No One Cares About Your Lame Data

So you work for an organization that has drank the proverbial recruiting and sourcing kool-aide and they beat the drum of measurement. Now you are tasked to start measuring recruiting effectiveness. “We have to measure what matters…” Right? If you measure it, it matters… Right?

Math is Hard

Now you have consultants hired to develop plans, create metrics, define what is important, determine benchmarks, develop (or sell you) data warehouses and metrics engines to compile data from various disparate systems. Your CHRO and CIO have spent countless hours, in countless meetings, talking with “big data” experts. Your Talent Officer and the Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) Director have purchased thousands of pages of survey results and your HRIS team has compiled millions of lines of data and responded to endless surveys so you can be part of next year’s data. Awesome.

– AND NOW – well… now you have you have 15 pages a month of measurements. It takes two full-time staff to continually collect, compile, analyze and prepare those monthly reports and they are painstakingly published for all of HR and the organization’s leadership. Cool.


Yay Numbers

Now you can see, on any number of different charts (pie charts, bar graphs with trend lines, buddle charts, histograms, bowtie graphs, zipper line charts etc.), just how you measure up to everyone else in your industry/geographical area/company size and so on. Great.

Every month the Talent Acquisition (TA) team has a two-hour meeting to go over all of the metrics “that pertain to them”. Then each team member presents their individual metrics and everyone hitting, or above, the benchmarked goal gets ‘happy claps’ from the team and everyone under explains why their candidate pool is “different”. Yeah.

Clearly, the organization and the leaders care about turnover, churn, headcount, labor distribution, overtime use, time to fill, time to post, numbers of applicants per posting, quality of applicant and 50 other metrics based on your industry. Because they are measured… Right?

I have an app that measures my speed when I drive. I pull charts of my speed, and it shows me my average speed, my speed benchmarked against the speed limit, the number of times I am going slower, or faster than the average traffic speed for the location. I measure all aspects of my speed… YET,  I still get the same number of speeding tickets as I did before I started doing all that measurement… My speed clearly matters to me because I measure it – right?  So why do I keep getting speeding tickets??? Well… maybe because – even with all that measurement – I have not connected that data with a “So What?”

Is it Really About the Numbers?

All the data collection in the world is useless if you do not connect it to the “So What?”

If your Talent Acquisition (TA) team doesn’t know what actions should be taken to improve time to fill – knowing the time to fill metrics is as sensible as a speedo in Alaska in January.

If your leaders do not know why first-year turnover matters or why turnover is different from retention – having these numbers is as useful as an anchor on a sinking boat.

If there are no meaningful actions, triggers, connections made to the data, and it isn;t really measuring recruiting effectiveness– you might as well just publish the CEO’s secret, erotic, dream diary she keeps in the locked cabinet in her office bathroom. At least there would be entertainment, and it would be about as valuable as measurement not attached to the “So What?”.

Measuring something does not mean you care about it… Caring about something means you want to take action about it, or at a minimum, know IF you even need to act on something… or even better, have the ability to predict when you might need to pro-actively take action on something that appears to be on the horizon.

Of course first-year turnover matters – it is one of the biggest expenses to an organization when you truly look at it – but knowing that you have a 30% first-year turnover rate will do nothing to address the issues that are resulting in that number. Only the “So What?” will result in anything meaningful.

Do you know the “So What?” to your metrics? If not – I challenge you, the next time you sit in a meeting reviewing metrics – speak up, simply look at the person in the front of the room and ask – So What!?!

About our Author: Dave Curtis has 30+ years experience in the workforce.  Of which 18 have been within HR/HR Information Systems. Given the nickname ‘The Wizard’ by his co-workers, Dave is considered a leader, innovator, HR tech professional and overall tech geek. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

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  • Jim Durbin

    How do we measure the effectiveness of an employee? Outside of sales and revenue, is there really any part of the corporation that we have good metrics on?

    It’s a bit of a challenge. How can we measure the effectiveness of our recruiting practices if we can’t really measure the effectiveness of our workforce on an individual basis?

    You’d literally have to track a series of hires from their initial contact to their eventual termination or retirement over a period of many years to find out if we make a difference. Think of it as the twin studies they do over forty years.

    It’s complicated – because promotions, salaries, and transfers don’t necessarily bring value. An engineer who solves a problem, or a manager who fires a bunch of deadweight might only have a short tenure with the company, but could have a bigger impact than someone who puts in ten years and rises up the ranks.

    An executive that is brought in to turnaround a division might lose $10 million, but that might actually save the company $1 billion when the board decides to sell off the division instead of keeping it as a loss leader.

    Time to hire is often derided, and rightly so. If a recruiter has 20 top salespeople hired in a quarter, but the company suffers a distribution problem, those top salespeople all leave and cost the company a bundle. A so-so recruiter who hired only 3 salespeople might have saved the company who wouldn’t have been able to meet the demand.

    It’s quite the conundrum.

    • The Wizard

      I completely agree. Looking at a huge amount of data is a huge effort. Trying to quantify the effectiveness of an employee can be an exceptionally complex topic, trying to create a standard way to measure any given employee would be near impossible. Employee effectiveness is absolutely an item that can be different based on the type of work they do, the expectations for the work they do and many other aspects that may or may not be within the control of an employee etc.

      The problem is no longer one of not having the data to look at because in almost every business, profession, job etc. we collect endless data.

      We actually collect so much data that it is overwhelming when looking all of the data available.

      The things you have mentioned, Jim, are absolutely spot on the point. There is so much data, measurement and focus on the numbers – but connecting those numbers to actions is still a huge gap in most cases.

      This is why (in my opinion) it is more valuable to start small – pick something you know has an impact on the organization and dive into that one item. For example: Turnover – turnover is one of the easiest items to measure – and it can truly tell you a lot about your employees and the organization.

      …. I could write pages ….
      But yes – I agree with you that we make a huge conundrum out of measuring.. and in my opinion we do not spend enough energy determining what has value and what to do about it – there is no need for it to be such a conundrum…

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