Analytics: Anecdotes and Storytelling

Last week I presented you with the human capital analytics continuum. This continuum is a look at how organizations collect and report data.

It begins with anecdotes or storytelling. Professor Robert Brinkerhoff has some of the best work in this area, describing a mixture of ethnography and positive psychology in Success Case Methodology. We use this method to tell the story behind the numbers. Personalizing a statistical analysis is a good way to get your audience to understand something that is complicated, in addition to graphics.

For non-mathematical people, delivering the numbers in the form of a story is much more effective. Sometimes the data is so complicated, the only way it makes sense is in a story format. You can visualize what the numbers are trying to tell you.

In my line of work, we use analytics and stories to “de-bunk” myths every day. For example: we were working with a client who experienced a severe turnover rate in retail sales associates. After a few months, if sales weren’t improving, these associates would leave the company. This company had a 50-year-old practice of refusing to invest in training for these employees because they did not want to invest in an employee who would not be with the company after a few months.

After engaging with this client, we were able to show them through statistical analysis that this assumption was a myth. Investing in these employees early showed that they continued with the company significantly longer than before the training investment and overall improved their performance.

We have found delivering analysis findings in a story format to HR executives is received much more clearly than laying out hard numbers. I encourage you to build a story around your numbers and deliver it with ease.

Next week we will move on to the data behind scorecards and dashboards. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions about anecdotes and storytelling or would like me to cover any specifics about scorecards and dashboards.