MCBASSI & COMPANY

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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The Smarter Annual Report

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McBassi & Creelman Lambert is pleased to announce the release of The Smarter Annual Report: How companies are integrating financial and human capital reporting, a report that provides guidance to companies on how to respond to the movement toward improved annual reporting to stakeholders.  The report focuses in particular on the provision of better human capital information.  [We thank Halogen Software, which sponsored the study.]

A receive a free copy of the report, please visit The Smarter Annual Report page of our website.

Here’s a quick primer on what’s been going on in this area:

What is happening?
There is a well-established global movement to improve annual reports to go beyond narrow financial reporting. The intent is to better convey how an organization creates value and meets the needs of varied stakeholders.

  • A core element is the integration of human capital and financial information in a single report.
  • Organizations are starting to grasp that ‘sustainability’ is about both long-term performance and contributing to the planet’s survival – and that people are a critical ingredient of both.

Who is behind this?

  • The big players pushing for smarter annual reports are the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) in the US and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) globally.
  • A well-established player in sustainability reporting is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Their focus is more on corporate responsibility than value creation; nonetheless they play an important role in defining the metrics inserted into smarter annual reports.
  • A variety of other bodies are actively supporting improved corporate reporting. For example, The B-Team is a group of socially-aware leaders pushing corporate responsibility with “True Accounting” being an explicit part of their mission.

Will anything come of this?

  • A sizeable number of large, international companies have followed IIRC guidelines for integrated reporting on a trial basis for three years.
  • Michael Bloomberg and Mary Schapiro are serving as the Chair and Vice Chair of SASB. People of this caliber have the power to drive change in the world.
  • An Association of Chartered Certified Accountants survey of 200 CFOs indicates that half of the firms surveyed anticipate adopting integrated reports within three years.
  • Bottom line? Yes, change is coming.

HR’s opportunity & challenge

  • Human capital reporting offers great opportunities for the HR function to contribute by playing a core role in shaping the organization’s value creation narrative, and in developing better teamwork across functional boundaries.
  • HR may remain a bit player in the corporate reporting process, however, if it is unprepared, with little knowledge of the various emerging standards.  HR information systems and analytics must be integrated and able to demonstrate the cause and effect between human capital investment and business results. Otherwise, HR is unlikely to be able to contribute to — and benefit from — the changing world of corporate reporting.

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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!

An Analytics-Enhanced Employee Survey

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Welcome back (at least to those of you in the northern hemisphere) to the new, even-more-frenzied, post-summer work reality!

For those of you beginning to be immersed in 2015 planning and budgeting, we’d like to offer some thoughts on how to get more bang for your buck from your next employee engagement survey.  In one sentence: you should use it as cornerstone for a strategic, analytics-enhanced HR measurement strategy.

When employee engagement data is properly designed and cleverly analyzed, it is an enormously powerful foundation for creating actionable, fact-based insights to drive better business results.  It is the single most important source of data enabling you to move beyond “descriptive” HR metrics to “predictive” human capital analytics.  By identifying the human drivers (and impediments) of business results, these analytics insights provide a strong evidence base both for guiding HR investments and documenting their impact.

Through linkage analysis – the mapping of employee engagement to important business outcomes­ – it is possible to develop insights into the HR strategies that will have the greatest positive impact on your organization’s greatest challenges, such as the following:

  • Revenues
  • Cost containment
  • Profitability
  • Customer service issues
  • Productivity
  • Safety
  • Managerial effectiveness
  • Training effectiveness
  • Employee engagement
  • Absenteeism
  • Regretted turnover

The bottom line – an analytics-enhanced employee survey is a far better investment than the traditional, HR check-the-box employee engagement survey!

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Where Does Human Capital Fit in the Sustainability Agenda?

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My new article in the May 2014 issue of the Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking explores new research (with David Creelman and Andrew Lambert) on the progress some companies are making in reporting human capital metrics in their integrated reports.

While encouraging that a growing number of firms are beginning to disclose more information on elements of human capital, it’s clear that most of the disclosures still fall short of providing a comprehensive look at what’s creating or destroying value on the people side of the business.  Indeed, many key human capital measures known to predict future performance (employee engagement, training investments, internal promotion rates) are being reported by less than half of even those companies integrating financial and human capital reporting.

I propose a framework that CEOs and Boards of Directors can use for two purposes:

  • To measure and manage six key elements of human capital risk
  • To serve as a foundation for communicating more effectively with investors

Curious?  Check out the article for full details.

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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!

