Leading or lagging thinking?

CanaryWharfStation

After talking to one of my favourite Twitter friends in the real world recently, I ended up pondering a couple of things during a subsequent lengthy motorway journey.

“Old thinking masquerading as new”.

And “single incidents dressed up as trends or absolutes”.

Both features of a few blogs I’ve seen recently.

The two things became merged in my mind as one of the topics which seems to be doing the rounds again is HR analytics, people measurement etc.

It sometimes seems that there is nothing new under the sun. I use myself only as an example here and am not looking to ‘blow my own trumpet’: back in 2000/2001 my team and I embarked upon an initiative which was designed to link our people measurement to our corporate strategy and to provide a dashboard of people data to business leaders. Even at that point it was becoming ‘old hat’ to talk about understanding our employees as well as marketing specialists understood their markets.

Admittedly we had strong Board sponsorship. Very. We also had a budget. But off we set and ended up delivering just what we’d been asked to. The outcome was a range of leading and (deliberately) some lagging measures which allowed business leaders to see where we were against our organisational objectives. In some ways they were as sophisticated as those in the finance scorecard.

Importantly we decided what we wanted to measure then worked out how we were going to find a way of measuring it. This was complex and required co-operation between functions and interfaces between systems (the scars I have on my back from different attempts to create interfaces).

We could drill down into the data and really understand what was going on in our organisation and how we were doing with our people strategy. We drove culture change to the extent that we had business units chasing us for the data for their management meetings before we had even completed that quarter’s cycle. We linked leaders’ reward to the metrics. People wanted to know how they measured up against other business units. Everything was reported and discussed at Board level. It drove action and change.

And the important point here is……. we weren’t alone. We knew that many others were grappling with the same challenge. We shared our thinking with some of them and benefited from others’ ideas. That’s 15 years ago.

Yet we see regular blogs and articles talking about this as if it is something new. Have we suffered an industry-wide memory loss? Am I missing something?

And the other angle I merged into this thinking? (Confusing perhaps? Should it be another blog?) Well I see others writing in absolutes about HR. “Nobody does x. We all fail to do y. We are all rubbish at z.”

In my mind there is a link – namely that this is a lagging attitude, lagging thinking. It’s reductive. I don’t see it as leadership.

Do we forget some of things that the HR industry has achieved before and write ourselves off? And risk destroying our own arguments and HR’s reputation with these absolutes – a crime incited by the desire to be a bit provocative and, presumably, to up the numbers for our blog.

Am I a lone voice?

Can we not do better than failing to research, accentuating the negative and looking for the next provocative headline?

And, crucially, are we serving our industry well?

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