Back in 2011 I wrote series of articles on measurement that focused in performance-based measurement for training professionals. At the time, Media 1 was focused in on the transformation of the training function to a performance mindset. In subsequent years, we’ve reframed that performance mindset for the HR professional. The following is an update on my thoughts from the original post.

Far be it for me to hold back on how I really feel about something. So, here goes:

Measuring HR as a justification for HR is an utter waste of time.

It’s like giving style points to the 50-yard dash. It may be interesting, but the only thing that matters is who crossed the finish line first. In other words, the performance or result mattered; the style in which it was achieved is barely noteworthy. Yet, when you measure HR in and of itself, that’s exactly what is happening.

I think Charles H. Green hits it on the head with this quote from his blog:

“The ubiquity of measurement inexorably leads people to mistake the measures themselves for the things they were intended to measure.”

Why do we keep using measures instead of actual performance as justification to ourselves and our organizations? The answer to that question in many cases is rooted in why we are asked to measure HR in the first place… that is, to prove that it has some kind of meaningful, measurable impact on the organization’s results.

Many of our organizations do not believe that HR as it is currently defined contributes to profitability. Or they do not trust that you or your immediate organization can execute HR in an impactful way. The requirement for measurement comes from a place of distrust—not from a defined need to measure results. Consequently, measurement is demanded to “prove” HR has value. Trust is not impacted or improved through this exercise, but regardless, time and effort is spent generating measurements that don’t really tell us anything about the business.

It is not my intent to write a primer on the effects of trust in business. I think Stephen M.R. Covey has done a good job with that in his book the Speed of Trust and the follow-up Smart Trust. The point is that a lack of trust affects our relationships and results in demands for measurements based on volume that are intended to justify the existence of HR in an organization. It’s a closed loop with no obvious business value. That’s why old-school HR departments are usually viewed as a cost centers, not as a strategic business partners or even a source of predictive intelligence.

So how do we as HR professionals earn trust and show that HR can be a source or profitability within the enterprise?

In short we have to make the paradigm shift into measurements that help the business make better, faster decisions based on the analytics of human performance. When business sees we are measuring things that concern them and aren’t self-serving, then that’s a great first step in assuring the business that we’re all in this together.

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