“The right people in the right places, working on the right things.” Most of us have probably heard some form of this mantra for excellence in human capital management. And most of us have probably struggled with two infamous elements that are supposed to help make it happen — performance management and workforce analytics.
I say infamous because in many companies both performance management processes and workforce analytics seem to suck up time and resources without bringing any real value. But, they can actually work together to help your organization take firm steps towards having the right people in the right places, working on the right things. And, along the way, you will even save some time and money.
Answer the right questions to support decision making
Author Tim Ringo, writing in the HBR blog, points out that too often executives, who would never consider making decisions in other areas of the business without supporting data, nevertheless make human capital decisions based on little more than hunches — either because they don’t trust or don’t know how to collect and use workforce analytics. But for those who have cracked the people-data code, Ringo says:
“In my experience, organizations that use workforce analytics have the most engaged workforces and they thrive in tough conditions. Most importantly, they do fewer headcount reductions because they have lean and efficient workforces to begin with.”
At its simplest, an automated performance management process allows you to streamline and centralize data collection providing for a snapshot of current performance across the organization. It is even more powerful, however, when the data is linked with other human resource processes such as recruiting and selection, employee development, succession planning, compensation, etc. Over time, leaders can identify trends and measure responses to improvement efforts.
The real strength of workforce analytics is using it to answer important human capital questions and guide decision-making linked with the overall organizational strategy and goals.
Here are some examples of questions that can be answered with performance management workforce analytics.
Is everyone focused on what’s most important?
A hallmark of an integrated and automated performance management system is the ease with which strategic goals can be aligned throughout the organization down to the individual level. When individuals and their managers set performance goals that support the organizational strategy, employees and managers know how to prioritize their efforts. As a result, performance coaching, performance evaluation and improvement are focused on what matters most.
Is everyone pulling together?
By rolling up and analyzing progress against goals and aggregated performance metrics, leaders can identify potential problem areas where goals may be at risk in time to head off failure. At the same time, they can identify skill and experience resources at the individual or departmental level that can be deployed to assist where needed.
Do we have the skills we will need to get where we are planning to go?
Too often the criteria upon which employees are evaluated satisfy only current organizational needs. Talent and performance management data is at its most powerful when matched with an analysis of the competencies that will be needed in the workforce of the future.
Do we have any engagement issues?
Deterioration in performance metrics over time or within a certain area often indicates employee engagement issues. Organizations can also use multi-rater input (360o reviews) and employee surveys to diagnose engagement issues before they show up as performance problems.
Do we have any leadership issues?
Persistent performance, engagement and retention issues almost certainly point to problems with leadership. Compiling, comparing and trending performance and talent metrics can help pinpoint leadership issues and track improvements after interventions are applied.
Where are our leaders of tomorrow?
Top performers identified through analysis of individual performance metrics and competency assessments can form a pool of high potential successors who would benefit from focused development and retention efforts. This question is answered even more effectively when the competencies that are being measured have been determined to be those that the organization will need to meet its future.
Leaders will gain insight into the strength of its internal talent pool to meet succession needs for leaders and other critical roles. They will also be able to determine the specific competencies that might be lacking, leading into the next question…
How can we get the best return on our development investments?
Rather than throwing training programs around without a strategy, workforce analytics based on talent and performance metrics enable an organization to determine where to focus its development efforts. Leaders can identify both the specific competencies to focus on and the specific employees who should be developed to bring the best return on investment.
Can we build or do we need to buy the talent we will need?
Coupled with the question above is the need to know where an infusion of new talent from the outside will most benefit the organization, answered through workforce analysis. Once a need has been determined, recruiters can build strategies to source candidates with the key critical experience and competencies to fill gaps or strengthen areas determined through workforce analysis.
By automating performance management across an enterprise and integrating it with other human resource processes, an organization can compile a wealth of data. Analyzing it and using it to answer important questions linked to organizational goals enables leaders to apply the same rigor to human capital decisions as they use for their other assets and strategies.
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