What gets measured gets done – let’s do it

All
the recent noise about workforce productivity has been quite fascinating. You
guys fly in US strategy guru Michael Porter to tell you what your problem is,
stirring up the academics, and then Personnel Today calls for action in its
White Paper (11 February).

It
is, of course, good fun to read the back and forth on why the US is more
productive than the UK, or which country leads in productivity improvement, but
let me lob in two thoughts from the sidelines.

First,
on the global side, are we certain that our measurements and definitions of
‘productivity’ are not overly Western-centric? Is our definition of
productivity wholly relevant in the various parts of the planet where we ply
our respective trades?

When
we look at productivity measurements, do we stop and think about our
measurements in terms of local cultures? Productivity studies no doubt amaze
and amuse workers in countries where afternoon naps are common; in cultures
where the lunch hour is happily spent head down, asleep at your desk; or in
places that revel in a 35-hour working week. How then, given these issues, can
we truly measure and compare productivity across borders, and are the
comparisons appropriate, much less accurate?

The
advent of international air travel changed many things – it certainly gave us
all the ability to impose our own views and work ethics on far greater swathes
of humanity than before. But we have to ask ourselves, is that the right thing
to do?

Measuring
productivity is important, and striving for continual improvement is crucial, but
neither of these can be absent of context.

Second,
since we are frequently the ones doing the measuring, what are we doing in HR
to measure HR’s productivity (the old adage involving stones and glass houses
may well apply)?

For
HR to be convincing, we have to get our own house in order first. What have we
done to demonstrate our productivity? The ability to measure HR, and to measure
the impact it has on a business becomes even more important as productivity is
examined across the company – and across the world.

All
too frequently I still hear HR professionals whining about not being able to
measure the ‘soft side’ of HR and I still have conversations with people who
think HR can’t be effectively be measured or show the value of it. We’ve got to
stop this thinking, and start insisting that HR be accountable for results –
just like every other part of the organisation.

Finance
reports numbers; sales and marketing report numbers. Operations can report
numbers, and certainly legal teams can attach metrics to their activities. Why,
then, is it so rare for HR functions to report back out what they achieve?

HR
professionals must be on the front lines of creating and reporting metrics that
define and prove the value we bring to our companies.

What
gets measured, gets done. What gets done, gets valued. Whither HR?

By
Lance Richards, Board director, SHRM Global Forum

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