Tag Archives: metrics

The one with the paradox of metrics

On May 16th I attended the 4th ConnectingHR Unconference. I’ve been to a few before (and you can find blog posts on my previous experiences here) and it was great firstly to take a member of my new team with me and secondly to see how the event is evolving as time passes. There were a number of posts written reflecting on the event which you can find linked from this cracking post from @flipchartrick

One of the changes from my previous outings was that the day kicked off with a number of short presentations from a variety of people, which went to the title of the day “The Power of a Socially Enabled Organisation”. Jamie Priestley‘s presentation was entitled “The Importance of Being Unreasonable” and he landed a number of points not least the challenge to look behind evidence and also how data is often over interpreted and over stretched in the attempt to make a point.

The point he made that stayed with me most related to that grand adage ‘what gets measured, gets done’. It’s an old favourite and anyone who’s been anywhere near a corporate environment will have had it trooped out on numerous occasions. The point that Jamie made which really got me to thinking went along the lines of ‘if what gets measured gets done do people only really focus on what can be measured’.

Of course he loses 5 points for using the iPod as an example of things that weren’t measured whilst they were being developed (the iPod is akin to Richard Branson in that they both work as great examples against most points) but gains at least 10 points for using e=mc2 (there’s no superscript on here!) as another example.

Given the difficultly of effectively measuring some of the ‘big stuff’ in organisations e.g. culture, engagement, discretionary effort, leadership effectiveness, etc, to an organisation that focusses solely on metrics is there a MASSIVE risk of focussing just on the outputs and not on the inputs? Or as Dr Chris Shambrook put it, the focus being only on the results and not on the performance.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that nothing should be measured but I find myself thinking that a lot of the things I really think are important (and this may reflect my role) are things that are measured more intuitively than a RAG’d spreadsheet.

Two of my colleagues recently went to visit Unipart’s head office in Cowley, Oxfordshire. Unipart are well-known for their motor spares business but have two additional business areas in supply chain solutions and consulting. They are actually working with my organisation at the moment. Rather than dozens of metrics measuring micro parts of their business they have two metrics which (if my memory is serving me correctly) are availability and returns. Their belief being that if those two measures are good then everything else underneath them is functioning correctly.

The arguments for and against metrics will continue long after this post (and likely this blog) and my fundamental belief is they have their role but that role should be put in context and tempered with other considerations of an organisation.

That said in measuring the success of attending the unconference one of my objective  is to come away with some things to think about that challenge my existing thinking. Jamie’s presentation (the pack for which you can find here) certainly ticked one box… More boxes to follow shortly!

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The one with a quality measure

“I went to TRULondon and all I got was this lousy blog post”

Trying to summarise a 45 minute multi-person conversation (for that read bun fight) into a blog post is something I find very difficult but here goes…

Yesterday I attended #TRULondon5 and having taken Bill Boorman up on his invite to run a track about 20 people were assembled to have a conversation about measuring quality of hire.

I started by setting the scene (which I’d also done in a post you can read here) and giving some clarity on keeping the conversation on track and no veering off to what was seemingly everyone’s favourite topic social recruiting. I think I may have enforced that a little strongly at times so if I did trample on anyone I’m sorry!

Rather than try and summarise the narrative here are some of the points that arose:

  • Are we trying to define quality or value? Some believe the difference to be semantic and what we are really trying to define is contribution.
  • Some thought value was the intangible and quality the hard measures. Others (mostly me) thought value is the tangible and quality was akin to value plus cultural fit.
  • Understanding the expectation of the role is key. Very different for entry level to senior management and an organisation doesn’t want/need everyone to be high flying innovators etc
  • There was a conversation about understanding ‘what good looks like’ with particular reference to a basketball player called Jeremy Lin (who I had never heard of). There’s a great post about him here from Hung Lee. It lead to discussions about the circumstances under which people succeed and what it takes to make talent flourish.
  • Length of service or tenure was asserted as ‘the one true measure’ which met with some agreement and some disagreement. Given the rising cost of employment it was a means to deliver a return on investment for the costs of recruiting/inducting/training etc
  • Given the rising role of contingent workers (not just temps but contractors, interims & consultants) some discussion arose about how that would impact any measure of tenure and also the disconnect between clarity of expectation on a contingent worker versus a permanent worker
  • Tying quality to performance was discussed at length. With objections raised about the subjectivity of performance measures, how performance expectation isn’t understood at recruitment stage and how difficult it is for recruiters to influence hire once the individual is in role.
  • Measuring assessment scores of new hires versus those of current employees was discussed as was of course the need for objective assessment and clear data. This of course would challenge some organisations on their current hiring practices and also requires a significant wealth of data to already exist.
  • An interesting point was raised around measuring an individual’s value as a social recruiting asset – so how many referrals they give the organisation which resonated with the concept of net promoter scores. We didn’t discuss this at length but it was certainly different.
  • The concept of following up with hiring managers and asking them structured questions was raised after the track but quickly shot down as requiring too much time and would be yet another thing that would end up being chased for

