Time to face facts and start measuring

of wholesale or high-profile cutbacks in the HR function of major corporations,
from Marks & Spencer to the BBC, seem to appear in the press with alarming
regularity. And, more worryingly, there are only a few instances where such
cutbacks seem to be viewed as having a negative impact.

is hardly surprising when fewer than 20 per cent of HR functions undertake any
consistent or substantial measurement of the effectiveness or even the outcomes
of their activities.

then, do senior HR staff avoid facing facts? Is it fear of the unknown, or is
it an ostrich syndrome? It is usually easy to highlight faults, and while
criticism flows readily, praise is generally noticeable by its absence.

has the undesired effect of keeping HR on the defensive, and breeds a negative

research indicates that of the 18 per cent of functions that voluntarily
measure and benchmark their activities, most could be classified as above
average or effective.

conclusion to be drawn is that only those with confidence and a desire for
continuous improvement are prepared to enter the benchmarking arena. Perhaps
having attained a positive response to the direction that they are driving HR,
these organisations have the maturity and vision to take a broader view towards
their contribution, development and improvement.

that fall into the introspective and defensive trap never have time to measure
because they are too busy firefighting to give a better value contribution.
Measurement against "norms" is essential. Basic activity and
benchmarking studies are neither time-consuming nor costly, yet their impact
can extend from immediate savings to medium- and long-term improvement.  

requirements are to know how many staff are involved in HR delivery, what they
do, and how much time is spent on each activity.

first point may seem flippant but we recently visited a company which had
difficulty establishing to within five people (out of an HR function of about
30) who was, and was not, directly involved in HR.

emphasises the need for basic measurement and understanding, even before
benchmarking takes place. Improvements in effectiveness and value can only be
achieved if we know the base from which we start.

Derek Burn
Partner, MCG Consulting Group dab@mcghr.com

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