Friday, 14 March 2008

I4CP: HR Metrics

I've just attended I4CP's webinar on HR metrics.

There was some good stuff in here. I agree with a lot of it. I agree that measurement needs to be contextualised and interpreted:

"It's not about the numbers, but the story they tell. In fact, I tell a lot of people: just because you can measure it, doesn't mean you should be. Satisfaction / engagement surveys: one of the companies we studied: they weren't really executing the strategy. The department that was blocking them had the biggest satisfaction and engagement scores. They were satisfied but not engaged in the right thing - they were engaged in the wrong strategy. So it's about the story it tells... numbers only provide you with a common language."

I agree that measurement needs to focus on impact rather than efficiency, although, as I've previously posted, I think Boudreau's analysis of efficiency, effectiveness and impact measures (also referred to by Chris Parkinson at American Express during his presentation at the CIPD's talent management conference recently), whilst being one of the best measurement models around, is still intellectually flawed.

I agree that an outside in approach (focused on the business strategy) is better than an inside out approach (focused on HR activities) although I think we tend to go too far on this. So, for example, I prefer a lot of Ulrich's earlier work on organisational capabilities (based upon a inside-approach to strategy) to his latest thinking on leadership brand, where I think he overstates the need to focus from the outside-in. I reconcile these two approaches by explaining that to create value, organisations need to focus not on activities nor just the business strategy but on human capital.

The most interesting slide in the presentation to me was this one looking at the alignment of strategy, people and process, simply because it is very similar to one I've posted on myself, which I use to explain that organisational capability is an emergent property arising from the effective alignment strategy, people and HR / management processes. But I like I4CP's build on this, comparing the time perspective of the three constituent elements.

I4CP note:

"Change is happening so fast and product lifecycle is so fast. This is where HR can have the biggest impact - I think - is on really getting people in organisation more aligned to executing strategy fast. If HR can show everything HR does is improving that alignment and speed of execution, you've got a home."

I draw additional inferences to this. To me, the main issues arising from these different time perspectives (also highlighted by Lynda Gratton in Living Strategy), emphasise that we need to treat people in a different way from the rest of the business. HR's constituents are very different to those of Finance - and this is why we can't deal with numbers the same way.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason, when I saw metrics today, my mind skipped to the road that leads into my village. 8000 people live here and we average 1 sign per 100 meters. Way too much information.

    And if you are familiar with British roads, never the right information!

    I remember the old saying about computer manuals being written by people who know all of the answers but none of the questions.

    1. We want information that helps us see where we are going - signs relevant to our journey and our destination. So it helps to write the persona first - who is travelling, who are they travelling with, where are they going, why are they going, and what transport are they using?

    2. We don't mind signs about other people's destinations. Actually we quite like them as long as we don't become totally overwhelmed. Most of us would quite like to know the stories of people traveling with us. As we learn from each other, we often change our destinations or become bolder and try destinations no one thought of before! How can we provide signs so we know which ones are important to us and which ones offer serendipitous encounters with opportunity? How often are we going to need to change the signs as needs change? And how will we know?

    3. Are we just feeding a sign industry and control-freak culture (a big topic of conversation here in the UK). Outside my village, I think we should have a ribbon day. Mark the ones we use and discard the rest!

    Like Jon, I want to hear about metrics in context. Unlike Jon, I think HR has to enter the story - be embedded so to speak. It is the story of people doing the work that is important. It is metrics that help them on their journey that are interesting, that bring a light to their eyes, ask us back, bring a light to our eyes . . .! involve us in discussions about which journeys are fun, which are rubbish, where we are going next . .
    Too much sign-discussing and it is better just to get going . . . Have a great weekend!


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