Not everything that counts can be counted
There are never enough hours in the day, so I’m all for anything that frees me up to concentrate on the strategic stuff. But I was quite taken aback by the theme of SuccessFactors’ latest 20 Minute Masterclass: “Collecting HR metrics is a complete waste of time”. I tuned in, anticipating that I’d leap to defend all the KPIs we measure and monitor on a regular basis. But it turns out we’ve fallen into the same trap as many other companies.
We drew up our original list of indicators by canvassing all the various business functions, and it’s grown organically year on year. Every quarter, I send out a substantial PDF, packed with charts and graphs, that provides a retrospective view of our performance. I did a quick straw poll round the office and it appears that very few people have the stamina to read it all, let alone interpret it and make decisions based on its findings. So why are we bothering?
According to the webinar, we can get back on track by mapping out our organisational strategy on a single sheet of paper (yes, just one). Apparently, this helps to narrow the focus on what the board needs to know about our performance, rather than what we think might be interesting or simply a box-ticking exercise.
Another nugget of wisdom was that our annual Employee Engagement survey, at 32 questions long, needs to be torn up and replaced with just three questions. One quantitative – simply “to what extent would you recommend the company as an employer to your friends” – to create a kind of net promoter score, plus a couple of open-ended ones to tease out some useable insight. And rather than surveying everyone annually, we should be sampling 10% of our workforce on a rolling monthly basis.
Lastly, we need to simplify our presentation of the results back to the business. Metrics don’t tell a story by themselves – or reliably inform important decisions. So I’ll be lifting another tip from the webinar and taking a more journalistic approach: a headline that sums up the most critical issue, a strong visual, and a compelling narrative that focuses 20% on where we’ve been and 80% on where we need to go.
It might not take me any less time to compile than the chunky PDF I normally send out, but as Einstein says, not everything that counts can be counted. All I know is that when it comes to KPIs, less is often more valuable. It’s how relevant they are that matters.