Sunday, October 25, 2009

Do we really need more bar charts and pie charts?

The world of HR has evolved to the point where we now have dashboards, surveys, data from sophisticated IT systems on our people, and even linkage research showing how all the data can mix together. We have many many bar charts, pie charts, and line charts. They sometimes are all nicely placed on dashboards, and some even have benchmark data.

But the question I have for anyone reading this is:

What are you doing with all that data?

It seems that we are so happy to finally have HR data, that we may have gotten data greedy at the expense of action and results.

Data alone cannot drive action. Think about how we use financial data, sales data, and production data. We don't send piles of data to people and ask them to act. We review data in discussions, meetings and in sometimes heated confrontations. Data sparks discussions, and it is the data and dialogue that drive action, which ultimately impacts results.

The challenge for HR is not what new data to collect; the critical measure of success is and will be using the right data to drive the right dialogues. The skills associated with that process, however, seem to be new in our field. Therefore, in response to this need for skill building, we are working on a program to certify HR, OD, communications professionals and consultants as Data Coaches. This learning opportunity focuses on helping people in the 'people management' fields learn how to coach managers to use people data to drive action and results. This initiative is being run out of the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business, USC. We are doing custom programs, and our first public program is in March, 2010.

I'd like to get your feedback on what the ideal content would be for this program.

To non-HR leaders reading this blog - what do you think your HR, OD, and other professionals in this field need to be skilled up in to help you better use the right HR data to drive your business goals?

To HR professionals, what do you want to learn? What skill do you think is missing? What would you want to get out of a program that focused on data coaching?

Keep in mind this is not statistics 101, 201 or even 701. Our focus is on using data to tell stories that drive conversation. It's not about what's statistically significant but perhaps what is practically significant.

I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Two new things in the world of employee engagement

There are two new things in the world of employee engagement explored in the article available via this link.

Click here to get white paper.

New thing #1: The conditions under which employee engagement does good

Employee engagement may not be good for all employees. We find this when we begin to examine interaction effects on traditional employee engagement surveys. Interaction effects basically explore the "conditions under which" something goes up or down. When applied to employee engagement, the interaction effect that I found in over 20 years of research is that for high sense of urgency (high energy) employees, raising traditional employee engagement scores has a positive effect on their performance.

You can lower employee performance for some subgroups when you raise employee engagement survey scores

This research was done over long periods of time, measuring performance at time 1 and time 2, and assessing urgency and energy scores for multiple time periods. The findings also show that for low energy or low sense of urgency subgroups of employees, raising scores on traditional employee engagement items actually lowers their performance. This is because all people are not equal, and engagement is not as simple as it sounds. This type of learning via research happens in all the fields of behavioral science we explore. We start out with a simple equation (engagement is good), then we do more research and find out it's a bit more complicated than that - because humans are not so predictable after all.

New thing #2: Real-time benchmarking

The second new thing that is new for employee engagement is an effort to change the way we do benchmarking. The traditional method is backwards looking. Let's take an example. What do you think about this scenario?

You are meeting with your board of directors to review stock price performance. Your contribution is to take the stock price of your firm for today and compare it to the average stock price of your competitors for the last five years. What do you think the response would be?

Your board would think you were out of your mind; this is a backwards-looking analysis. However, that type of work is exactly what we do with employee survey benchmarking. It may not be 5 years, but in most cases, the benchmarking comparison is between 1 to 5 years of data. We compare our current data to an average of old data.

We are doing backwards strategizing

In today's fast-paced world, this is not acceptable. Therefore, in an effort to try something new, my team is running the first (that we know of) real-time employee engagement benchmarking surveys with questions that uncover the interaction effect that I noted earlier.

Let's try real-time benchmarking instead

More information on this initiative is available at the link below. You can participate if you have a minimum of 5 people in a team and we can include large, global organizations. There is a fee for this work as the project is not funded; however, because of the newness of the idea, we are charging for services only (no technology fee as eePulse has donated the technology for this work). We picked one launch date to assure the real-time output, and then we are lowering costs by having all follow the same project plan, attend webinars for training and more. In other words, real time is not only new; it's less expensive.

First real-time employee engagement survey

Launch is November 12th, 2009.

Hope to see you there.

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