Is HR about to be taken over by the CFO?

Part 2 of our data driven investigation into the talent trends of 2014

Recap: We’re using job hiring data to understand the real talent trends of 2014

Today we’re continuing our data driven look into the current state of talent.

As a quick refresher, we’re using the publicly searchable data from Indeed as a basis for this investigation. Because Indeed aggregate millions of job posts from across the web, it’s a great source for understanding what’s really happening in the workforce.

Today we’re going to shift the lens back in, and look directly at what’s really changing in HR.

Is HR is about to be taken over by data/finance?

If you’re a regular reader of the business press, I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles suggesting that HR is about to be made obsolete. No one seems to agree on who’s about to take over the function, but data analysts and the CFO get mentioned regularly.

Here’s some of the typical press/blog articles you might have read over the past year:

Today we’re using hiring data to see if this takeover is really playing out. Are companies really recruiting super analysts to take over HR? We’re going to find out by having a look at some of the following terms across job adverts:

  • HR & Data
  • HR & Big Data
  • HR & Analytics
  • HR & Finance

But before we jump into that level of detail, let’s set the scene with a general look at the recruiting landscape for HR, analytics, data and finance.


I find it interesting that “Data” has been falling away over the past three years in job adverts. This is about the same timeframe the business press started making proclamations like “data is the new oil”


Big Data

And maybe some of this falloff in “Data” can be explained just through buzzword substitution. Hiring for “Big Data” seems to have picked up in late 2011/early 2012, at the time that “Data” started to drop away.

Big Data


At the same time “Analytics” shows on-going growth over the past 10 years, although an interesting downtrend over 2014.



Hiring for “Finance” has shown a constant and sustained downtrend over the past 10 years. I find it quite incredible that “HR” seems to be a better economic barometer than finance (compare the following two charts).



Based on this chart alone, it’s amazing how correlated HR jobs are with the general economy.


HR & Data

Adding “HR” and “Data” gives us an interesting picture on the data revolution in the HR profession. It’s clear that there is real growth here that doesn’t exist in the profession as a whole. But the press are 5 years too late in recognising this as a trend. Over 2013 and 2014 we’ve seen “HR” and “Data” fall in relative frequency.

HR Data

HR & Big Data

You can see that “HR”and “Big Data” is very spikey (given the very low data volumes). However it’s clear that there was a pickup at the same time as “Big Data” in general. This seems to be a case of the business media really pushing a term to the forefront of the hiring agenda.

HR Big Data

HR & Analytics

“HR” & “Analytics” has seen sustained growth over the ten-year period (but remember that this is coming off a low base. This is definitely a term to watch.

HR Analytics

HR & Finance

This is an interesting graph with some spikes on serious volume – I’m sure there are some interesting factors driving the spikes (I’d love you to jump into the comments if you have thoughts about what they represent).

HR Finance

So, is HR about to be taken over?

Whilst there’s some evidence of growth in “HR” & “Analytics” and “HR” & “Big Data”, these trends are small scale and relatively early in their lifecycle.

Relative to HR as a profession (c.3% of all job advertisements) these trends are small scale – with about 1 in 50 HR job advertisements currently featuring “Analytics” and about 1 in 150 HR job adverts featuring “Big Data”. So it’s fair to say we’re not at the stage of a massive takeover just yet. But there are clearly things happening over the medium term – which makes this an interesting trend to watch.

Interested in the real talent management trends of 2014? Don’t miss the other parts of this series…

If you loved these talent trend insights, there’s plenty more in this series:

  1. Millennials are changing the way we work (part 1)
  2. HR is about to be taken over by data/finance (part 2)
  3. Technology is reshaping the way we work (part 3, coming tomorrow)
  4. Holacracy is set to make managers obsolete (part 4, coming Friday)

And of course, I’d always love to continue the discussion on Twitter. Tweet @cognology with your take on this investigation and any other key trends you’d like us to look at.