To win a fair hearing in the boardroom, HR directors need to have all the facts, figures and statistics at their fingertips. Jessica Twentyman reports.
Who are our most productive employees? Who are the highest earners? How successful are our recruitment programmes in attracting future high-performers? What will our staffing and skills needs be five years from now?
In an increasingly metrics-driven world, HR professionals are expected to have a host of facts, figures and statistics at their fingertips. For many, however, the reality is rather more frustrating: they know the data they need is held on various IT systems around the organisation, but they have no idea how they can get it all into one place and analyse it.
In a recent survey of 200 HR managers, conducted by employment services company Adecco and City law firm Tarlo Lyons, most admitted they have difficulty providing even the most basic performance metrics. Given a week's notice, just half (49%) could provide a report on staff turnover, 44% could report on HR budgets and a paltry 11% could provide information on employee satisfaction.
It is unlikely that board-level executives will tolerate this lack of visibility for much longer, argues Patricia Taylor, head of payroll and HR services at technology company LogicaCMG.
"To win a fair hearing in the boardroom, HR managers need to communicate the value they create in a way that the chief executive can understand - and that means moving away from 'soft' measurements to cold, hard metrics," she says.
The barriers to doing so are numerous, however. The first hurdle is knowing what data to collect and where it is held.
The second is consolidating data from different HR and payroll applications and, often, a myriad of unconnected spreadsheets. Each data source contains important information about workforce performance, but each one provides only part of the overall picture.
The third challenge is to analyse that data effectively, to produce real answers to vital business questions. Again, that can be a struggle for many HR departments, says Taylor.
"Some report basic input numbers. Some may be able to calculate basic ratios such as cost per hire, but are unable to correlate that cost with the quality of each hire. Some have more sophisticat