Applying HR Analytics to Leadership Development


HR analytics has wide applicability to a broad spectrum of people-related issues within organizations.  Within the HR universe, analytic methods are most typically applied to identifying factors that drive employee engagement or employee turnover.

There are many other applications as well that are far less commonly used.  This month we’ll explore the use of analytics in leadership development, a common (and often quite expensive) investment organizations regularly make in key employees.  Nonetheless, we’ve found that most organizations know very little about the impact or effectiveness of those investments.

We have four key lessons about how to apply analytics to better understand – and improve – an organization’s return on its leadership development:

  1. Make sure the leadership competencies in which you’re investing are, in fact, the ones that will drive better organizational performance.  Rather than investing in generic, one-size-fits-all competencies from external vendors, consider creating your own competencies, so you can develop leaders with the characteristics to be successful in your organization.
  2. Tap the wisdom of your workforce to determine what leadership development has actually occurred.  Ask the people who see your leaders in action every day: your employees!  How?  Ensure that detailed leadership questions are included in your employee surveys and/or 180-degree (or 360-degree) feedback assessments.  This will make it possible to properly evaluate and improve your leadership development initiatives.
  3. Link together key (and disparate) pieces of data to yield actionable insights for improving the return on your leadership development investment.  Look at the relationship between various leadership characteristics and competencies and your organization’s outcomes.  See which ones are most closely associated with more successful outcomes, and focus on those in the future.
  4. We’ve said it before, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!  You won’t accomplish all of the above right away – it will take some time and some hard work.  But that’s not a reason not to get started.  Even the most basic early insights can be powerful catalysts for change – and your insights will only improve with more time (and more data).

(This post was sent this month via email to our monthly newsletter subscribers.  Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)

How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey: Part 3

Insightful Reporting

A well-designed and cleverly analyzed survey is an essential foundation for any organization serious about using HR analytics to create actionable business intelligence.  [See our August newsletter and September newsletter for “how-to” check-lists.]

But the survey isn’t enough!  You also need to work to make it easy for busy leaders and managers to understand the results – especially the specific actions your survey indicates will drive both improved employee engagement and better business results.  Make sure leaders don’t have to sort through piles of data and graphics to figure it out (or worse yet, to guess).

We’ve identified 5 principles to help ensure the reporting of your survey results will serve as a positive catalyst for change in your organization.

1.  Focus on quality of insight, rather than quantity of data.  This is the “art” of analytics that makes the “science” understandable, compelling, and actionable.

2.  Avoid focusing too much attention on rankings of highest- and lowest-scoring survey items.  Instead, report findings from the statistical analysis that links employee survey questions to both business outcomes and employee engagement.

3.  Create highly visual, analytics-enhanced, mass-customized reports for managers pointing them to the most important actions they need to take, based on the specific results for their group.

4.  Put detailed data tabulations in a well-organized appendix (avoid indecipherable data dumps).

5.  Use a succinct, well-written narrative to “tell the story.”

(This post was sent this month via email to our monthly newsletter subscribers.  Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)

How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey: Part 2


Cleverly Analyzing Your Survey Data

Any employee engagement survey should help your organization drive better business results through more effective management of its employees.  When done properly, an engagement survey helps your organization operate in “the sweet spot” – the intersection of enlightened and sustainably profitable management of people.

Employee engagement surveys often fall far short of this potential because data from surveys is not properly analyzed, and the resultant report therefore has little impact.

There are three steps you must take to ensure that your employee engagement survey has maximum positive impact:

Part 1 – Ask the right questions (see our August newsletter)
Part 2 – Analyze the data cleverly (see the guiding principles outlined below)
Part 3 – Create insightful reports (coming up in next month’s newsletter)

The five principles that should guide your analysis of employee survey data are listed below.

1.  Design your analysis to identify statistically the most important drivers of your organization’s employee engagement and ability to achieve its business goals.  The analysis needs to go far beyond benchmarking and measuring high and low scores.

2.  Use correlation analysis as a primary tool for identifying the drivers of each of the outcomes questions separately.  (Click here for a discussion of diagnostic vs. outcome questions.)

3.  Systematically combine the findings from the correlation analyses with measures of organizational strength and weakness on each of your survey’s diagnostic questions to create a rank ordering of areas of opportunity.

4.  Simultaneously examine the rank ordering of areas of opportunity for each business outcome to create a “short list” of the most important areas of opportunity.

5.  Use that short list to create fact-based, directional recommendations.

(This post was sent this month via email to our monthly newsletter subscribers.  Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)

How To Get More Value Out Of Your Employee Engagement Survey: Part 1


Ask The Right Questions!

Employee engagement surveys are a potentially enormously valuable source of actionable insights about how to improve employee engagement and business results. This potential, however, too often goes unrealized, because many HR departments are stuck in out-of-date ways of thinking about what engagement surveys can and should do for their organization.

In the end, getting more value out of engagement surveys also requires clever analysis of your survey results and compelling reporting on the findings (topics we will cover in subsequent newsletters).

But first, you’ve got to start by asking the right questions!

There are four points to keep front and center in the design of your employee survey:

  1. Your survey “real estate” is a valuable commodity – so use it wisely. You’ll get more responses and more accurate answers when you keep your surveys fairly short.
  1. You should ask questions that fall into two different broad categories: outcomes and diagnostic items.
  1. The outcomes questions should be carefully chosen, small in number, and focused on your organization’s key business goals. These include, but should also go beyond, employee engagement.
  1. The vast majority of your survey real estate should be devoted to diagnostic questions, because that is where the actionable insights will be found. Diagnostic items are designed to get employees’ assessments on a wide range of workplace elements that might be helping to drive (or impede) key outcomes.

And how do you find out which diagnostic items are the ones driving the outcomes?  Stay tuned – that’s a topic for next month’s newsletter!

(This post was sent this month via email to our monthly newsletter subscribers.  Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)

How Investors Rank Companies


Bottom line
How investors “grade” a company is almost identical to how the company’s employees grade it.


  • In a world of increasing transparency, where employees’ ratings of their employers are easily made public (see, for example,, shareholders’ interests are increasingly aligned with employees’.
  • Investor relations departments need to be paying more attention to what their company’s HR department is doing, and how that is being communicated to external stakeholders.

The Evidence
Over the past few years, we have been collecting data on how both employees and investors rate companies on 12 attributes measuring company actions and attitudes in three domains: Employers, Sellers, and Stewards (of the community and environment).  For example, one of the attributes measured in the Employer category was whether the well-being of employees was of great importance to the organization being rated.

After assessing each of the 12 attributes, the raters were asked to assign an overall Good Company grade from “A” to “F” to the company they were rating.  We then used combined data from all respondents to analyze statistically the relationship between each separate attribute and the overall company grade.  This made it possible to determine which attributes were, on average, of greater or lesser importance in shaping a respondent’s overall assessment of a company.

Our analysis found the relative importance assigned to the various attributes is virtually identical between investors and employees.  Items in the Employer domain are overwhelmingly the most important for both groups.  For both groups, all four Employer attributes are among the raters’ five most important attributes.

(This post was sent this month via email to our monthly newsletter subscribers.  Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)