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15 2012

Measurement and Analytics: Neglected HR Strategies?

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

More than half a dozen items crossed my screen within two days on HR analytics or metrics – that’s a rate of more than one a day – so is it right to suggest it’s a neglected strategy? It appears a lot more people now are getting excited about what this offers, but the caution is these ‘most people’ don’t seem to include HR. There are even several articles mentioning measurement and analytics in the current issue of Canadian HR Reporter, which is why I included it as a key future trend in my own article there. The recent parade was led off with no less than analytics guru Thomas H. Davenport, who now operates as Research Director at the International Institute, offering a teleconference on their evolving ideas. Their web site asks who is moving into the lead for analytics in organizations – the CEO or the CFO? That should signal a warning to HR, which is also echoed in CHRR. Tom admittedly has always been an analytics guy first and focused on HR topics second, but when you review his list of books HR is never far from the center, from early work on re-engineering through a recent release on making smarter decisions, they have a people-overtone – managing knowledge in the organization, “The Attention Economy” and how to get better performance from knowledge workers. So why is the CHRO not on the list to own some piece of analytics in organizations? The answer has to be that in almost all cases, HR is getting a late start on the band-wagon. CFOs deal with numbers from day 1. So, too, do IT departments, the other functional group that is mentioned far more often than HR. But we manage the most interesting issues that aren’t as clear or straight forward as budget numbers or widgets rolling off the line. Where analytics can really shine in offering truly new insight ought to be in exactly those fuzzy human areas where it isn’t clear on the surface what people will or should do. Unfortunately HR departments are rarely staffed with even a single individual who really understands the use of analytics. At best the function may have someone dedicated to pulling reports from the many systems from which HR needs data – how many do we have in our pension plan, what are their total contributions, what’s the headcount by business unit that we should be monitoring and limiting? These sorts of ‘analytics’ questions almost don’t qualify for the name. They are just counting. Google, as noted in several posts, makes it clear they don’t put a single HR policy change on the table for discussion without extensive numerical evaluation. Is that the other extreme? Perhaps, but we’ve known for a long time that executives in the business are frustrated not having such information as part of the decision-making process on HR issues. We have a responsibility to get that information for them in a digestible form if we expect to be included in every business discussion. From professors John Boudreau to Dave Ulrich, the message is clear – get with the program if you expect to be recognized for contributions. Also on trend, the Grapevine site for HR and Talent Managers comments on Engineering HR Business Partners (the underlying idea? Analytics). Rebecca Shockley of IBM discusses building an analytics-friendly culture. At a macro level McBassi & Company continues to pound away at measuring the overall value of HR elements to a business and various ways to measure. For their part HRPA continues to develop and promote its Metrics Service through which organizations can share benchmarking data – not advanced analytics, but potentially base comparisons that might help make data more meaningful (not sure how well they’re doing, but they put on lots of demos). Lots of direct vendors are in the game, too, of course, such as SAP offering a white paper in infrastructure for analytics in CIO online magazine. A further bit of overview is offered by SmartData Collective on what sorts of things are under discussion, such as “Big Data.” I could go on since a bunch more arrived in the days between drafting and editing this. All this would be useful information for HR, if one ignored research experts, i4CP’s, finding that only 1/5 or organizations use HR analytics. A significant part of that problem has to lie with us in HR not pulling the data together or making it digestible for other executives. It’s one challenge to calculate, it’s another to make it understandable. All this takes practice to learn to do well and that takes time. With all the advice out there on the need, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of directly applicable analysis on exactly what HR should do. Opinions abound, but practical examples are rarer. Until practicing HR pros start discovering and sharing the truly valuable ways to put data together, anyone working on this in HR is going to be developing new ideas in creative ways that may not always work. Bookmark and share this post More »

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