How much People Insights do Leaders need?

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A friend asked me why I am so deeply passionate about People Analytics? It was a very strange question because I had never actually thought about it in that context. To me it was always about providing critical insight to HR, managers, executives, and other stakeholders that care about making the best business decisions possible having all the evidence they need. So, how could people NOT want people insights? That spurred another thought… how much people analytics do they need?

Well, I sat down to think about that question and put on the TV. The local news was on. Not only were there two newscasters, but there was the 3 day forecast in the upper right hand corner and the scroll bar at the bottom of the screen. Oh my goodness, it was information overload. I have gotten used to it over the years I guess, but then it hit me that managers are constantly dealing with information overload and much of it becomes noise after a while. How do they filter out the important information from the noise that may distract them?

I think the answer is it depends… it depends on the individual, the business, the economic market situation, corporate culture and the maturity of the organization to use analytics in business decision making. We all have stories of how organizations have started using “HR Dashboards” to provide some stakeholders with “key HR performance indices” that can show snapshots of several HR metrics. It usually was spreadsheet-based and looked like a collection of fuel-gauges or histograms. It had little or no narrative for interpretation and it was old the moment that it was published. Even so, managers may have opened the email or filed it in “Important HR Emails” to be opened when the moment of inspiration hit.

So, why are People Analytics important and how to judge how much is too much? I wrote last week about what Analytics are, but to summarize: People Analytics provide a key set of insights that business leaders can leverage to help guide them to make better decisions about their world. They are not HR insights. They are not HR data. They are business tools that provide context for managers, business leaders and HR to understand the trends associated with the people side of business decisions. People Analytics provide insights that managers require to see how their decisions cause effects in the world of the people who ultimately have to perform the tasks necessary for the organization to be successful.

Critical lessons can be learned not only from “hindsight” metrics such as turnover rate or new hire turnover rate, dive deeper to look at WHY people leave with metrics such as termination reason histograms. If you pair these metrics up with demographic data such as gender, race/ethnicity, and age-cohorts and you can start to do more in depth diversity metrics on how we are treating our populace. It could lead to better management training, coaching and less employee adverse-impact actions.

The question might be: “where is your company seeing the biggest challenges and what metrics can be provided to leaders to help them see the people side of it?” So as to not overwhelm leaders, start small. One set of metrics, one dashboard may be the right starting place that provides them a glimpse of the power of the people insights. This doesn’t overwhelm, it invites more questions like… What other insights do you have that can help me?

The bar is set high with the noise we face in every day life. Newspapers, internet, and TV provide us with too much on demand information. We create the filter we need in order to avoid overload. We should be careful with leaders to provide them with the right amount of people insights to get them what they need to be successful, especially at the beginning.

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