MCBASSI & COMPANY

Using Analytics to Create a Bridge Between HR & Finance

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In many companies, the relationship between HR and Finance ranges from uneasy to downright unpleasant. Given Finance’s ability to veto its initiatives, it is easy for HR to come to think of Finance as the arch-enemy.

If you are in HR and this sounds even vaguely familiar, we invite you to a webinar co-presented by McBassi CEO Laurie Bassi later this week.  The webinar (Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 12:00 noon EDT) is being put on by Financial Executives International (FEI).

Entitled “Balancing Effective People Management and Profitable People Management,” the webinar focuses on how CFOs and HR are partnering to drive a more profitable and strategic business.  Click here for more details and registration information.

Laurie will be discussing how to use analytics to bridge the HR/Finance gap by doing the following:

  • Focusing on measuring the “human drivers” of value creation (not just employee engagement)
  • Linking “people data” to business data
  • Creating the “right” human capital metrics/indices for tracking & reporting
  • Building these metrics into the performance management & compensation systems

There’s a lot of wisdom in the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”  Analytics is the language of finance.  And increasingly, it is becoming the second language of HR.

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How to Grow Your HR Analytics Budget

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If you’re like many HR professionals, you share two characteristics:
  • You know you should be making more progress on HR analytics
  • You also don’t know where to get the money to do it

And yet, some organizations – admittedly a minority – report that they have sufficient HR analytics budgets.

So we set out to determine what distinguishes those HR functions that report having an ample budget for analytics.  To answer this question we analyzed McBassi’s HR analytics maturity benchmarking database. (If you would like a free customized benchmarking report on how your company’s current HR analytics maturity stacks up, click here.)

Our analysis showed that the following attributes distinguish HR functions that have a sufficient HR analytics budget from those that don’t:

1.  They have a strategy in place ensuring that their HR analytics initiatives are aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives.

2.  They get the basics right. They have reports/dashboards making it possible to determine whether goals are being met for each of HR’s key responsibilities (recruiting and selection, training and development, compensation and benefits, retention and promotion).

3. They have developed the capacity to link together disparate pieces of information on people and business outcomes to produce actionable, executive-level insights.

Now we know what you may be thinking – “We can’t possibly do these things because we don’t have the budget to get them done.” Classic chicken-and-egg problem. But what we’ve learned is that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a good, running start at each of these issues. It does take being clever and resourceful – and committed.

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How to Become Better at HR Analytics

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In many HR departments, the heat is on – or soon will be.

Senior executives are increasingly demanding that HR provide actionable insights for driving better business results through targeted improvements in the management and development of people.

The insights that are now increasingly expected from HR go far beyond traditional HR reporting on headcount, time-to-fill vacancies, and employee engagement benchmarking.  Instead, there is a growing demand that HR provide analysis about how to cost-effectively improve outcomes such as the following:

  • Sales productivity
  • Customer service
  • Managerial effectiveness
  • Employee well-being
  • Workforce diversity and inclusion

It’s clear: the bar is being raised quickly.  So how do you get from where you are currently to where you need to be?

In the end, advanced HR analytics capabilities can’t just be parachuted into your organization – you have to build it through the following steps:

1.  Create organizational and broad-based executive support by beginning to produce insightful, succinct reports and analyses.  Ensure they’re presented from an executive’s perspective – not HR’s.

2.  Develop an analytics strategy that’s aligned with your organization’s overall business strategy.  This should lead to the production of business intelligence and actionable insights that help leaders at all levels in your organization drive better business results through focused, targeted and achievable improvements in the management and development of people.

3.  Grow the size and skills of your analytics staff within HR (or find a trusted external analytics consultant).  Don’t focus exclusively on technical skills.  The business acumen, collaboration, consulting and presentation skills of your analysts (and HR generalists!) are all critical elements as well.

4.  Expand the scope of your HR analytics initiatives to encompass all of the essential aspects of people management and development.  This includes the following:

  • Recruiting and onboarding
  • Learning and development
  • Performance and career management
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Engagement and retention

Where to start?  If you’re like most HR departments, you have limited resources, but your executives have high expectations.  So you need a plan that enables you to focus on the right things and to get them done in the right order.  And that, of course, will be shaped by your organization’s current HR analytics capability.

So we’ve designed a quick (and free!) online assessment tool to objectively measure your current level of HR analytics maturity along with recommendations on the most important areas for focus in light of your relative strengths and weaknesses.  The assessment takes fewer than 10 minutes to complete, so why not give it a try right now? Click here to begin the analytics self-assessment.

