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Human Resources is in the middle of being transformed. As our world of work changes, the way in which HR is aligned and operates will need to change as well. It’s no longer just about employee engagement, but how HR can deliver actual value to the organization – how it can be a people-focused department that continues to drive positive change across the organization.

HR metrics and analytics, or what is often times referred to as the datafication of HR, is an emerging field, but one that can significantly boost your HR IQ (and EQ). But there are so many ways to get it wrong – but let’s start with these seven HR metrics secrets you need to know, to get it right.


#1:  You Don’t Need to Blow $20k on an HR Metrics “Solution”

Wouldn’t it be nice to simply drop some money on a solution and have instant metrics? Well, many of the vendors out there will try and convince you that you must use an expensive software in order to get metrics – but that’s only half of the story.

There are some great metrics-driven software solutions out there, but you don’t need to spend money in order to get results. In fact, blowing that kind of money on a metrics-solution may hurt your HR credibility more than help it. Why? Because blowing $20k or more on a solution will not get you closer to the actual info you need… wasting an already tight HR budget.

Purchasing metrics-driven software is not the answer to your metrics woes… the secret is, you don’t need “fancy software” to have metrics. Stop being convinced otherwise.

#2: You Already Have Access to the Metrics, You Aren’t Starting from Scratch

As HR professionals, we have access to a lot of information – details about our workforce, thousands of touch-points about candidates, information about performance, company goals, attendance records, and so on. The data points you need to create meaningful metrics are already available to you – it’s just a matter of piecing together the right key factors.

Before you convince yourself that being the official Storyteller for HR is just not in the cards, take inventory of all of the various data points you do have about your employee population and HR. Look at the demographic data from your workforce; dig into employee relations information; how does performance management “work; what is changing year-over-year for employee engagement; and so on. You can use this guide as a starting place of what to inventory if you get stuck.

But everything your company is already gathering, can be used to create metrics and analytics for HR. And it’s not that difficult to find it!

#3: Maximize the Systems You Already Own

Most of us aren’t tech experts – in fact, I’m guessing some of you will do everything possible to not touch a single tech thing if it could be avoided. That’s ok… except when it comes to programs and software that your HR organization has already purchased and currently uses. But don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to do this on your own.

Talk with your IT liaison for your HR systems, find out what you’re using – the name and version. Then get to googling to find out the capabilities of your systems. Most of the time, there are various bells and whistles, or simply “on switches” to these software programs that you’re under-utilizing.

I can’t tell you how many times this happens.

If you’re already paying for HRIS software or Applicant Tracking Software, see what types of metrics-capabilities they have before you consider creating your own. What data points can be seen, what info can be extracted, and so on, with little effort on your part?


#4: Know Exactly What to Track

One of the biggest rookie mistakes you can make, is tracking the wrong or worse, not meaningful metrics for your organization. When you’re beginning an HR metrics program, more isn’t always better – right is better.

In other words, understand exactly what your organization needs to know – and track those metrics.

The easiest way to do this is by looking at your company’s annual goals and its mission and values. Learn what is important to the business – and then ensure your metrics support these directives.

For example, most HR departments track turnover and/or retention rates. This can be a meaningful metric, but it can also hold no value depending on where you work. A very simplified example of this, is let’s say a start-up company. Perhaps they don’t want to hang on to their employees after they complete each phase – retention rates alone then, don’t tell a meaningful story. Instead, they would want to track key talent retention rates – seeing how they’re holding on to the employees they want to as they move through different phases.


#5: You Don’t Have to Be a Math Wizard, to Be a Rock Star

Ok, so you’re not exactly a math genius (I mean, if you were, I’m hoping you’re using that genius in something more math-based like Compensation or Finance since it’s a rare skill… but I digress). And the thought of having to create metrics and use math is not high on your list of fun activities.

That’s ok.

Creating HR metrics and analytics has very little to do with math. (Gasp, I know).

It has to do with spotting meaningful trends and understanding what the numbers actually mean.

And you already know how to do that. In fact, you’re already doing that on a daily basis without even knowing it.

Most HR metrics are a standard formula which you don’t even have to create – simply plug and play. So the math itself isn’t something that should freak you out.

Instead, as the HR rock star that you are, you’ll need to learn how to use your skill set and your strengths to deliver and interpret the data to your team and the rest of the organization. Your role is the storyteller, not the mathematics wizard. I promise.


#6: How You Synthesize and Tell the Story, Matters Most

Having the actual metrics is really just the first step. How you synthesize the gathered metrics and turn them into analytics, is the most important part of the process.

Numbers don’t speak for themselves. If they did, you wouldn’t need to be a subject matter expert on the data.

One of the key things HR professionals forget when they are working with metrics, is that what we know as true, does not hold the same meaning outside of HR. (Kind of like when Finance has a budget meeting with you and you tune everything out except for your bottom-line numbers?). Same thing – each department speaks a different language.

And the key purpose of HR metrics is to take “HR speak” and turn it into a language that every other department can understand and relate to. In other words, this is the storytelling piece – how you can take a number and interpret into something that the business can easily identify with.

Don’t commit the biggest sin of all – simply plopping the numbers in a deck and sharing it.