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Six things you need to know about measuring people management

Measuring your people management is important, but don’t get hung up on hard metrics. Think what you want to know and why if you want to get ahead…

When it comes to understanding how embedded your people management practices are, issues of measurement often crop up. But all too often people get distracted by the tools they can use and the data they can gather, rather than focusing on what’s important. The people themselves. So here’s five things you can do to make your measuring effective.


1. Start at the beginning. What do you want to know and why?

Firstly, be really clear about why you’re investing time in measuring your people management and decide what you want to know before you start working out how to measure. It’s also imperative you get senior management engagement so they understand not just the value of measuring people management, but the value of people themselves.

Establish what business success looks like for you and how your people contribute to that picture, then use that as your baseline. You could think about your business’s purpose, vision and values and work out how much your people reflect, embody and deliver that purpose.

Measuring from a baseline

For example, a utilities regulation authority I worked with a number of years ago was running a graduate training programme to get the specifically-trained talent it needed. However, it became concerned about the turnover of the programme, which seemed to be attracting high-performing graduates who were then leaving after two years to progress their careers with commercial water companies.

Whilst working through the IIP accreditation process they identified what this turnover really meant to their business, from lost knowledge to recruitment costs, and once they had those measurements, put an action plan in place to improve on them.

The knee-jerk reaction would have been to throw money at the programme in order to try to retain graduates. Instead, they accelerated the development curve of the programme, condensing it to two years and introducing an extra qualification as part of the programme.

This ensured graduates could work more effectively and resulted in improved employee engagement. The additional qualification made graduates feel more supported and valued, also leading to a reduction in employee turnover, post programme.


2. Trust your instincts

The common complaint about people management is that it isn’t measurable. That a lot of it comes down to perception, to trust, to the sense of feeling valued. It’s true that these softer insights are an important gauge of how your people management is working, but it’s not true that they can’t be measured.

We all measure them, all the time. You can often walk into an office, talk to a colleague or just listen and watch how employees interact to see if there is a positive workplace culture, if people feel trusted or if they feel supported. They might not be the kind of measures that you can plot on a graph, or map out and project forward, but instincts and observations shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to understanding whether your employees are engaged and your people management practice is effective.


3. Comparison is good, but focus on what you’re doing, not the competition.

Benchmarking is about so much more than just where you come on the list. Looking at what others are doing and measuring yourselves against that can be helpful, but only if it leads to understanding how your people management practices work and what you could be doing better. It’s important when benchmarking that you pick out and work on the areas that you feel are business critical (see point 1).

It’s also important that you look inside the business as well as outside. Which departments or teams are leading and managing people effectively? Are there tools or resources being used in some teams that are getting results? How can you highlight best practice across your business and introduce a cohesive approach? Internal benchmarking relies to some degree on data gathering and analysis, which also comes with its own considerations.


4. When you measure, choose the right tools for the job.

Once you’re clear about what you want to know and why, define measures and metrics that are specific to what you want to achieve. Are surveys, performance reviews or 360-degree reviews best suited to the type of information you want to gather and the type of organisation you are?

Consider how people management data you do gather sits alongside your other business metrics and give it equal footing. One insurance company I helped on their Investors in People journey identified 25 key questions relevant to their HR objectives, splitting them down into a handful of questions a month to minimise the effort needed on the part of employees and maximise the return rate.

Feeding the results from the survey into their dashboard, alongside typical metrics for productivity, complaints, churn, absence, and so on, meant senior management could easily identify any dips in response rates and productivity. Importantly, management would then respond within two days to find out the root cause and remedy the situation effectively. This had a tangible impact on bottom line business performance.