Monday, October 10, 2011

Not Just Good to Know

Dave Ryan and I were talking about possible next Project Social topics and I ambitiously suggested, ‘HR’s role in defining a high-performing organization.’

Dave’s response: ‘Hmmmmmn… yeah, that’s one topic.’

(We’ll just call that one Plan B.)

So we pared it down to one aspect of high performing organizations, something that all HPOs have: good workforce intelligence, not to be confused with an intelligent workforce.

It sometimes amazes me how little workforce information you can get out of most HR systems.  No one expects an HR system to provide the answer to life, the universe and everything, but an accurate global headcount report seems like something you could reasonably expect to get.

Imagine your CEO calls your right now and asks for input to decide between two potential locations for a new service center.  You’d probably want to compare workforce information in each location, including labor costs, hiring sources, time to fill job requisitions, quality of new hires, etc.  Can you?

What about other information that might be useful to running a business, such as:

•    What are the most critical jobs in our organization?
•    What are the most critical skills by job in our organization?
•    Where do we have skills gaps or pending skills gaps?
•    Before we bring in a consultant, is there an internal person who can do this?
•    Before we lay someone off, do they have skills we need elsewhere?
•    Is it more cost effective to hire, contract or train someone for this role?
•    How does the work quality of contingent v. employees compare?
•    Do part-time employees really produce less than full-time employees?
•    In which locations are we finding it hard to find people with the skills we need?
•    Who’s working on what and what does it cost?
•    Which managers have unusually high turnover?
•    Where do we have flight risks?

I could go on - there’s all kinds of useful information hidden away coyly in your HR systems today, as well as all kinds of useful information should be there but isn’t.  And Dave and Lyn have their own take on this over at HR Official and The HR Bacon Hut, respectively.  But you get the idea.

Here's the worrying thing:  HR leaders are starting to be replaced by marketing executives because marketers know how to show the impact of strategy execution on business results.

In marketing, business results drive whether you succeed or fail.  Period.  Which is why the first thing a marketing person in an HR role would do is get that information, right after hanging the ‘Marketing: HR: Two Drink Minimum’ sign outside their door.

HR hasn't been held accountable for business performance compared to areas of the organization but that's starting to change as companies realize it's all about people.  Everything else is just... stuff.  Which means that current, accurate workforce information is pretty important for HR leaders to have.

As an added bonus, good workforce data will help you look attractive, confident and well-dressed like that woman in the picture... no, it's not me, although the resemblance is uncanny.

It's more than just good to know.


  1. I wonder if anyone will really get this one. We are being replaced because we fail to show a financial impact. I understand why, and you understand why but many business folks want the bottom line $$$. But business is so much more than that.

  2. Oh- good point Chris. HR data needs to overlay all business functions. I actually do want HR systems to give me the answers to life and the universe. What other ROI has importance? The return on investing in your people?

  3. Laura you are dead on inasmuch as HR needs to do a better job of marketing itself and the department. One of my SM friends has this talk she does call HR the new PR, I think she is right in many respects. If we don't embrace the concepts of marketing and sales we may just get sucked up into another department!

  4. Thanks for these insightful comments. Good data is the foundation for good business decisions.

    On the bright side, it's a great time to be in marketing.

  5. Chris, sadly I agree with you that many businesses only care ab the bottom line... however you are right... business should be more than that.

  6. An excellent article & video. Disengaged employees have a bigger impact than doing the minimum themselves- they distract other employees as well.

    Additionally, I can always discern when an employee has become disengaged and no longer cares about the job: errors increase dramatically and cause time loss and set backs.

    1. It's always interesting to read all the comments and informative news and site news, etc. Thanks for all the responses and topics.

  7. I like some of the comments as well although I would prefer we all keep it on topic in order add value to the subject. It will be also encouraging to the author if we all could share it
    Steroids for sales


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