Human Resources and management require soft and hard skills. Still, the best HR leaders and managers succeed primarily because of their soft skills in working with people. The ones who fail usually have inadequate soft skills.
Because HR and management professionals rely so much on their ability to advise, convince and problem solve, they too often underutilize hard skills that could make them even more effective. One hard skill that would make us all better is the regular and effective use of data.
I am not talking here about “big data”, the kind of server clogging repositories that allow marketers to slice you up into multiple consumer categories. No, I am talking about basic data every workplace has, or can easily obtain, to make much better decisions.
We meet employers frustrated with their inability to hire the right people for the job. “Where are the candidates?” “Which internet sites should we use?” Those are probably the wrong questions.
A better place to start is where you have success today. Where did the best hires in the last two years come from? How did they find us? Which prospects did we successfully convert at a higher rate than others? Can we find out where this particular skill set “hangs out” digitally and how they prefer to send and receive communications?
When we make good hires but they do not stay long, why is that? Where are they going? What were the reasons? Are we avoiding the difficult pay decisions? Did we talk with them or just warn them not to violate their non-compete clause?
Some data is numerical and some is opinion information sliced in useful ways. For example, we conduct a 31 statement organizational assessment for member companies that asks management team members to rank how they think they are doing on important measures. When the team replies collectively we are at 1 or 2 on “we always hire the best people for the job”, there is a problem.
The value of HR and management data is to help frame the right questions. If we all agree the company does a poor job hiring great people, then we can ask if we want to improve, the benefits of improving, how we can improve and what resources are needed. Without this data, it is so easy for opinions to dominate and action to be delayed.
Author and businessman Andrew Glasow said: “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.” A danger in HR is that the relative lack of traditional numerical data from accounting or operations allows us to hide from the facts. Yes, data must be interpreted, but an imperfect interpretation of reality is better than a mere reaction to anecdotes.
Employers should look for the data right in front of them in the form of opinions, results, behaviors, rankings, ratings, preferences, effectiveness, cost, market pricing, efficiency, rationale, alignment, purpose and points of agreement (or disagreement). It will be well worth the reasonable effort required to collect and analyze.
Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.