Tell Your Story

A series of recent surveys pointed out two significant problems for human resources departments. Some studies had to do with the use or non-use of measurement and analytics. The others looked at HR’s ability or inability to communicate with the C-suite. The surveys were conducted by reputable firms such as KPMG, Taleo, Human Capital Institute, ACT Bridge and A.T. Kearney.

ACT Bridge pointed out that 56 percent of employers still fail to measure their return on talent investments. KPMG showed the value of data analysis, yet exposed the fact that most organizations are not profiting from it. A.T. Kearney compared employers to baseball managers before “Moneyball” who still used outdated data to assess talent. Finally, Web editor Michael O’Brian said HR professionals have to better tell their story with the analytics they are collecting.

What is more important for a manager than to have the right data and to be able to use it to stimulate effective decision-making? If you don’t have it, and you can’t sell it, you have no chance of ever playing a significant role or being taken seriously. You’ll likely spend the rest of your career on program administration and asking what human resources’ role is.

The most painful aspect of this is that data collection and storytelling are not arcane, mysterious, painful skills. All you need are three easily acquired capabilities. One is knowledge of how your company makes money. How are your products or services made, delivered and serviced? Two is a short course on business financials. Business is run and decisions are made on financial data. Without this language you cannot make yourself understood.

The first two are understandable and easily acquired. The third is a system that naturally produces obviously effective program designs. I’ll tell you how to develop it.

Every successful organization is based on a blend of three factors: vision, brand and culture. Your CEO has presented a vision of where he or she wants to take the enterprise. The vision statement is followed by directional signs on how the CEO expects to achieve that position. In short, these are your marching orders. The brand is your company’s promise to customers on what they can expect from you. For example:

Disneyland: ”The happiest place on earth.”
Wal-Mart: “Save money, live better.”
Ritz-Carlton: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

It is clear in each case what you and I can expect to encounter in those establishments.

The third component is your culture. The corporate culture is the set of behaviors, rituals and taboos your organization will apply to create the brand that fulfills the vision. When the brand is clear, it is a guideline for the culture. If you worked for one of the aforementioned companies, you wouldn’t have to ask many questions about how to behave and perform.

Therefore, the vision begets the brand. Brand begets the culture. Culture begets your leadership style. This simple trifecta is the cornerstone of your management system. From this point on, whenever you are trying to decide how to design a program or offer a service, you have a clear, simple foundation on which to make decisions and to tell your story.

Suppose you want to upgrade your recruiting strategy, and it will require the purchase of applicant tracking software. Don’t approach the C-suite about the technology. Talk about how the new strategy will support the vision, brand and culture. The same applies to a new compensation incentive program or training package. Consider engagement. Tell the story of how your engagement strategy will enhance vision, brand and culture.

The last, and probably most important, issue for the C-suite is return on investment. In complex programs you will probably need to apply predictive analytics to show the economic and financial values. Economic values are non-cash issues such as employer reputation, employee morale and commitment. Financial values are monetary such as revenue generation, cost management and profits. Don’t be put off by analytics. Analytics trace your services to both economic and financial outcomes. At the end of the day, telling your story is much easier if you have a system through which to present it.