Do Tough Times Require More Measures...Or Not?

Posted in : HR Updates on 24 July 2013
Stewart Miller
NGA Human Resources
Issues covered:

Stewart Miller writes:

This article poses the question ‘do tough times require more measures…or not?’ and looks at:

  • How to respond to tough times proactively
  • How the behavior of requesting or demanding more figures and reports, is simply, illogical.
  • The HR reporting side
  • How HR impact is crucial during an economic crisis

You can see and hear it all around and in almost every company: When the market situation is struggling during economic crises, such as the one we’re in at the moment, managers and executives require and demand more figures and measures. Details become highly important, and lower-level managers as well as IT departments and information managers find themselves processing one ad-hoc request after another. In HR, these kinds of requests are not uncommon. Sometimes, they’re even more prevalent than in other business processes, since HR analytics is less mature than, for example, finance analytics or logistics analytics.

It seems logical that when times get tough, you want to know exactly what’s going on and how to respond to it proactively. For the market, partner organisations, competitors, clients, employees and other stakeholders in and around an organisation, it’s not that easy spending large amounts on new projects, and there’s a need to rethink a couple of times before making any move at all. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that a company should follow a completely different path from what it has been taking. Sure, innovation and out-of-the-box tactics for sales and product or service development are great ideas. But haven’t they always been?

The behavior of requesting or demanding more figures and reports is, simply, illogical. Looking at the impact of these requests, managers themselves should realise they are causing more pain and problems to the business than needed. These new requests are often ad hoc and not structural; meaning, they need to be created anew by hand and Excel, as is often the case. This consumes so much time that should have been used instead for productive tasks. This is not to imply, though, that ad hoc questions and reports take less priority; on the contrary, they are completely understandable. But why should you request more of these during tougher times? This could indicate that the current (or former) reporting and analytics environment has not provided the right answers and insight managers need.

On the HR reporting side, tough times require insight on leavers and talent flows but of course, also on FTE and cost figures. Management starts looking into hire processes and minimising time to hire, illness rates and cost per employee. Processes are assessed for optimisation, and efficiency and effectiveness measures are brought to life. These refer not only to human capital figures like FTE count, headcount and illness rates, but also to HR function measures like time to hire, number of reports, number of figures, and IT alignment and automation.

Last, but really not least, are figures concerning HR impact that become more and more crucial during an economic crisis. HR impact is the level at which HR figures—but more importantly, HR processes and their results— support the organisation and its core business processes in realising the organisation’s overall vision, mission and strategy. Especially in people-driven businesses, HR impact is a subject of higher importance.

So, do tough times, like the current economic crisis, make a valid reason for demanding more figures and reports? The answer to this question has two sides, because a simple “no” is just too easy. Initially, the answer would be: No, during these times, there should be no demand for more figures, reports and measures, because these should already be available and in use within the company. If you are running a people business, it is assumed that the above-mentioned rates, scores and measures are already being reviewed during regular management meetings or business reviews.

But the second part of the answer is: In tough times, the true need for proper and aligned analytics and information management often becomes visible and urgent. So the conclusive answer, therefore, is this: The questions and requests for insight on numbers are totally understandable, but it is advisable to spend as much time as possible on setting up a formal structure for processing these, so that it will be available in the future.

This article is correct at 04/11/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Stewart Miller
NGA Human Resources

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