Pick out one business — not HR — problem you can solve. Pull the data together and execute.
Recently, I put out a question on Bill Kutik’s LinkedIn network. It was a simple query: “Workforce and succession planning: Do you think it is for real? And, if so, what makes you say HR people are building planning systems that have intelligence and go beyond head count?”
Apparently, I hit a nerve. Within three days, more than 60 people chimed in. The debate quickly shifted to, “Are HR people strategic thinkers — business planning — or program administrators — service delivery?” Two opposing camps formed immediately and kicked off a spirited debate.
One group took the side that a number of HR folks were in fact actively trying to apply strategic thinking and planning. Of those, only a small percent have succeeded due to resistance or apathy from top management. One of the major barriers was lack of good data. The other was a focus on HR, not the business.
The other camp took the position that since HR traditionally has not collected data much past head count, it doesn’t have a base from which to make a case for the business value of planning. Essentially, HR does not have the sales skills or the toughness needed to overcome resistance.
In the discussion, vendors and consultants took some heat for pushing products as opposed to educating and guiding clients on the finer points behind data analysis and presentation. One vendor, whose company has many honors for its analytic products, fired back that he had never met a group with such a low aptitude for strategic thinking and analysis.
So what is a person to do?Data School
Whether you are content to administer HR services or you aspire to be a human capital strategist, you need to have command of quantitative tools. Yet, very few, if any, math majors seek a career in “personnel.”
To offset this deficiency, a growing number of departments are bringing in people with finance, production or market research backgrounds. You don’t have to be a stat master to manage it. But you do have to be able to think beyond tomorrow’s lunch. If analytic thinking has a back seat in your management wagon, surround yourself with people who are good at it.