HR metrics- what springs to mind? The usual responses would be related to Absence, Diversity, Engagement, Performance, Headcount /Labour Turnover and Training.
But if we look closer at these, how can we establish that HR actually has an influence on them, in ordered to be judged accordingly?
- Absence: is HR responsible for the Absence rates in an organisation? True, there may be procedures in place to interrogate returners and weed out malingerers, and these can have instituted by HR, but the management of absence is surely a matter for line managers?
- Diversity is a matter of Recruitment practice conforming to organisational criteria set by its officers, so, again, how can HR be measured by Diversity figures?
- What is defined as Engagement in the organisation: the percentage of responses to the employee survey? length of service of employees? Even if the workplace is notionally committed to employee engagement, measuring it in a meaningful way is seemingly very arbitrary. One measure often quoted is amount of work done outside of company hours, which may in fact have more to do with job tenure fears or “presenteeism” cultures. In all of this, I see no particular HR intervention that should have an impact on this.
- Performance; apart from perhaps putting mechanisms in place for performance measurement, HR has no further impact on performance, as this is then an issue for the relevant department.
From the above sample, it can be deduced that the employees are in the remit of their line managers, and therefore it would seem that an extremely meaningful role that HR can play in this is to ensure that:
- Data capture is in place in the form of a good HR system and
- That the data is easily disseminated to those who need it, via Self Service and Reporting modules within the HR system.
The presence of such a system and the confidence that management places in its output should a surely be a measure of HR performance, and, furthermore, HR professionals should be able to produce an ROI for their current system, and approximation of what it might cost to enhance it to meet further organisational objectives.
This is one aspect of what one could call “enablement initiatives” directly undertaken by HR; ensuring that mechanisms exist to eliminate manual processes in the staff life cycle, that there is access to quality learning or training when it has been specified, and that managers have the correct organisational procedure for every situation in easily assimilated format to allow them to manage effectively. All of these can be quantified and used in the metrics report.
Following on from this, we turn to the area of employment legislation compliance. HR can be judged on the number of tribunal cases or disputes arising, and how many of these are justified, win or lose.
HR should also, however, be held to account for the number of cases that were “paid off” to go away, for dismissals dressed up as “redundancies” or “early ill health retirements”, and for the number of compromise agreements issued to departing staff for whatever reason. These should all be deemed as failures when they occur, or, conversely, as success by their absence.
A hidden metric of HR is also the amounts paid to its employment law legal advisers; if you have good quality HR professionals, there really should be very little need to resort to paid advice.
Many of these issues above arise from knee-jerk management, the “get rid of that person at all costs” sort of edict that defies all HR counsel and goes completely against the thrust of organisational policy. This is where HR has to stand up and be counted.
If one would not be afraid of controversy, perhaps one should take stock of the length of service of the senior HR staff. How many years do they need to carry out the strategic challenges facing an organisation? At what point are they slipstreaming towards a bigger pay-off or pension pot, or even stopping the progress of other talents below them on the ladder? Surely it is in their interests to expand their experience of other sectors / industries instead of hunkering down for the long haul?
The subject of HR metrics has been somewhat overcooked in the past few years, not helped by the fact that many HR people have maintained that much of what they do cannot be measured. This could be a bad position to take, as organisations like to measure everything, and could be tempted to discard activities that they can’t get a handle on.
We as HR practitioners need to take the lead on metrics in an objective way – before someone from outside does it for us – and design a set of measures designed not to justify HR jobs, but to shed more light on what we do – and how well or not we are doing it – to our organisations, and perhaps in turn cast more light on management performance.