You Know What They Say About Assumptions…

According to an article published in the Wall Street Journal’s CMO Insights and Analysis section, over half of the companies in a recent survey invest in market research as part of their marketing budget. Why? Maybe because they know they’re going to waste a lot of money if they make the wrong products or pitch a service that no one wants.  Information is power. We have the tools now to collect and sort data to inform the best, most profitable, and most productive decisions.  Question: Can we apply those same concepts to our understanding of employees?

So many decision makers focused on getting information from the outside about how to run their companies; perhaps we should also be looking to acquire relevant information about the inside. I’m not talking about flimsy surveys asking “Why do you work here? What do you want?” I’m talking about investing time and money into a system that can drill down and see which departments and managers are doing well and which are struggling so you can identify the reasons. I’m not talking about something free or crowd sourced. I’m talking about making an investment in your company with a clear ROI. 

I was recently part of this conversation:

Business owner: “We don’t have a turnover problem.”

HR manager: “Actually it’s 35 percent in some positions.”

Business owner: “Oh well, yes, but that’s the industry standard.”

Me: “How did you get the 35 percent number and have you obtained data so you could benchmark whether that’s the industry standard or not?”

The business owner and HR hadn’t considered that. Each was operating on an assumption and were at odds.  We asked if their HRIS could spit out a report on turnover drilled down by department, manager, length of employment and other factors and we pulled data on turnover for their industry.  Once they looked more closely, it turned out that most of the turnover was in one department, under one manager, with new hires staying less than a year. This wasn’t an industry standard issue and this wasn’t some positions issues, this was a manager issue.  Both the owner and the HR Manager hadn’t considered the data and how to use it effectively.

Harvard Business Review has run several articles about how the C-suite can have perceptions that are quite different from how employees see the company. A recent one showed that 83 percent of executives thought that curiosity was encouraged and rewarded in the company—which is essential for innovation. But only 52 percent of employees felt the same. That is a 31 percent difference. 

I’ve seen similar articles about discrepancies of perception on employee engagement. When you are responsible for the entire organization and are relying on your managers to inform you, you may be getting their assumptions. There’s no reason for that to be the case any more.

There are so many tools now for surveying employees quickly, easily and cheaply.  Heck, there are even ones set up like games, with points and cool prizes. So back to that ROI thing. To make informed decisions about our employees, data is necessary and an essential investment. We have the ability to gather, without interrupting the business processes, all the information we need to make smart decisions to grow our businesses and non-profits.  As leaders, lets apply those same techniques internally.   I promise it will be worth it.   

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