And then, as all the air seemed to have left the balloon, the fabulous Laurie Ruettimann interjected with a point which took the discussion to a whole different place and it went something like this…

“We need to get people jobs to stop them rioting”

which seemed as good a place as any to end….

Running the track was an interesting experience, they are difficult beasts to tame and I definitely don’t think I heard the silver bullet idea; I did get to understand opinions from different people and hopefully move the conversation on a step. This of course only represents my perceptions of the conversation and hopefully some other participants will comment.

For me, if I were implementing a quality of hire measure it would be a data driven exercise comparing the performance scores of hires against their group (whether that be function, division or whole organisation) to understand where they were in comparison to the whole. I think this would be sustainable and rational but would require the recruitment system and the HR system to interact which could of course lead to the end of the world. And yes performance measures are subjective but they are the subjectivity that gets believed (and actioned in many bonus schemes) so let’s get over that! I may be wrong  (often happens) but let’s at least do SOMETHING…

The importance of this can of course be questioned (‘why do we have to measure everything’) but if I was the CEO/HR Director I want to understand that quality is being brought into my organisation. If I’m the hiring manager likewise. If I was the recruiter I would want something to challenge the hiring managers with (a push back to contingent hiring decisions) but also a measure that empowers me to challenge the cost/time challenges that are ever present…

Having reflected on the experience the one thing that has surprised me is how recruiters perceive themselves in the organisation and how they see their role….but we’ll save that for another day.

In the meantime a few of us took part in a livestream chat after the track which you can see here if you can face more!

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The one with TRU Quality

You those little grains of sand that get stuck in the machinery of your brain and as much as you try to ignore them you know they are there? Well it’s one such grain of sand that has led to this post.

I can’t remember how it first got stuck in there but if I was doing a ‘Peter Ustinov as Poirot’ style trail of breadcrumbs it would involve:

  • A comment made in my performance review 4 years ago
  • A blog post from Katie McNab (which I can’t find)
  • A conversation with Lisa Scales
  • A tweet from Bill Boorman

The upshot of this grain of sand and what has followed is that I am a track leader at #TRULondon being held in a few weeks in ….yes….you guessed it….London.

For a good description of TRU I will turn to Peter Gold who said this on his blog recently:

“What is TRU?

In case you are not sure, TRU events are UNconferences which means there are no formal presentations instead being replaced by tracks. A track is an open conversation between a small number of track leaders (typically 1-3) who start a discussion around a topic and the audience debate as they choose. The tracks are very informal, unstructured, sometimes heated and often fun. People can come and go as they choose rather than made to stay put until the end.”

You can book tickets and find out more information by clicking the image above but the reason for this blog is not to explain the unconference process or how it all works. The point of this blog is to gather some views on the track I am running to feed into the debate on the day.

The track is entitled “Quality of Hire” and refers to the metrics so beloved by organisations. I imagine if you put the average resourcing manager under the spotlight and asked them about their metrics they would all quote at minimum time to hire and cost per hire. These are really easy to track and calculate and are so called ‘hard measures’ that help people achieve bonuses. They may throw in something about average age of vacancy and some may even include some kind of turnover measure either during probation or during first year of employment. I’m sure there are some classics I’m missing but you get the idea…

The conversation I want to have is how do you effectively measure quality of hire. I have a few ideas myself but don’t want to share them just yet…. so Dear Blog Readers, the floor is yours, let the debate commence…..NOW!

P.S. I’ve chatted this idea over with a few people over the past few weeks who have had a little input. One of them, Roger Philby of The Chemistry Group apparently has an argument that will “blow you out of the water” so if you feel so inclined please tweet Roger (He’s @RogerPhilby) and continue to goad him into turning up and making his argument live!

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