The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Three Ways to Visualize Data – Highlights From CUPA-HR’s Data Visualization Challenge

Even as HR leaders across the country are helping their institutions navigate telework arrangements, paid leave and other COVID-19 challenges, they are looking ahead to what’s next. How will enrollment numbers and institutional budget be affected in the coming months, and what will the impact of those changes be on workforce planning? Never has data been more important, and as collectors of workforce data, HR is uniquely positioned to analyze and organize that information.

One way to share information in a clear and meaningful way is to create data visualizations that resonate with campus leaders. Just before the COVID-19 crisis escalated, CUPA-HR hosted a two-week Data Visualization Challenge in the CUPA-HR Data User Group. The goal of the challenge was to help HR pros develop their data analysis and visualization skills. Participants used a variety of visualization tools, including Tableau, Power BI and Excel, to depict a CUPA-HR data set that included faculty gender, salary and representation. Participants then shared their examples in the Data User Group and received feedback from peers and experienced pros from CUPA-HR’s research team.

From the submissions, our research team chose three visualizations that demonstrated effective approaches to visualizing data to inform and persuade.

Simple and Straightforward

Before you invest in a data visualization tool, get started with the tools currently available to you. Excel is a great program for beginners to create simple yet powerful visualizations. The visualization below is from Nicole Lambusta, HR data analytics and system manager at Quinnipiac University. You can view her other examples in her Data User Group post. If you’re interested in learning more about making data visualizations in Excel, Stephanie Evergreen’s tutorials are a great place to start.

Dashboard View

This Tableau dashboard, created by Cameran Clayton, data research associate at American Public University System, allows viewers to get an overview of the data in one place. Viewers’ eyes are drawn to the percentages at the top of the dashboard (the main findings), while the barbell charts break down the data that make up the percentages.

Interactive Story

This interactive story format from Rakim Reid, compensation analyst at Old Dominion University, allows viewers to change the settings to compare data. Reid used Power BI to create his interactive story visualization. You can view the entire interactive story in his post within the Data User Group.To view other visualization examples submitted by your peers, and for other great resources, check out the Data Visualization Challenge thread in CUPA-HR Connect.

Related resources: 

CUPA-HR Research

Metrics Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only resource)

Data Talks: Using HR Metrics and Visualizations to Persuade and Inform (Higher Ed Workplace Blog)


The CUPA-HR office will be closed Fridays through August 20.