People Analytics: The C-Suite Superpower?

June 8th, 2021

Why we care

The Boards' and CEOs' agendas have never been so crowded with talent-related topics: workforce strategies and wellbeing; diversity, equity, and inclusion; culture; and, corporate purpose.1 Forty-two percent of corporate board directors think talent management will be a top priority for them in 2021.2 Additionally, 50% of CEOs globally cite recruitment and retention of top talent as a critical area of focus for them in 2021.3

We all know that what gets measured is what gets done.

Yet, there’s a significant under-investment by orgs in people analytics. Consider this:

  • In 2020, just 56% of companies thought they’d made moderate or significant progress in people analytics in the past 10 years
  • Only 27% of CHROs say they're investing in workplace analytics tools to analyze employees’ digital activities in 2021
  • Only 38% of orgs were focused on understanding "employee voice" in 2020

There’s a yawning gap between what people analytics CAN do for orgs and what it IS doing for companies today. Why?

The existing gap

We believe this gap exists for a few reasons:

  1. Lack of clarity around the role people analytics can play. C-suite execs haven’t necessarily understood the role of people data, analytics, and technology in helping them address some of the critical issues on their agendas.
  2. No clear set of expectations. Because C-suite leaders often don’t understand the role people analytics functions can play, they haven’t known what to expect from their teams—and, thus, fail to define their expectations clearly.
  3. Lack of confidence. Research has found that C-suites are worried about the impact of flawed data on their company’s business.4 This is driven by the fact that analytics functions in many orgs are relatively new and lack credibility. Additionally, being asked to make major decisions based on the output of an algorithm that they didn't create and don't always fully understand also adds to the lack of confidence among senior leaders.

People analytics leaders: Now is the time to show your value

HR played a crucial role in helping leaders navigate the pandemic, yet there’s no guarantee that they’ll continue to do so post-pandemic. In a recent survey, 87% of C-suite execs credit HR leaders with accelerating change throughout their orgs during COVID-19. However, just 52% believe this will continue to occur after the pandemic.5

People analytics functions are well-positioned to highlight the work they’ve done to date, and to show the insights and impact they can drive for the C-suite over the long term.

This is especially true when we consider that very few orgs have a plan for post-pandemic working. Sixty-eight percent of executives recently reported having no detailed plan in place when it comes to return-to-office planning.6 People analytics is the function best-suited to help leaders with:

  • Understanding what people need
  • Putting in place methods to measure those practices
  • Providing insights that can lead to appropriate course-corrections

The question, of course, is how?

Our hypotheses

We have the following hypotheses for this research:

  • C-suite leaders today don’t know what they should expect from people analytics—and so neither use them effectively nor have clear expectations of HR or people analytics leaders about them
  • C-suite leaders who use people analytics are able to more effectively address their org’s challenges and priorities
  • There are at least 3-5 common C-suite-level challenges that people analytics can help solve — and many more for each individual organization, depending on specific needs and situations
  • There’s a standard set of insights and metrics that are necessary but not sufficient for the C-suite in helping them meet their needs
  • Data quality and having a “single source of truth” are critical factors in determining the extent to which C-suite leaders feel comfortable using people analytics
  • C-suite execs who are most effective at leveraging people analytics are operating in data-heavy organizational cultures; however, C-suite leaders in less data-focused cultures can still drive meaningful change via people analytics

What we’ll research

Through this research, we seek to answer the following questions:

  • What types of challenges can people analytics help C-suite leaders solve?
  • How can people analytics leaders best partner with C-suite leaders to solve those challenges?
  • What’s the role of tech in enabling that partnership and delivering those insights?
  • What’s the role of organizational culture in enabling or limiting the use of people analytics by C-suite leaders?
  • What impact do C-suite execs experience by using people analytics to address their challenges?

Who will be involved

We plan to include the following groups of people in the research:

  • CEOs, C-suite leaders, and other non-HR business leaders
  • CHROs and other HR leaders
  • People analytics leaders

How to participate

We’ll be conducting this research over the next 4 months and invite you to participate in the study. There are 3 ways to participate:

    1. Let us interview you. If you're a people analytics leader or a C-suite exec willing to talk to us about this topic for 30-45 minutes, reach out to us at [email protected] and we’ll schedule a discussion at your convenience.
    2. Join the conversation. We’re conducting a roundtable on this subject on June 16th, 12pm ET. You can click here to register and join the waitlist.
    3. Share your thoughts. Read our research and tell us what you think! Shoot us a note at [email protected]. Your comments make us smarter and the research better.
Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Priyanka photo
Priyanka Mehrotra
Research Lead at RedThread Research


  1. “On the board’s agenda: The 2021 boardroom agenda—Never let a good crisis go to waste (and more),” Deloitte, Center for Board Effectiveness / Debbie McCormack & Bob Lamm, January 2021,
  2. PwC Executive Pulse Survey, PwC, 2021,
  3. C-Suite Challenge™ 2021: Leading in a Post-COVID-19 Recovery, The Conference Board, 2021,
  4. “The C-Suite Lacks Confidence in HR Data Analytics. But Why?” SHRM / Roy Maurer, March 2018,
  5. “How has COVID changed CEOs perception of HR?,” HRD Canada / Emily Douglas, April 15, 2021,
  6. “What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work,” McKinsey & Company / Andrea Alexander & Rich Cracknell, et al, May 17, 2021,