Making Metrics Matter

As it’s done the past few years, The Conference Board again held its Human Capital Metrics Conference in Manhattan during the first week of November, as marathon runners began to overtake the city in advance of the big race on Sunday.

Because of a conflict, I was only able to catch the tail end of the two-day conference, which attracted roughly 150 attendees. But judging from the feedback I heard and sessions I did sit in on, the conference (chaired by the measurement guru Jac Fitz-enz) offered some excellent insights and ideas on this increasingly important topic.

Certainly that was more than apparent during the conference’s concluding panel, moderated by Row Henson, HCM Fellow at Oracle and a regular presenter at our own HR Technology® Conference. The panelists didn’t agree on everything, but there was some consensus on the core competencies HR leaders need in order to have an impact on their businesses. In the words of one panelist, no competency matters more than understanding how your organizations—and their various operating groups—make money.

Brian Kelly, a partner at Mercer, pointed out that 75 percent of what companies measure are same. “So the key is what you are doing about the 25 percent that’s relevant to your organization?” he said. “That’s where your effort should be focused to maximize your return. That’s what your senior executives want to hear.”

HR leaders can’t say they’re “ ‘at the table’ if they’re not involved in setting the agenda for the meeting,” said Kelly, adding that the surest way to have an impact once you’re there is by “telling compelling stories” about issues that are “relevant”—and putting everything in “the context of how your business makes money.”

Lexy Martin, director of research and analytics at CedarCrestone, shared the results of her latest HR technology survey (which was first unveiled at the HR Technology® Conference in early October). Martin’s research found that companies that roll out technology capabilities—especially to managers—perform at a much higher level financially than those that don’t.

But that doesn’t mean HR leaders at companies with limited technology resources can’t make a difference.

Stacy Chapman, a senior fellow at the Conference Board, noted that “you have to play the cards you’ve been dealt.” Whether you’re technology rich or not, “find a business problem with those cards and solve it,” she said. “You can’t use the lack of technology as an excuse for not moving forward.”