Big Data Hat, But No Digital Cattle

Right after I write about how there is way more ideas about Big Data in HR than actual results, NPR publishes this story. In it, they talk with several people about new ways of gathering pre-employment test data. However, the most important phrases are:

“The science of these claims isn’t yet clear.”

“And very little independent research exists.”

It occurred to me when reading the article that if any of the purveyors of these new tests have the data which shows that their techniques are better than (or significantly add to) existing types of tests, they would have been shouting from the rooftops by now. Until they do (and have some peer reviewed research studies done), you can keep me in the hopeful, but skeptical, camp.

In the meantime, if you have some good Big Data results (e.g., how using Big Data impacted your decision making), please let us all know in the comments section.

For more information on validated pre-employment testing, please contact Warren Bobrow at 310 670-4175.

The “War” for Being Taken Seriously

When I go to HR related conferences there are some themes that seem to pop up on a regular basis:

  • Big Data
  • The “War” for Talent (along with the occasionally seen term “War for Engagement”)
  • How to Get a “Seat at the Table” (with top executives)

What they have in common is ridiculous language. Also, except for the first one, these terms all come from the HR (or consulting) echo chamber and not from top executives.

I have decided not to attend any HR conference with “Big Data” in the title until there is a presenter that shows how her or his company used large data sets to improve their processes or show value. Period. There’s been more than enough talk about what “Big Data” might do in talent management. I do not doubt that some large companies are using it effectively in HR, but they are not sharing yet (which is up to them).

Using the term “war” for something other than the real thing is something that I find offensive. It is hyperbole that degrades the human toll of conflict. When people use the term it shows that they are more interested in hype than a real conversation. Do companies need to compete (sometimes fiercely) for talent? Absolutely. So, let’s talk about it in those terms, OK?

Lastly, whenever I hear HR say it wants a “seat at the table” is always comes off as whining. If senior management is not involving HR in critical decision making it means that they do not feel that HR is a critical part of the business because it is not showing value. In some cases it is because they never think HR can improve the business. In other cases it is because HR has not convincingly shows what it does for the bottom line. If the former, you can choose whether or not to try and change minds or go work where you feel appreciated. If the latter, you probably need to find out the questions the executive team wants answered. I don’t think there is a need for any more conference presentations on this, unless they are about how the situation was changed.

HR conferences can be valuable learning experiences (and a good place to network). However, they need to use better language and have topics that contribute to business effectiveness and people having a worthwhile experience at work.

For more information on effective HR practices, please contact Warren Bobrow at 310 670-4175.

Thank You, May I Have Another?

For those of you on an annual cycle, it is performance review time. To us consultants, it’s also known as the largest black hole period of the year (we can’t do that now, it will interfere with reviews!).

Annual performance reviews have their detractors and those who provide tips to make them more palatable. There’s also the school of, “hold your nose and do it so we have documentation in case you want to fire someone.” The purpose of this blog entry is not to rehash these arguments.

This recent article puts an interesting spin on the performance review process. Specifically, it identifies the three aspects of communication that are part of it:

  • Thanks for being here!
  • Here’s how you can improve.
  • This is how you stack up against my expectations of you (and the rewards that go with it).

Research does tell us a lot of things about the above. For instance, appreciation is a motivator, the best performers benefit the most from coaching, and most people do not like to be externally evaluated. How can we leverage this in the performance appraisal process?

Appreciation, when earned, should not be a yearly or quarterly occurrence. Recognize and praise good performance whenever you see it. If you wait for a formal review to do this, it is too far after the behavior occurred, so the praise is less reinforcing (though still appreciated).

Spend your coaching resources on the top 50% of your workforce. They are more likely to be open to the feedback, which is how they became top performers in the first place. However, the coaching needs to be frequent to be effective.

Delivering “the number” is performance is the most difficult aspect. Only sociopaths like giving poor performance reviews. If objective goals/standards were agreed upon, a person should have a pretty good idea about his/her performance throughout the year so, when “the number” is reviewed there shouldn’t be any surprises. Having said that, any performance feedback should also include reference to a goal as well.

Let’s face it—no one likes to get graded, unless s/he knows that it is going to be an “A”. But, documentation of performance is important for legal and fairness reasons. If you are clear on the three aspects, you will make the process a bit more effective. You might even close some of the black hole.

Feel free to share your performance review thoughts, stories, etc. in the comments.

For more information on getting more performance out of your review process, contact Warren at 310 670-4175.

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