We hope you find it useful.  And if you’d like to have a quick call to discuss your assessment and feedback and think through next steps, don’t hesitate to be in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!

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Why HR Analytics? A Look at the Numbers

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There’s a lot of buzz around HR analytics.  Advances in software, newly-available data sources, and how-to manuals have made it easier than ever to dive right into HR analytics.

This month, we thought we’d take a step back and ask “Why?”  Why should organizations care about this?  Why should executives be devoting more time to people matters than they’ve ever done before?  And why should HR professionals be learning the necessary new analytic skills?  Looking at a few numbers helps to answer those questions.

Let’s start with intangibles – organizational assets that are not physical in nature.  Intangibles include intellectual property, knowledge, reputation, etc.  These sorts of assets represent an ever-growing percentage of the average organization’s market value, increasing dramatically from 9 percent of market value in 1980 to 65 percent today.

And what do all forms of intangibles have in common?  They’re created by people.  A few decades ago, if you wanted to increase your company’s value, you focused on managing your physical assets – plants, equipment, etc.  Today, if you want to increase value, you need to manage your people – your human capital.

This, more than anything else, explains why analytics is now an essential HR competence.  Executives and boards of directors are always focused on company value.  Today, that means they need to be focused on their people.

Some companies recognized this earlier than others, and some companies have done a better job managing their people.  How have those companies fared?

Extraordinarily well.

A Boston Consulting Group study from 2012 found that companies appearing on the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list at least three times in a ten-year period cumulatively outperformed the market by an average of over seven percentage points per year for ten straight years.

And our own live portfolios, through which we’ve invested in a basket of companies that invest in their employees and/or embrace Good Company principles, have outperformed the market by an average of almost eight percentage points per year for twelve years running.

All told, the numbers certainly support the world’s current fascination with HR analytics – and suggest that focus will continue to intensify in the years to come.  Are you on board?

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4 Axioms of HR Analytics

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HR analytics is a hot topic these days.  With new conferences, books, and software emerging at a dizzying pace, it’s easy to feel like you’re scrambling not to fall behind.  And with all the hype, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important in this realm.  What can HR analytics really do for your organization, and what traps do you need to avoid?

Here are McBassi’s 4 axioms of HR analytics:

1.  HR analytics is more than predicting turnover.

Multiple times, we’ve asked for a show of hands at conferences on who’s using HR analytics in their organization.  Many hands always go up.  Then we ask who’s using it for something other than analyzing and predicting turnover.  Almost all the hands go down.

Don’t get us wrong — predicting turnover is a worthy goal and a fantastic use of the principles and tools of HR analytics.  But it’s far from the only thing to look at.  Try using the same concepts to assess differences in sales across offices, or safety records across plants, or how to identify key issues to address after a merger/acquisition, or how to report to the board of directors.  The list goes on and on.

2. The importance of a problem is inversely related to the sophistication of the statistics available.

Sad but true: multivariate regressions, factor analysis, simultaneous equations, complex neural networks – all impressive quantitative techniques, but rarely the right tools to answer the most important questions facing a business. For example, what do we need to do to become more innovative?  How can we increase sales?  What would make our stock price grow sustainably faster than our competitors’?

The problem is that the most sophisticated statistical methods also need lots of comparable units for analysis.  They might work well if you have the necessary data on a million consumers or a thousand plant locations, but they’re much less likely to work on big questions, where the data’s usually a lot more limited.  But other, more basic, methods can still provide key insights.  Don’t shy away from comparison of means or correlations just because other methods look more impressive.

3. Risk sells better than value creation.

HR analytics can provide key insights into both risk and value creation in your organization.  But which one is much more likely to get the attention of your executives?  Risk.  Executives are keenly aware of the multiple types of risk faced by your organization, and anything that can help them quantify it – especially in a not-typically-quantified area like your organization’s people – is going to be welcomed enthusiastically.

4. Don’t forget about the forest.

Data analysts are masterful at drilling into big data sets and identifying all sorts of relationships and other interesting findings.  But that should be just the start.  More important is the next step: sorting through all those findings to determine what’s really going on.  What’s the big picture or pattern that emerges from all of these smaller pieces?  Remember that’s what your ultimate goal is, and don’t let yourself miss the forest because you’re distracted by all the interesting trees.

 

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3 Mantras for the New Year

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Happy New Year!  We hope it’s off to a good start for you.