Six Human Capital Risks Your Board Needs to Know About

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Boards of directors have a fiduciary responsibility to manage risk.  Although there is no shortage of risk on the “people side” of most businesses, it is rare for boards of directors to have the right information to prudently manage these risks.

Part of the problem is that boards tend to focus too heavily on executive talent and too little on employees below the executive level.  But another part of the problem is that HR often fails to provide a coherent view of what creates, limits, or destroys value on the people side of the business.

The figure below, originally proposed by Jim Marchiori (Executive Director, University of Colorado Global Energy Management Program), presents a risk-based “people management framework.”  It can be used both for helping boards to ask better “human capital questions” and for improving HR reporting to the board.

  

Some questions to bring this perspective to life include:

1.  Capability Risk:  Do our people have the knowledge, skills, resources, and business processes that will enable them to perform effectively?
2.  Alignment Risk:  Do our people really understand our business strategy and goals?  Do they perform their day-to-day jobs in alignment with those goals?
3.  Availability Risk:  Are we finding and acquiring the right people?
4.  Turnover/Demographic Risk:  Are we retaining key people?  Do we have a pipeline sufficient to replace departing employees?
5.  Engagement Risk:  Do our people go the extra mile?  Does this show through to our customers?
6.  Leadership Risk:  What is the risk that any initiative will fail because we don’t have the leadership depth or quality needed?

These are the sorts of questions you should be building into your organization’s HR analytics strategy, including a process for regularly updating your board of directors on high-level metrics, trends, and predictive analytics.

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How Does Your Organization Stack Up?

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As we’ve mentioned before in this space, people are one of the few remaining sources of long-run competitive advantage; in the short run, however, they are a cost.

To grow and profit, companies must manage this unavoidable tension with awareness and insight.  Increasingly it is the ability to do so (superior “human capital management”) that is sorting out the economic winners from the losers.

This reality is, in turn, elevating the role of the HR function. Those HR professionals who can provide the intelligent analysis on which superior human capital management depends will be the winners within their field.

We’ve spoken to lots of HR professionals who want to get there but aren’t sure where to begin.  With that in mind, we’ve added a new section to our website, containing quick (and free!) interactive self assessments you or your colleagues can use to get a snapshot of the state of your company’s current employee survey, its current analytics capacity, and more.  We’ll be continuing to expand the number of assessments in this section in the months ahead.

Deploying HR Analytics with actionable employee surveys greatly increases the possibility of achieving what we at McBassi refer to as “all-win” solutions.  Analytics helps companies operate in the “sweet spot” – the intersection of sustainably profitable and enlightened management of people.  We work to help HR professionals build exceptionally successful organizations worthy of the best efforts of their people.

That is why we are so passionate about this field.

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Webinar on employee surveys and big data

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I’ll be joining forces with KnowledgeAdvisors for a terrific new webinar, “Employee Surveys and Big Data: Gaining Crucial Business Insights from Your Workforce,” on Thursday, April 11, 2013, at 11:00 am.

I’ll share what I’ve learned about using employee surveys and predictive analytics to understand employee culture and drive better business results.

Join us and come away with insight into getting started, best practices and pitfalls to avoid!

Register here: http://ow.ly/jkcRT

5 HR Analytics Mistakes to Avoid

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No matter what name you prefer – HR analytics, HC analytics, or talent analytics – more and more organizations are getting serious about applying analytics to the people side of the business.

Our work with clients over the past decade has taught us that analytics can be enormously powerful, but there are also many pitfalls to avoid along the path to becoming a more analytically-capable organization.

Here are some of the major missteps to avoid:

1.  Using analytics to “prove the worth of HR” – this may well be a byproduct of your efforts, but it should never be its primary purpose.  (If it is, you’ll lose your credibility.)

2.  Assigning responsibilities for analytics to a lower-level technician.   In order for the power of analytics to be realized, it must have executive-level support.  Otherwise, it will degenerate just into another pile of reports.

3.  Believing benchmarking is the same thing as analytics.  For most people-related issues, the actionable insight you gain from analytics completely eliminates any need for generic one-size-fits-all benchmarking.

4.  Confusing data dumps with actual insights.  While the process of analytics can involve lots of data, the reporting of results should not.  Reports should focus clearly on the major findings and implications, with supporting tables confined to an appendix.  No one wants to wade through dozens (or hundreds) of data tables trying to figure out what they all mean.

5.  Allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good.  We have not yet worked with a client whose data is perfect.  But using the lack of perfection as an excuse for inaction ensures that your HR function will fall behind in analytics.  And analytics is one of the most important developments the profession has seen in the past few decades.

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