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HR Metrics: “Data suppresses anti-bodies”

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I came across the title of today’s piece in Guy Kawasaki’s book “the Art of the Start”. It has made me smile for the last week. The quote elegantly expresses what and why HR practitioners need to be measuring. Here is why?

New ideas are perceived as a threat

The phrase is in a section of the book that deals with starting new ideas within an ongoing company. The recommendation is to start measuring immediately. Much of the advice that is given is focused on how to avoid the organizations natural immune system from suppressing a good idea. The primary lessons is that anything which threatens to change the leadership power-balance will be attacked and stopped, irrespective of whether or not it is the right thing to do. The author observes that the formal and informal leadership of the organization “create” an “immune system” which can support or destroy new ideas at every stage of their development. If you have data to show that an old business is not as successful as it was and therefore a replacement is required or that the new idea has the promise to build new revenue streams or boost existing ones, then it is harder for naysayers to be heard. The risk of losing credibility by talking against the “evidence” changes how those with positions to defend will respond and makes success (and resources) for your idea far more likely.

HR is often the source of new ideas

The HR groups I know are in a constant state of development and change. They deal with social groups which are complex and evolving, therefore they need to be handled with ever evolving policies and practices. So by necessity HR is often the source of new ideas and new ways of helping the business get the best people and the best from the people. More often than not the new ideas in HR are not based on data, but on intuition and human judgment. This makes them very prone to attack by the organizations “immune system”.

“Data suppresses antibodies”

Supporting a new program in HR with data related to tangible outcomes, or potential cost savings, becomes a necessary part in making progress. The data can be simple. One financial leader turned VP of HR simply put a list of the 15 people who scored worst in their performance reviews and said we need to get rid of these people. The ensuing debate got him the resources he wanted to re-develop the performance management process so that the next time he showed this list to the executive it was the right list.

This is powerful evidence of how data supports decisions and can bring the resources and credibility to HR that get the right things done and make a difference.  My recommendation for today is to make the quote your rule of thumb. “Data suppresses anti-bodies” – every day you practice this rule takes you closer to success at the executive table.

Ian J. Cook, CHRP
HR Metrics Service

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Ian J Cook

Director, Product Management at Visier Analytics
Ian J. Cook MA, MBA, CHRP, continues to pursue a fascination for people and business. His quest to understand what it takes for organizations, and the people in them, to thrive has led to many fantastic career stages. Ian has been an entrepreneur, an operational manager and spent 10 years, consulting to some of the World’s leading companies. Read more
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