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Why aren’t our employees taking action? Why do we have to send a million emails about our annual performance review process, when it happens every year? Why does HR always have to be the bad guys?

Sound familiar?

Remember back in the day, or even just five years ago, when HR would say “do this” and our employees would simply comply? Perhaps it used to be easier to have our employees take action because HR was so feared or so misunderstood, that no one wanted to tick us off. Does that feel like forever ago?

As our workforce and those in charge of our workforce, changes, you’ve probably learned the hard way that your employees have changed as well. And the way they are motivated to take deliberate action, has changed dramatically.

While HR may still be feared and people are jumping out of your way when you’re walking down the halls, those same people have stopped listening to you – and what you want them to do.

In 2010 I headed up a project to get 100% completion of signed employee performance reviews – done by paper for all global employees, all 8,000 of them. One hundred percent! And we achieved it – which didn’t seem like a jaw-dropping goal with our communications plan centering around, sending a total of three emails.

Can you even fathom a goal like this today? Hopefully you won’t still be using paper forms, so perhaps part of the process would be easier, but even so – the amount of effort it would take to get all of your employees, worldwide, to signed and “complete” their performance reviews (and then ensure that it was done), seems insurmountable. How many emails would need to be sent? How else can we “yell” at our employees to get them to take action? And so on

HR Actions are Based on… ?

If your employees are not following your directions or taking the actions you need them to take, it’s likely that you’ve been ignoring your employees for so long that you’ve become white noise. Your mandates and emails have started to be ignored because your requests seem… silly. Or wasteful of their time.

To your employees, their opinion of what you’re asking them to do year-after-year, is ridiculous – haven’t they already told you that during your last employee engagement survey? Instead, as HR professionals, we continue to tweak our activities or use our “gut” or “trends” to guide our approach.

Being reactive instead of proactive. It’s kinda our calling card.

And when you take action or make mandates from a place of being reactionary, your voice isn’t as powerful.

The same is true when you simply rinse-and-repeat what you’re doing, using SHRM’s “trends” to guide your department or your leader’s gut.

Being reactive instead of proactive. It’s kinda our #HR calling card. Click To Tweet

Driving Action

There are many ways to drive action in your employees – like a 1001 ways at a minimum. But instead of worrying about all of the ways in which this can be done, start with the easiest which is to use HR metrics and data to drive your decisions. Yes, I know – you’ve heard this before, but it’s always felt overwhelming or maybe you think metrics is only for your Recruiting needs or the executive dashboard.

Which are good uses for metrics. But definitely not the BIGGEST way you should be using them. Instead, listen to the data that your employees are already sharing with you – and create a plan around that.

Let’s use the performance management example from above. Instead of doing what you’ve always done or changing everything to be “on the cutting edge,” look at where your breakdown is.

What does your employees not listening to you LOOK like? How many reminder emails have you sent out? What’s your completion rate? Then compared by country / state / location / leader / department or whatever? Where are your words getting ignored?

Use the data right in front of you before you start talking about another #HR project #HRmetrics Click To Tweet

THESE are all data points also known as HR metrics. I know traditionally we think of metrics as more standardized comparisons like retention rates or percent engaged, etc. But that’s a fallacy. Metrics are using data to make a conclusion/interpretation about.

So use the data right in front of you before you start talking about another HR project. Understand what your employees think about the program (look at your various available touch-points for this); see how their actions or non-actions are patterned (is there a specific group, type of role, location, etc. that isn’t listening to you); and finally, evaluate what your employees taking action looks like. Not what you think it should be (goodbye days of 100% completion rates), but what is the number that is sustainable, realistic and critically important for the success of your COMPANY?

When you look at your HR activities through this lens, you’ll be able to make relevant and meaningful HR decisions – driving the right kinds of results across the board.