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).

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Six Human Capital Risks Your Board Needs to Know About


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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Sometimes it’s the little things


One of our focuses at McBassi is measuring an organization’s “leadership environment.”  Key elements of a good leader include central “boss” responsibilities like successfully eliminating barriers that make it difficult for his/her employees to get work done well.

But it’s important to keep the little things in mind as well.  A recent WSJ article describes five signs you’re a bad boss.  Among them?  One word emails and failure to talk to employee face-to-face.

Say it ain’t so


Here’s a juicy update from a reader (who, for reasons that will become obvious, prefers to remain anonymous).  He works for a struggling company, with an ogre of a CEO.  The CEO saw employees’ highly unfavorable ratings of him on, and instructed the IT department to turn over the names of any employee who had (unwisely) logged onto from their work computer, so that he could fire them. 

Not surprisingly, it turns out this did little to improve employees’ ratings of him, and even less to improve the performance of the company.

But there is still a valuable lesson here.  Be sure to log onto from your home computer!

What employees need from leaders


Leadership is a key pillar of organizational success – it’s one of the three “environments” that we capture in assessing organizations through the McBassi People Index®.

There’s a great post on the HBR blog by Cleve Stevens about the 4 needs that leaders must satisfy for their employees: the need to love and be loved, the need to grow, the need to contribute, and the need for meaning.

Stevens argues that meeting all of these needs through the employment relationship is not easy, but when it does happen, “people instinctively play a bigger game, and show up in a more passionate, creative, engaged, and effective way.”

And, of course, every organization could use more of that!