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This is part three of our HR Metrics: Where to Start series. You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

HR Business Partner Metrics – Continued

In part 2 of this series, we outlined the four metrics, at a minimum, HR Business Partners should be tracking:

  1. HR-Related Goals (and brownie points if you track towards company-wide goals)
  2. Retention rates for your areas of support
  3. Employee Engagement – scores and activities
  4. Breakdown or inventory of your strategic initiatives

We covered the first two metrics already, now on to the final two metrics.

Employee Engagement – Scores and Activities

Employee engagement is likely a metric you are already tracking on an annual basis – having employees participate in a survey once a year, review the results generated by the third party vendor you’ve hired to manage the survey and then… freak out that the results are what they are!

The thing with employee engagement metrics is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all method of creating or measuring them – there are many ways to achieve information and measure progress. But if you’re simply reviewing the metrics that are generated through the survey vendor and trying to increase engagement from there, you’re missing the story behind engagement… and why you haven’t been able to dramatically move the needle.

For this metric to truly have value in the new world of HR, you need to tell the story behind the measurement in your tracking and evaluation. The scores are only one point of information. From there, you need to pull out the “meat and potatoes” from the information. Here are some ideas to get you started.

First, understand what your company’s actual engagement measurement is – and why it’s important for your organization. Using the standardized norm that is the default for most vendors (comparing against industry or overall clients, etc.) is likely not at all applicable to your organization or your population. Instead, determine the top three to five areas that your organization deems as necessary to meet the business objectives, and focus on them.

When reviewing the questions prior to the survey – do they all add to the story you need to tell? Do they all support the three to five main objectives you’re seeking? If not, drop them – don’t have anything included in the survey that is superfluous.

Once you get the results, dig deeper. This is the hard part – as it’s so much easier to simply run with the results you’ve been given.

But dig. What are the outliers and WHY are they outliers? What impact do the outliers have on the overall organization? What trends are you seeing with the other HR-related metrics, in correlation with the engagement metrics?

Remember, the goal of these metrics is to show the business your “HR worth.” So why do they care about the various measurements?

Let’s say, for example, you’re asking questions to see if employees’ have the tools and resources they need to do their job. I’d start by asking, “Why is this measurement important for our organization?”

  • Are our budgets tight enough that we have to make difficult decisions on availability of tools and resources?
  • And conversely, do we even have a budget to improve this if it’s low?
  • Are we not doing a good job at managing our budget in this area?
  • Do we have a lot of turnover in more technical areas or another such area where specific tools/resources are needed?
  • Is our technology a hindrance to the productivity of the organization?
  • Do we have a high number of employee performance issues, based on not being able to do their job?

There are so many other possible reasons why this measurement would be important for an organization… or why it wouldn’t be. It’s important for you to ask these questions (ideally before the survey is taken) and fully understand the tieback to the organization so you can present the results appropriately and make the correct steps to improve the numbers.

And here’s how to put the metrics in place, using the example above. If I want to know that employees’ have the tools and resources they need to do their job because we have a high number of turnover in our technical engineering department, I’d create the following metrics:

  • Metric 1: Overall “engaged” based on the survey vendor
  • Metric 2: Breakdown of engaged/satisfied, specifically in the technical engineering department (and compare that to other departments less-technical in nature across the organization)
  • Metric 3: Budget spent on tools on resources for the technical engineering department last year (and compare to other departments if applicable)
  • Metric 4: Where the gaps are and budget spend suggested

Your action to improve engagement in this area then becomes easy and measureable. The leader for the technical engineering department (and HR as applicable), could hold small group sessions to see what resources/tools are missing – and then determine where to invest the budget, to increase this result.

It’s still not an instant result, there isn’t such thing in an engagement survey, but this will help you connect the softer measurement into something more quantitative and measureable for the following year.

This process can be repeated for all of your areas of concentration – making engagement surveys the beginning of the conversation, not the only piece.

Breakdown or Inventory of Your Strategic Initiatives

In HR, so much of our time can be spent doing tactical implementation, that strategic initiatives are sometimes left by the wayside or only focused on by the very senior leaders. As an HR business partner, being a strategic partner is critical in the organization’s overall success.

To help you do this, you need to show the measurement behind the strategy – which can be difficult. Tactical daily items are so much easier to measure on the surface.

Looking at your HR strategy for the year, if your department doesn’t have a strategy – use the organization’s strategy, determine how you will actually achieve those initiatives. The strategy is the 30k foot view, but what actions do you need to take to accomplish the high-level view?

Those are the items you need to create metrics for and track.

Likely, your daily activities and goals roll up into the strategy – and if that’s the case, you’d simply track your progress towards achievement (which you are likely already doing). But if your goals are not designed in that way, you’ll need to put metrics that help support the higher goals.

Essentially, you start with the strategy and then cascade the achievement down until you have SMART goals – creating metrics you can track towards.

For example, if your HR department wants HR business partner’s to be “more strategic partners,” you’ll need to create the tactical elements that will help you achieve that. Looking at your typical annual HR calendar, perhaps that means conducting two Talent Management Review sessions during the year; creating metrics around Employee Relations cases/issues; delivering management training to leaders who need it; and so on.

It will vary for you on an annual basis, but your metrics will measure the activities in your daily HR practice that lead towards results with the strategy.

Final Thoughts

These are four metrics, but you can see how each measurement may have additional metrics you can create to show the real story behind the numbers. They provide you with the quantitative measurements to help you move HR from being “paper pushers” into strategic partners, constantly delivering value at the table.