HR needs good figures!

July 6, 2015 Geoffroy De Lestrange


Attending a conference on Big Data in HR recently, I heard a great comment from François Geuze, President of the HR Department at University of Lille. In essence, he explained that the huge amount of articles on "the strategic role of HR" or "why HR deserves a seat at the table" were actually no good sign, because HR shouldn't have to justify itself for being strategic. You don't see articles on "the strategic role of the CFO" for example, because this position is indeed perceived as strategic by everyone up to the CEO.

I already wrote on how HR used to be - and sometimes still is - perceived as useless and limited to administrative work. I'm afraid to say this opinion isn't without a reason, as HRDs admit that they don't spend enough time on talent management (see French survey results for example). And changing name makes no difference! HRDs are still called "Personalmanagers" in Germany, and I heard a communication consultant who was promoting new concepts such as ""Human Relationships manager", "Human Development Manager", and others. Frankly, I think this simply is total nonsense! As if a rebranding would help...

There is a saying in French that what is clearly understood is also properly worded, and explained. Would this mean that HR doesn't have a clear view of their role and tasks? Of course not! HR can easily give a description of the processes they manage and the area they are responsible of. Indeed, since HR is in charge of ensuring that the company employs the right person at the right position with the right skills, now and in the future, it's difficult not to agree about the strategic importance of managing human resources!

What HR lacks is in fact fact-based communication. HR needs to publicise its activities but first and foremost their results! That's how we come to this highly critical but often under evaluated topic of HR analytics. Having clear and proven data on what the HR department concretely brought to the company is the most efficient way of proving its vital role within the company. But there's the rub: as we observed in 2014, up to a fourth of European HRDs don't measure their activities properly and if they do, they limit themselves to easily measurable short-term activities such as:

  • Recruitment: speed to hire and number of filled-in positions - but what about long term success in the position, evolution of recruitment costs, new hire attrition rate?
  • Training: post-training satisfaction - but what about on-the-job impact of the training, long-term influence of training in employee retention, measurable influence on the bottom-line?
  • Performance: number of yearly performance reviews filled-in - but what about regular feedback, relation between performance and learning, long-term performance-based succession planning?
  • Compensation: company-wide payroll - but what about performance-based compensation plans, influence of specific variable compensation elements on employee retention?

You'll agree all this shows how imperative HR Analytics has become - and I'm not even talking about Big Data and predictive analytics at this point! With those elements, HR will be able to do what Marketing has been doing over the last 10 years: bringing figures, results and proven ROI on their campaigns. The same way marketing professionals need to justify spending money on a trade show, a product catalogue or any other activities, HR now has the tools to dive into their metrics and prove their direct impact on the company's results.

Any experience you'd want to share regarding the usage of HR analytics to prove your point to the management?

About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

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