NYU HR analytics degree aims to produce quants

NYU is launching a graduate degree program to produce HR quants. The program includes analytical skills, coupled with an understanding of HR tech and human behavior in the workplace.

New York University is launching an HR analytics degree program that combines analytics, technology and human behavior.

The program's director, Anna Tavis, said the HR degree program goal is to produce "behaviorally informed quants." A clinical associate professor of human capital management, Tavis said the graduate degree program is in response to the growing use of analytics in HR.

The new MS in Human Capital Analytics and Technology program doesn't replace NYU's other, more general HR graduate program, which focus on some of the more standard aspects of HR management, such as benefits and compensation management.

Quant skills in an HR context

But the new HR analytics degree program is intended to combine quantitative skills, technology and data science training with instruction on behavioral sciences. Students will learn about artificial intelligence, including machine learning, as well as the ethics for applying these technologies to the workplace, Tavis said.

Anna Tavis, clinical associate professor of human capital management, NYU.Anna Tavis

The program is also in response to a shift in HR's focus from finance, its traditional area of focus, to IT or digital technologies. HR is now more aligned with IT, based on its growing emphasis on data mining and digital transformation, and even marketing, than with finance, HR's traditional focus area, Tavis said. This can mean looking at talent acquisition, for instance, with an "evidenced-based model using the latest technologies," she said.

HR analytics program is emerging area

Graduate degree programs in analytics are relatively new, with the first created in 2007 by North Carolina State University. But graduate degree programs in HR analytics are rare.

Universities have added analytics courses to HR degree programs and introduced analytics-specific certificate programs. But demand by companies for skilled HR analytics professionals is clearly rising. Universities like NYU and American University, which announced a master's in HR analytics and management last year, are responding.

NYU's 30-credit HR analytics degree program is designed to be completed in a year by full-time students, and between 1.5 to 3 years by part-time students. The program is offered online, but there are two short residencies at the beginning and end of the program.

Tavis expects to continue seeing a shift away from the generic masters of analytics programs to more specific concentrations in other areas as well. There will be a demand for more people trained not just in HR analytics but also sports analytics, marketing and healthcare analytics and so on, she argued.

Businesses want the actual application of the tools in specific areas, and for that, employees need to have expertise in those specific areas, according to Tavis. To understand what questions to ask, as well as what the data is saying "you have to have domain expertise," she said.

The program has recruited people in industry to help design curriculum and teach its courses, and that includes IBM data scientists, Tavis said. The first class will begin in the fall and is expected to have around 20 to 35 students, but may include more.

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