Do you live in the world of big data and analytics?  Or are you fascinated or even mystified by the current buzz around these topics?  If so, we’d like to share three mantras we use at McBassi to guide our work in those areas:

  1. My 15-minute Board of Directors report should be filled with insights worthy of their attention.
  2. It is much more important to be helpful than it is to be smart.
  3. Let not the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Mantra #1 elicits a variety of reactions from our clients, ranging from “Geez, if I had 15 minutes in front of my company’s Board and had to fill it with insights worthy of their attention, I’d be in deep kimchi” to “We’ve got no discretion: the Board tells us what to report to them.”  Whatever your particular reaction, repeating this mantra frequently will help you focus on creating actionable business intelligence in your work (as opposed to mountains of electronic reports).

Mantra #2 is important because many people who work in this field tend to be really smart – but some of them seem to suffer from the need to prove it again and again.  This can result in impenetrable presentations that are impressively grandiose – yet also ignored.

Mantra #3 is for those who are waiting for their company’s data warehouse to be completed (or perfected) or for a technology tool that will magically produce insight at the press of the button.  That’s not going to happen – so stop waiting and start working with what you’ve currently got available.

Repeat daily for best results.

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The Smarter Annual Report: Part 2

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There is a movement underway to improve annual reporting to stakeholders, and in particular the provision of better human capital information.  (See our November newsletter for a discussion of what’s happening and who’s behind it.  You can download a copy of The Smarter Annual Report here.)

While this development represents a major opportunity for HR, it also creates a danger that HR will be unprepared and have nothing to contribute except a long list of unrelated human capital metrics that don’t tell a coherent story.

We propose a simple model that helps give structure to the story of the role human capital plays in mitigating risk and creating value for an organization:


Steps You Can Take

To benefit from – and avoid being blindsided by – the emerging demands for insightful human capital reporting, you can begin with the following steps:

  • Assemble the right team to work on the report, reflecting different types of performance (non-financial as well as financial); in particular, the CHRO should be involved.
  • Create a rough narrative about how the organization creates value. This can include a strategy map, list of key strategic issues, list of key risks, materiality map, or some combination thereof. The point is to develop the narrative before presenting metrics.
  • Let the value creation narrative guide your selection of which factors to focus on. Be sure to always combine evidence (such as metrics) with insight (“this is what the evidence indicates”).
  • Include the standard metrics that are expected (e.g. by GRI) even if they are not part of the core narrative. (For these it is not essential to interpret the data.)
  • As you move forward, be realistic about whether the metrics you want are available.
  • Work to improve your internal human capital reporting in anticipation of increasing pressure to improve your external reporting.
  • Have a candid discussion on how you will handle bad news, such as falling scores on an important metric.

 

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Strategic People Measurement

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As the importance of human capital management continues to grow as a differentiator between high and low performing firms, there is both the opportunity and necessity for the HR function to become more strategic.

The process of becoming more strategic requires asking better questions, deploying clever analytics, and just as important, being able to articulate how HR creates value.  The graphic below is the framework we use to help guide HR functions as they seek to become more strategic.

While the specifics, of course, vary from firm to firm, the framework is sufficiently general to serve as a powerful foundation and starting point, no matter what your firm’s size or industry.

So what do you think?  Is this a framework that could work for your firm?  Let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

A Smarter Annual Report webinar

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Join us on May 29, 2014, at 12:00 noon EDT for a webinar on “A Smarter Annual Report — how companies are integrating financial and human capital reporting.”

To register for the webinar, simply click here.

We hope to see you there!

Thinking like an Investor

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Ask yourself these questions.  Start with “If I were a long-term investor considering making an investment in the company where I currently work…”

1.  In what areas would I want the company to invest more (time, money, and leadership focus)?

2.  What would I want the company to stop doing?

3.  What aspects of the company’s culture would I consider most important to preserve?

4.  What aspects of the company’s culture would I consider most important to change?

5.  Would I want more (or fewer) employees to spend their time doing what I do?

Since the vast majority of wealth is now created through intangible assets – all of which ultimately emanate from human capital – these questions are particularly important for professionals working in HR, organizational development, and learning.

Can you answer all of those?  Our hats are off to you if have the evidence necessary to confidently answer each of them.  On the other hand, if you’re worried you don’t have a strong evidence base for answering these questions, that’s cause for concern.  It reflects a likely lack of clarity and effectiveness in your company’s HR strategy – and could also mean you should think hard about your own career prospects in an organization like that.

One of our key themes this year is the tremendous power in simply asking better questions (and, of course, being able to answer them).  Asking the questions that investors would ask of you if they were given the chance is a very powerful strategy for guiding HR investments.

At its heart, this is what advances in HR analytics can help you accomplish – asking and answering better, more insightful, more important questions.  And remember – since the time and energy you spend working means that you ARE an investor in whatever company you choose to be your employer, these questions can also help guide you in major career decisions.

 

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