In a book by executive coach Pam Fox Rollin entitled, "42 Rules For Your New Leadership Role," this subject is tackled in the chapter, "Figure Out What To Prove and When." Rollin points out as a new leader, you are under a great deal of scrutiny to perform, and depending on what department, the circumstances of your hiring, and the dynamics of your organization, you are measured by different people for different reasons. Under these conditions, it is important to remain focused and not frantic. The details surrounding results, competencies, workload and compliance are possibly various and complex. However, according to Rollin, "It's up to you to take all this input and figure out what's most important."
As a new leader in my organization, this is a grand issue for me. It is also revealing of the contradiction within me. Innately I want to control everything. I want to do this with the best intent though. I want to ensure my organization is solvent and relevant. I want to ensure the employees are well served to the best of the organization's ability. I want to ensure my department hits every target. However, due to all the variables, such as personal engagement or organizational limitations, I know this is not possible. People are imperfect and the world is hence imperfect.
The idea of measuring work factors appears the way to indulge all of these wants and deal with the human dynamic. Thus, I decided to spend most of my time at the 2011 HR Technology Conference listening to experts in the field of HR analytics.
The Proof Is In The Pudding
The first session was hosted by the esteemed Dr. Jac Fitz-enz, CEO, Human Capital Source and Laurie Bassi, CEO, McBassi & Co.
For their presentation, they noted four case studies ranging from a small non-profit to a large financial institution and why analytics were used.
For me, the two items that I thought were key notions were
1. “Decision making by gut and intuition is grossly inadequate”; because
2. “’Good companies’ outperform their peers.
What configures a ‘good company’ is explored in the book, “Good Company” co-authored by Laurie Bassi. But in short, there are three components:
1. Good employer (sturdy, exacting and inspiring)
2. Good seller
3. Good steward (effect on the community)
Because of the data that has been surfacing, and the technological advances that make it easier, there has been a ground swelling of interest in HR analytics. The reason for this is clear. If you were in HR, why would you not want evidence that improves performance, improves work experiences, and reduces risk?
Just As Easy Said As Done
Many good suggestions arose from the panel discussion featuring Dr. Fitz-enz, Jeremy Shapiro, ED, HR Data & Insight, Morgan Stanley, and moderated by Row Henson, HCM Fellow, Oracle.
The first was you need good data and a good database. Always true: bad data in, bad data out.
From there, it is determining what metrics matter to the leaders that HR is supporting. Not only that, it is also about realizing what data you are missing, and realizing when you have enough data to support your initiatives. It is one thing to manage by “walking around.” Unfortunately, HR cannot measure by walking around.
The good thing to know is HR can easily achieve these skills. For one thing, for every business problem that exists, there is a human being behind it. Having a prescriptive chain of activity (e.g. Leaders do this, then Employees will do this, and then Customers will do this, and so on) can be helpful in identifying where the breakdown occurs. Putting together the type of information your executives need to see why this occurred is also relatively simple.
Some of the skills suggested by the panel included:
- Historically folks do not go into HR for number crunching but it is learnable
- Especially since the hurdle is lower than before due to technology
- Understanding the business makes it easier to decide what data is needed
- Using your communication skills to tell a story with your data
It's About Survival
Probably the oddest thing I heard in the past two days was if you are using Excel, you are already using business intelligence software. It is crude form of it. However, it makes the point that in many cases, many HR folks are collecting data for analysis and may not even know it.
I know for me, coming to the 2011 HR Technology Conference was about inundating myself with the concepts of Workforce Planning and Analytics. As an HR professional, realizing the depth of the smoke and knowing if it is a light fog or damaging smog, is crucial for my new role.
Though I think it is critical for most, if not all HR roles. HR has a history of producing middle class jobs. According to Don Peck in an article for Atlantic Monthly (Sept. 2011) entitled, "Can The Middle Class Be Saved," the U.S. middle class is shrinking and the suggested skills needed to sustain this are excellent verbal and written communication skills, and analytics. Moreover, I heard that message loud and clear at this year's conference. Thus, it is now time for me to heed this advice and take action. For the same reasons, I recommend other HR folks think of doing the same.