The role of HR

A recent article from HBR on HR’s seat at the table—or lack thereof—argues that HR has been underperforming for years. Our own research shows that HR too often lacks the information or insights to be truly strategic.

Lack of metrics

This lack of insight into workforce data may be part of the reason HR still is not a strategic arm of most companies. Our surveys show that only half (52%) of executives say workforce issues drive strategy at the board level, and nearly one-quarter say that workforce issues are an afterthought in business planning.

HR does not drive strategy

What can executive leadership and HR do to drive the company forward? According to Carol Anderson at HBR, it’s about taking a holistic approach to talent:

All of the sub-disciplines of HR—recruiting, employee relations, performance management, compensation and benefits, and learning & development—have to work together to figure out what customers (the employees and leaders of the organization) need, educate them on risk, and engage them in the right solutions. HR cannot afford to think in silos, offering ‘products and services’ that simply add work to the already overburdened front-line manager.

You can read the full article here.

Workforce execution and vision are out of balance

On Friday we talked about the lack of HR tools and metrics plaguing businesses, which lack ample data about the workforce, quantifiable benchmarking, and the ability to glean insight from the data they do have.

HR’s lack of tools may impede progress toward meeting workforce goals (only one-third of respondents say they have made good or significant progress), but the problem also suggests a deeper issue with HR strategy.

Our survey found that while companies are executing on operational plans, less than a third have a strategic, enterprise-wide vision for the workforce they want to build.  Without a vision, companies are unlikely to acquire the tools they need to meet workforce goals, and they will struggle to use the resources they do have properly.

Execution and vision - Sept 29

The imbalance between strategy and vision is even more pronounced in certain countries. In both Australia and China, for example, nearly three-quarters say they have a defined execution plan, while just 25% say they have a vision.

You can read more about the relationship between strategy and vision in our research report, The Looming Talent Crisis. For even more data, check out our project landing page.

HR lacks the metrics and tools needed to meet workforce goals

Over half (53%) of executives we surveyed say workforce development is a key differentiator for their firm; despite best intentions, most do not have the tools and organization to back it up. In fact, just 38% say they have ample data about the workforce to understand their strengths and potential vulnerabilities from a skills perspective, and 39% say they use quantifiable metrics and benchmarking as part of their workforce development strategy.

Lack of metrics and tools - September 26

What’s more, only 42% say they know how to extract meaningful insights from the data available to them. And C-suite executives are more likely than HR executives to say their firm uses quantifiable metrics and benchmarking as part of their workforce development strategy, suggesting further strategic misalignment.

The bottom line? Companies are not making progress toward meeting their workforce goals–just one-third say they have made good or significant progress–and the lack of metrics and analytics capabilities could be holding back their progress.