If you don’t measure it, is it even important?

10 minute read

I’m sure you have heard the bizarre accusation that the HR and people stuff is merely ‘soft’ and ‘fluffy’? Or perhaps you – as a people professional – have been labelled as less ROI and more pie in the sky?

Well, if so – you wouldn’t be alone. 

It’s the perennial issue for HR and people professionals, isn’t it? That unless they provide meaningful objective measures and data sets, they can’t prove real value. 

Today’s money-making mega organisations are all technology-based. They utilise mobile technology, collect and interrogate data, run multiple revenue streams and use AI technologies to create a competitive advantage. They are led by leaders who want to change and disrupt things – and for them, measurement and data is everything. 

Strategic thinking used to be the preserve of the few. They could define the future and pull on their experience and mercurial powers to choose a new path for the firms we work in. As the world speeds up though, this expertise almost becomes irrelevant. Someone who started a career 30 years ago and who has a wealth of experience, much of it in practical terms, may not be able to appreciate the current market forces and impact that advanced technology is having today. 

Today we are seeing more and more strategic decision making and planning is driven purely by data. Empirical logic showing what the trends are, what types of products or services are successful and which ones aren’t. Even data to demonstrate how to communicate with customers and what to avoid. Computer really does say ‘no’….but try this. 

Most companies are unleashing the potential and power of data analysis in ways we couldn’t have dreamt of 15 years ago. But – as is often the case – these tend to focus on value streams, sales, profit margins, market fluctuations, customer trends, efficiencies and technical problems. They don’t always dig deeper into the true indicators around the people within the organisation.  

When we look at how leaders or a business drives improvement, it’s often through the use of Key Performance Indicators and well-defined target metrics. Ultimately businesses are awash with data that can be used to this end, but it is rarely harnessed in a way that backs up the more fallible or opinionated view of people about people. Leaders score cards are usually focused on cost, quality, delivery, safety, environment, and people. The data and analysis of the first five or six areas will naturally be logical, empirical and calculable, yet when it comes to people, it becomes much more about snapshot views and opinion on set criteria. At best it may be qualitative data, but not quantitative that can often make the difference. 

Why is this? Is it hard to determine and quantify? 

Well, yes it can be. But, more often than not, the data does exist. It’s just not being filtered in a way that tells a useful story. Indeed, often the intelligent data is there, but it’s just not being interrogated properly or used intelligently. 

Here are some examples of some other useful data points we might wish to use when it comes to measuring people in our organisations: 

  • How influential and connected are leaders? (the person people go to/rely on)
  • How many new initiatives are being developed by a leader?
  • If asked to log, what is the number of team and individual coaching hours and the impact of these?
  • Which managers have the highest number of people promotions and personal development activities undertaken?
  • What percentage of people have development plans and what percentage of their goals have been achieved?
  • What percentage  most improved business results are attributable to which leaders?
  • What is the average time off and mean time to return by leader?
  • How many grievances or investigations have taken place? 
  • How much diversity is there within the team (this could be diversity of thinking, people, creativity, background experience etc.)?
  • How accurate is that leaders forecasting and projections versus deliverable results?
  • How many external innovations or practices have been implemented?
  • Have they generated positive change in appraisal or in the review gradings for an individual or overall team?
  • What are the retention/numbers of ‘talented’ leavers from a leader’s area?
  • What is their ability to manipulate and interpret data in various forms and on various types of systems? (ability and number of systems)
  • What evidence can they provide of PDP and strategic network development?

Certainly, these are just a few quick examples of metrics that can help determine true performance and demonstrate true potential of employees. They can also go some way to highlight those people in the organisation who are helping drive improvements and innovation – and indeed – call out those that aren’t.

The question is – are you using the data to answer these questions? And how are you then quantifying this back to the business in a way that drives performance improvement and sustainable sucess?