*This is the second in a five-part series examining the secrets of the top 5% of HR leaders.
Let’s go back in time over 100 years, when John Wanamaker, now considered a forefather of marketing and a department store pioneer, famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
This quote speaks to the moment HR is facing right now: Gone are the days of gut feeling and squishy ideas. Guesswork just doesn’t fly anymore, and it doesn’t need to.
The nature of the internet and the platforms it enabled made it possible for marketing to go from merely placing ads to understanding at a deep level how those ads performed. Marketing evolved from guessing and hoping to measuring and proving.
Today, it’d be considered professional malpractice for a chief marketing officer to fail to demonstrate how their campaigns are delivering quantifiable outcomes. That’s because CMOs have a robust set of platforms, from digital ad networks to marketing automation software, at their disposal. These tools directly connect their work and their investment back to business impact.
HR needs to do the same. We, too, now have the platforms and tools available to eliminate the guesswork and to show the real, tangible impact of our initiatives. Intuition isn’t the way to move successfully through a business issue. You can’t expect executives to simply leap with you without building a case for why they should leap, using compelling data.
Using data also gets HR leaders out of the vicious cycle we so often find ourselves stuck in, putting out one fire just to move on to the next. We become too busy to strategize, too busy to prioritize and too busy to take a deep breath.
It is data that will allow you to break out of this cycle.
The top 5% of strategic HR leaders use data to prioritize their most important work, say no (which is absolutely critical) and align with the executive team.
If data is overwhelming to you, it’s not serving you. When data clarifies your work, it gives you conviction on where to spend your limited effort, bandwidth and budget. Equally important is that it’s in a language executives will respond to.
Effective HR data use in practice
The best HR leaders are able to effectively use data to transition the mindset of the exec team from believing that HR is a cost center to believing that HR is a profit center. In order to achieve this, you need to focus on these outcomes that matter to the C-suite and have a reliable metric for each that will demonstrate how your work impacts the bottom line:
- Maximizing employee performance: Sixty-seven percent of employees report working harder for a manager who cares about their growth as a professional, but less than half say they have never had a conversation about their career vision. Strategic HR leaders inspire and measure growth with day-to-day practices that focus on individual strengths and goals, and the result is soaring performance.
- Increasing employee engagement: Understand engagement at the company, department or team level, and slice and dice the data however you want to identify wins and challenges across any demographic. To take it a step further, the top 5% of HR leaders compare progress over time and against other companies in their industry with benchmarking.
- Decreasing regrettable turnover: Be informed with real-time data. Through continuous feedback loops and customizable engagement, employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) and manager effectiveness surveys, strategic HR leaders identify and pinpoint concerns before they impact retention.
When you lead with these three outcomes and with the right tools in place, you’ll have a way to clearly and consistently track and assess the impact of your work. The right data will create focus for you and alignment for your executives, a win-win.
Using metrics and data to back up bold initiatives and demonstrate the impact of your work is the second way strategic HR leaders stand out from the rest. Next month, I’ll discuss how to show courage when pitching new ideas and fighting for a “yes.”
Hear more on this topic from author Adam Weber during his session titled “The Secrets of the Top 5% of Strategic HR Leaders: The Art of Elevation” at EPIC. Register here.