People Analytics - Harvard Business School MBA Program

People Analytics

Course Number 2085

Professor Jeffrey Polzer
Spring; Q3; 1.5 credits
14 sessions

Enrollment: Limited to 45 students

A 3-credit version of this course is offered as Field Course: People Analytics (course number 6208 in Q3Q4).

Career Focus

People Analytics is designed to help students use data to improve people-related decisions. Students will build hands-on skills to analyze data in ways that complement the frameworks and intuitions they would normally use to guide their managerial actions. At a deeper level, students in any job, organization, or industry context will sharpen their ability to think critically through the lens of rigorous analytics.

Educational Objectives

Anchored in data, this course will equip students with an analytic approach to diagnosing the varied forces that influence individual, team, and organizational performance, leading to more effective interventions and actions. Students are not required to have a background related to data analyses or statistics to take this course. The first module will provide a foundation in using and statistically analyzing data that we will then build on throughout the course.

The goal is not to turn students into data scientists, but instead to help them gain an analytic advantage, whatever their formal role. Direct experience analyzing data will help students achieve this goal. While developing analytic skills and trying out tools and techniques, students will come to appreciate the opportunities, limits, and tensions involved in using data analytics to inform people issues, while simultaneously gaining deeper insight into the substance of the business issues in question.

Course Content

Starting in their first job after HBS, many students will have at their fingertips a profusion of new technologies capable of generating data about the people they manage. This trend will accelerate in coming years, making it possible for analytic approaches to inform (or even perform) many management activities. Students will need to decide whether and how to gather and use such data, ignoring it at their peril as others amplify their efforts to use it to their advantage.

Given these trends, the premise of the course is that effective leaders must understand how data can be used (and misused) to leverage people’s skills, talents, and insights. This premise is at the heart of the rapidly emerging field of people analytics, which organizations are embracing as they use data to make better decisions about how to manage and develop people.

The course will consist of three modules:

  • Module 1 introduces key statistical concepts and techniques, building foundational skills that are necessary to turn data into actionable insights. Throughout the course, we will use cases that include datasets to be analyzed by students as part of their preparation. We will use and support the statistical program Stata to conduct analyses (though students can use R or other programs at their discretion). Our goal will be to create a community for individual and collective learning, helping everyone gain skills from their own starting point.
  • In Module 2 we will use the foundational skills from Module 1 to analyze people-related business problems, such as performance management and employee engagement, in a range of company situations.
  • Module 3 will focus on collaboration and team analytics. We will try our hand at sports analytics, use network analyses to study organizational collaboration patterns, and test new technologies to gain insight into group meetings and decisions.

A note about previous course listings

This course was previously listed under the name Team Analytics. The new course title, People Analytics, reflects the broader lens we will take in studying a wide range of people-related issues. The new title also corresponds to the emerging field that goes by the same name, with many companies forming People Analytics groups (or variations like Talent Analytics, Workforce Analytics, etc.).

Please contact Professor Jeff Polzer directly with any questions at