I recently heard this quote from David Walmsley and it reminded me that despite all the interest and hype around big data and analytics, it is nothing unless you follow it up with real action. It is the action that delivers business outcomes not the data.
Without question the possibilities of big data are enormous and this is sure to continue in the future. But people often get lost and hoodwinked by technology. It can be far easier to blame the absence of the right technology or availability of data to avoid adopting good analytical practices.
For sure there is obvious truth that technology and clean data is important but at the end of the day don’t forget the room 101 of analytics: action. David Walmsley’s quote is a timely reminder that you can make a big difference from just changing your mindset and looking at any data, driving insight and getting stuff done on the back of it. Don’t worry about not having the latest analytics engine in your organisation or if your master data is in a mess. Just use what ever you have got, start simple and take action.
At the recent HRD Business Summit in Birmingham I was fortunate enough to hear Dave Ulrich’s keynote speech. He outlined the paradigm shift HR needs to make from having an ‘internal mindset’ to focus on the external business and this idea is well documented in his book HR From the Outside In. In this brave new world the emphasis is on understanding business performance, the external customer and enable HR to play a direct role in delivering growth and the strengthening the bottom line.
In many respects this is not a radical approach and on the face of it entirely sensible and logical. Put simply, what HR professional today would claim that they don’t operate without understanding the business context or customer? Few would own up to that. But as in so many aspects of life actions speak louder than words. What was enlightening was when Dave Ulrich got the 1,000 person audience (a decent sample of HR leaders) to participate in the discussion. It was startling to see how few leaders had objectives that will directly influence business outcomes (e.g. revenue or launch of new products). I suspect this is mirrored across the industry. For example, how many HR professionals think about an employee first when asked about how they support customers? As an industry we need to look at ourselves in the mirror. It is far harder for the industry to act in this way than we think (otherwise we would have cracked this years ago).
Whilst I believe this approach will ultimately require significant change in the industry and different capabilities it isn’t necessarily that difficult to do. It simply requires taking small steps and a commitment to change mindset and behaviour. For example, if you are launching values across your business I’m sure you would have involved employees in developing this. But have you asked your end customers? Have you asked them what sort of values they would want someone to behave in when they are interacting with them? When you are building your goals for this year and business cases how many direct business outcomes are you committing to influencing (indirect does not count!). If you get it then are you continually reinforcing and challenging your colleagues to do this in the same way? With a commitment to change and courage it can happen.
In terms of context as well now is the time for HR to make this change. The timing is perfect. The current combination of demographic, technological and sociological changes represent a pivotal time for business. There is no better time for HR to take the lead and play a lead role in enabling businesses to take full advantage of this. The rewards are great as well, as this recent blog in HBR highlights the skills of a Chief HR Officer are closely aligned to those of a CEO. It’s warmer on the outside than you think.