Event: Data Analytics in HR: Past, Present and Future

On June 7th, Data Soc was pleased to host a talk in a field very different from our usual forays into business, but one no less important: HR. Professor Chris Forde gave the presentation and covered a variety of topics at pace, considering the use of big data in HR is still a very nascent proposition. We had a great turnout for our speaker, including lots of faces we had not seen before!


Professor Forde is Coordinator of the Q-Step Programme at the University of Leeds, which seeks to enable social scientists to use more quantitative skills in their research – more Big Data than Bourdieu. He is Professor of Employment Studies, in the Centre of Employment Relations Innovation and Change at Leeds University Business School.

Can data analytics help HR become more ‘strategic’? What challenges does the rise of big data generate for data analytics in HR? Professor Forde looked at the use of data analytics in HR in the past, present and future, and explored the some of the most commonly used techniques and tools of data analytics in HR, before considering the potential and limitations of these analytical tools.


With the recent emergence of cloud services providing an opportunity to clout the oligarchy of HR information systems services (and having previously used SAP HR, it deserves one), our speaker provided much food for thought on this emerging section of data research, which is often hobbled by a disconnect between needing to be the human face of a business to its employees, and the drive to ‘harden’ decision making with numbers and attributes.

Two Events: Advanced Excel for Analytics and Mapping for Earthquake Relief

Last Tuesday we hosted a second session by Prof Bill Gerrard, specialist in sports analytics at LUBS, for a working session on how to use Excel for data analytics. This was a very popular event, as Lawrence’s tweet below can show you…

Though we like R and Python at Leeds Data Soc, we know when we reach the big wide world of work, most people are wedded to Excel. Trusted tool and diviner of computer competency in the workplace for at least a decade now, there’s no getting away from the spread sheet. Bill guided us through some of the more advanced parts of excel such as Pivotables and how to use the analytics add in, which can be enabled through the options menu.

Everyone enjoyed the event and quite a few stayed with us to cool their brains down at The Victoria pub on Great George St. afterwards.

JP and Ecuador Earthquake side by side image

With much shorter notice, we also hosted a small event to show people how to contribute to OpenStreetMap, a huge open source map of the world which can be edited by users. OpenStreetMap is also used by charities and governments in natural disasters, because it’s entirely free to use – Google Maps puts a limit on the number of requests that you can make to it. This means that during major events, authorities can use it as a reliable mapping tool to reach isolated communities. A guide to getting started with openstreetmap and the hot tasking manager has been built by Andy Evans, who also guided our session earlier in the year about using Python for data analysis. It was originally built to help after the Nepalese earthquake in 2015, but by using the  HOT tasking manager, you can see which projects are running at a given time.

Hot Tasking Mgr

After a brief demonstration, we set about contributing to maps of Ecuador and Japan, both of whom have been recently affected by major earthquakes – you can see that tasks for Ecuador have been assigned the highest priority in the HOT tasking manager.

Python + Poutine

The primary programming language that data soc members know is R (though certainly not the only one!), so we decided to challenge our evangelism with a tutorial from Dr Andy Evans, a senior lecturer in computational Geography from the School of Geography here in Leeds (FY maps!). Dr Evans very kindly created the front end for a tutorial on data manipulation with Python, guiding an intrepid crowd through Anaconda installation and their first steps of data processing in a new language. We were pleased to see that this was one of the larger tutorials that data soc has hosted, aided by turnout from some of Andy’s students looking for practice but also an increasingly academically diverse crowd of people curious about data science and programming – for a few, this was their first ever experience coding.

After this we went to A Nation of Shopkeepers near Leeds city centre for Poutine, as one of our founders (Karen) is Canadian and was keen for a taste of home.

Missed the session? The opening for Andy’s tutorial is available here, which then leads you into the Data Carpentry course.

What can Elite Sport teach us about Effective Analytics?

Our first speaker event (ever! but also of Semester II) featured Professor Bill Gerrard discussing what sports analytics can bring to analytics as a whole field. After speaking about his background and path into sports analytics from a start in economics and econometrics, Bill covered three topics; what does Moneyball tell us about using analytics effectively; why simple is often the best in analytics in sport and business; what skills do you need to be a great analyst?

It was a fascinating session and great to hear Bill’s insight, driven from his work with Billy Beane and then on bringing analytics to the UK. It seemed like a tough start but as anyone who even watches the highlights of any televised sport in the UK these days, it has now taken off with gusto. We’re really pleased our first event was a success and hope to hold follow up sessions with Bill, and with other guest speakers too!

Performing Data Visualisation on Cycling Data

One of our more learned members on all things cycling and data science, Matt Whittle (Twitter, WordPress), presented a working seminar/tutorial on mapping data using R QGIS and JS. Matt’s project is to measure the cycling rates in various counties around the UK, and identify cycling hot spots in contrast to air pollution levels. Matt’s project has also garnered interest from Parliament, so our event was like a little preview (or maybe a practice run).

During the session Matt guided members through the process of creating an interactive map using R, QGIS and JS from the initial setting up of site structures, through to creating the map itself. It’s based on work he did for Road Safety Week, who are switching some of their focus to the air pollution caused by congested roads, and not just the singing hedgehogs who are surely a fixture in most British kids’ memories from the last thirty years. Many of our members are familiar with R but not so much QGIS so it was an interesting experience all round to use some specific data mapping software.