Data vs HR… (Traditional HR is dying: Part II)

A few months back our CEO wrote about how HR is dying. The article had an amazing response, so we thought we’d continue the theme around HR and how data and analytics is changing how we listen to employees…

This year, Google beat Apple in the race to become the world’s most valuable brand in Millward Brown’s BrandZ Top 100 Rating.

The main reason stated? Continual innovation…

Whilst Apple seems to have slowed down in their supply of new innovative products, Google flooded the market with new inventions, ranging from Google Glass 2 to Google Cardboard – the down-to-earth VR headset. ‘Google’, however, is merely a brand name and it’s easy to forget the faces behind their consistent success. Continual innovation can only accelerate when there is a significant focus on employees and employee management. From a business angle, the department that is crucial in driving these innovations is the department that looks after employees, or in other words ‘HR’. If we examine the DNA of Google’s HR department we will realise that Google has the world’s only data-driven HR function. Renamed ‘People Operations’, its mantra states “All people decisions at Google are based on data and analytics.”

It makes complete sense; you wouldn’t base any other crucial business decisions on anything but data, so why should HR be the black sheep of the business? In order for businesses to drive innovation they need to take a leaf out of Google’s book and firstly innovate their HR department.

Human Resources, as a term, first transpired in the early 1900’s as a notion that saw workers as some form of capital asset. Just like machines or capital, humans were seen as a resource. For these reasons traditional approaches to HR Management tended to focus heavily on the enforcement of rules and a formalised structure with clearly defined power centres. Since then, HR has evolved in many ways and in most jurisdictions HR professionals recognise that people always come before systems and machines. What has remained stagnant, in a time of all this industry change, is the currency that HR professionals choose to trade. Focus lies too heavily on relationships and intangible things like feelings and opinions. A consequence of this is that too much of HR is poorly measured, or simply not measured at all.

Usain Bolt didn’t win nine gold medals by guessing his personal best and trying to improve on it. Simply put; we can’t improve areas of a business if we don’t measure them.

Data is measurable, but it is also intrinsically linked to time, and as time progresses the importance of data regresses. This is another issue with traditional models of HR; the frequency of its processes are far too episodic. Annual staff surveys are becoming as outdated as the data they provide. Continuous feedback will encourage a continuous learning environment where innovation and development can foster. Google found that managers who show an interest in their employees and commit to frequent and consistent feedback with each employee were the number one key success to retaining great talent.

What’s more, performance management research conducted by Deloitte has shown that companies who revisit employee goals each quarter or more generate 20% higher profits than those who do so annually.

So continuous employee feedback and people management is in your organisation’s best interest, as well as your employees.

Admittedly it would be difficult, and costly, to completely overhaul our HR departments and try to mimic Google’s “ People Operations”. Taking a People Operations approach to HR, we can use online tools like Motivii.

Motivii helps to retain employees by understanding what drives them. Instead of basing people decisions on guesswork and ‘fluff’, Motivii helps you to base them on data – just like Google. The power of benchmarking allows you to compare your organisation against the global average in six key areas, and you’re also able to compare how you are doing against yourself in the previous quarter. A two minute micro weekly-review ensures regular feedback is given, so decisions are based on what is happening real time, rather than seven or eight months ago. As an organisation in today’s over-saturated business landscape our people are our only real source of competitive advantage. We have to listen to what they are saying consistently, and be fluid in how we react to what we hear.

HR traditionalists may resist, because they won’t like the idea of having their long established methods reinvented. The reality is, times have changed and the way we do things needs to change too. Google is a household name and 2016’s most valuable firm, but you don’t need to be a ‘unicorn’ to use data in your people decisions and innovate the way you view HR.

Motivii is a platform which gives managers the tools to save time, improve feedback and boost performance of their team – Try it free for a month!