Metrics are a false idol

The following posts build on the guest post at XpertHR about Commercial HR and looks at some of the themes in a bit more detail.

There was a time when I was pretty hung up on HR metrics. I’d read Huselid, Becker and Beatty, I’d read Ulrich…well some of it….and I was pretty convinced that all we needed to do was to be able to measure what we did in HR and then the world was ours for the taking.

The pattern that I, and I imagine many others, went through was this,

–       Measure stuff

–       Get criticism of measured stuff being inconclusive

–       Decide you’re measuring the wrong stuff

–       Try and measure some other stuff

–       Fail because that stuff is too hard to measure

–       Go back to measuring original stuff because it is simpler

I wrote about a specific example last week, when you look at “Time to fill”, a simple measure that tells you very little. And within that pot you can add a whole host of traditional HR measures. But, unfortunately, the “better” measures either don’t actually exist or require so many different pull or push sub measures that they become and industry in themselves.

So in the end we stop doing and start measuring…..Genius!

Thinking of it another way around.  What if I asked you the following questions?

How fit are you? Have are you feeling today?

In order to answer this do you need to check your BMI, your blood pressure, your recovery time, your heart rate and a red blood cell count?

Or can you intuitively answer the question because of a number of micro observations that you have made throughout the day, how quickly you got out of bed in the morning, how your trousers felt when you put them on, how you felt when you had to run for the bus or climb the stairs because the lift was broken?

Now I’m not saying that the measures aren’t important to do every now and then – in the same way you go for a medical – but if we spent more time in our businesses being observant, being intuitive, asking questions, listening and feeling, my guess is we would come to better conclusions than we would by measuring a whole load of HR process.

And in the meantime we’d learn a whole lot of things and build a whole heap of relationships that would add more value than sitting in our department crunching meaningless numbers.

Surely that’s got to be the elusive win-win?