Getting started: 5 tips on HR Metrics

HR Metrics - More than just graphs and charts
It is probably apt to start this blog with my top 5 tips for getting going with your HR Metrics endeavours.

These quick tips will help you get past some of the difficulties that you will experience when setting up your metrics function – questions on the accuracy and validity of you numbers, push back because of legacy issues and errors made in the past, your numbers being ignored because “we are different”.

There is definitely an element of ‘us and them’ about it. You will need to stand your ground and be strong on what you produce, but at the same time, work with other elements of the organisation to ensure that what you are producing is a) in line with the business goals and b) understands the actual working of the business.

So with that in mind, what are the 5 tips for getting ahead with your HR numbers.

#1 Understand your data
By knowing your data – understanding what you have access to and what it means – you are giving yourself the best opportunity to produce meaningful information. Make sure you know what your data is and how it gets there, who has responsibility for entering it into the system, and how they ensure the data integrity.

If you know the limits of the data, then you can work with those limits as well as looking to overcome any weaknesses. You can ensure that you can deliver more informative reports to your organisation.

It also ensures that you can answer questions that are put to you – why is this person included, why are they not included, why is this data wrong (btw – its probably not wrong, but at least know)?

#2 Ensure your definitions are known
It is important that people know what the definitions are. When they are talking about head count, they need to know what is meant by that. If you are reporting on employee initiated separations, then they need to know that this includes retirements.

It is important that you know what your definitions are. It helps when you are questioned on the numbers. You need to be able to give an accurate and confident answer. If it the actual definition is questioned, you need to know why you use the current definition, and that there are weaknesses but how to overcome these.

Also, by understanding the definitions, it can help you analyse your data. You may be able to understand and explain an anomaly more effectively and help you and the managers make better data driven decisions. A variation in trend data maybe able to be explained by a nuance of the definition.

#3 Understand your business
Your numbers should help people make decisions for your business. They can only do this if they are consistent with your business strategy.

The best example of this is a set of regular measures or KPIs. You will need to pick metrics that relate to your business successes so the metrics are directly useful.

Another example is how you report your data. The way your split your data can change the way you tell the story. Different types of staff have different characteristics. Being able to identify these groups of people and reporting it effectively can mean the difference between identifying and issue and things slipping under the radar.

You can only ensure that you can do this if you understand the business.

#4 You are the boss
You own the data. Don’t let others push you around. If you have researched what the best metric is, then you use that, even if others disagree. You are the expert so you make the decisions.

That doesn’t mean that you need to be bullheaded. Take on advice, listen to the business as to what they think, but at the end of the day, it is up to you as to what definition, data source or metric is to be used.

You also need to be the boss when it comes to data integrity. Interrogate the data to make sure that you are satisfied with its accuracy. If there are issues, confront those people who are responsible for the data entry. They need to correct the data and ensure that systems are in place to ensure that errors don’t creep in. This might mean educating people as to the importance and the impact of their role.

It shouldn’t need to be said here that being the boss is not about being bossy. It is about controlling the situation, be confident and authoritative and work with others to achieve the best outcome. But you make the decision.

#5 Be consistent
It is very important to be consistent in your delivery. You need to be consistent in your approach, consistent in your delivery and consistent with other areas of the business. Reporting staff numbers in a different way to the finance department, for example, will only lead to confusion and cast doubt over the numbers.

Consistency in data sources and definitions will reduce any doubts by the users. Consistency in reporting styles will lead to familiarity and people will be more comfortable and confident with your numbers. Consistency with other areas of the business will lead to greater acceptance and will help build partnerships.

It is also important to be consistent with improving your service. This might mean changing the metrics, changing the delivery methods, changing how you interact with the organisation.

There are plenty of challenges in running a HR metrics function. Following these basic principles can lead to greater acceptance in the organisation. Once you have worked out the basics, you can build towards your value add offerings. That’s where your true value will come into play.

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