a snapshot of how Googlers feel about their managers, teams, the organization, and our culture. Learn more about designing surveys.

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