Measuring what matters
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HR, up your impact: what gets measured gets done

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23rd May 2017
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Once we are clear on the strategic goals and focus areas for HR, we need define our targets and how we measure our progress. Through this we are influencing what gets done, so we need to get it right. Otherwise, we divert resources and investment to potentially damaging number chasing. 

In the first article of the series, we explored four strategic areas for HR focus. In this second article, let’s focus on measurement to get things done in these four areas.

Redesigning the Organisation

As part of redesigning the organisation, identify the performance metrics that will tell the business whether each part of the new structure is fulfilling its goals right from the start.

Ensure that each part of the structure understands that its purpose is to serve the whole organisation. Without a whole-organisation view, we are at risk of new silos reforming so they can say that they have fulfilled their own goals without regard for the bigger picture.

If, for example, the organisation’s value comes from sales to customers, then everyone should be measured against how they supported those sales, whether directly or indirectly.

Get representatives from across the organisation working together to identify how they will collaborate and be measured together for achieving common goals.

The other angle here is that to measure the redesigned organisation, you need to actually design and deliver it! This is where some organisations come unstuck.

We need a way of measuring that we are on track rather than getting a huge surprise at the end if it is late or wrong. 

My way is to break down the design and delivery process into steps (e.g. first draft of overall structure, signed off job descriptions, people selected for new roles etc..), and then see that each part of the organisation goes through those steps.

Identify when you expect each part of the organisation to reach each of these steps and track it so you can see where the progress is in each area.

That way you can see what progress they have made at any time and deal with issues as they happen.   You can also ask to see the work in progress design and see that it is going in the right direction.

Leadership Capability

All too often we describe the leadership behaviours that we want people to display, but we don’t hold them to account, particularly the more senior you go.

Sometimes this is because other commercial and operational considerations get the spotlight.

As HR professionals, we need to exert influence to show how important performance in this key area is managed, right from the top. 

Work with the most senior leaders to identify how they are prepared to be measured and held to account, and how they in turn will measure and manage those below them.

Support those senior leaders in engaging with the leaders who report into them so that these measurements have meaning for all.

There are a huge range of tools out there from 360 degree feedback, to independent exit interviews and from static one off measurement to implementing tools that capture information in real time.

The key is collaborating to select those that match the leadership environment that you want to have.

Culture

The key with measuring culture is to focus on outputs, i.e. how people experience your culture rather than inputs, I.e. the number of culture change communications you have issued.

A useful starting point is to establish what people honestly see as the current culture and whether they are aware of the culture you are trying to embed.

Of course, depending on the current culture, here may be a sense that being truly honest could be career limiting, so it’s important to allow options around anonymity or the use of independent third parties.

There are a number of techniques you can use, ideally in combination to evaluate and make recommendations.   Surveys will give you high volume broad data, focus groups will allow people to explore ideas and tell stories that reveal what it is really like to work in your environment.   

Next, focus on what the measures are that you will use to evaluate whether your actual culture is aligned with your desired culture.

If you want work life balance, then evaluate how many people work at weekends or on holiday. If you want a culture of supporting others, how many people take up volunteering opportunities. Or if innovation is important, identify how many initiatives are started and completed successfully.

If you involve a wide range of people in identifying these measures then they will be more engaged with the culture you are trying to create, it will become part of their everyday language, a basis for decision making.

Engagement

Linked to culture is engagement.

Whereas measurement of culture will tell you what it is like for people to be in your organisation, a good measurement of engagement will tell you how they feel about it.

As with culture, periodical surveys and focus groups are traditional methods of evaluating engagement but in this digital connected world you also need to be listening and looking out for signs.

What are people saying on social media, in discussions on sites like Glassdoor? Can you provide them with the means to share their feedback in real time so you can respond quickly, e.g. through real time pulse surveys on your intranet.

Alternatively, you can use physical feedback from tools like Happy or Not terminals at that are placed at strategic locations in your offices. These can raise awareness of staff mood at times of the day, after events or key announcements.

Whatever the mechanism you use to capture engagement, the key is to act, and to hold leaders to account for that action - and that is something that can be measured and reported on for sure.

What gets measured gets done

As HR professionals, we know that the people side is key to delivering results.

In this second article, we have explored the need to ensure that useful, real time measures allow useful information to be captured, and to ensure that that information is used in decision making and performance management.

We need to make sure that distracting measures are eliminated and only the useful remain.

We have a fantastic opportunity to engage people in defining these measures and involve them in driving action. Look out for the third article, which focuses on turning things around when things go wrong!

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