Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Human Resources audits 101 – 2: strategically selected metrics as performance tools

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on November 5, 2013

This is my second posting to a series on performance reviewing and assessing Human Resources as a crucial area of ongoing business function, and how an HR department or service does or does not align with and support its business, and both operationally and strategically (see Part 1: starting a new series.)

I began this series by posing a set of questions, and began addressing them in Part 1, with the first question of that list:

• What HR functions should be tracked and audited?

I gave a more through answer to that in my first series installment, but bottom line, my answer was: essentially everything that Human Resources does as a matter of processes and functions performed, where all of that should align with and support business needs. And as the end of that installment I stated that I would continue its series here, with question two of that list:

• What metrics should be employed in doing so?

And my goal for this installment is to at least offer a framework approach for answering that so as to meet the specific needs of the particular business.

In a fundamental sense I have already at least begun to address the issues of this posting with my series: Moving Towards Dynamic Performance Based Business Models (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses, postings 123 and following for its Parts 1-8.) I wrote there about the importance of developing and using the right metrics for the business as a whole, and in fact as a performance-based framework for developing and fine tuning its foundation with its business model. My goal here is to address some of those same issues but from the perspective of a single department or service.

• Effective performance metrics used by and for Human Resources should track performance of every major ongoing function that the department routinely carries out, and how they are carried out.
• These metrics need to be formulated in such a way as to help identify problems and exceptions from the routine and expected, as well as offering consistent insight into processes and results where they are being tracked. As a specific HR performance metric consideration, there are almost always a least several and there are often a great many steps in most HR processes (e.g. completing and signing off on job descriptions for public release) where departmental team members are required to follow through on a step by step basis to make sure that a next step can be carried out. How long does it take for this? Are email and phone follow-throughs, for example, rapid and efficient or are there delays and disconnects?
• At the same time as these metrics help this specific department for its internal performance review purposes, they need to make sense for the business as a whole so departmental impact, good, bad or indifferent on the business and its overall operations can be analyzed and considered too. Consider the impact of having too few HR staff members having to divide their time between two many specific high priority tasks for them to be able to complete any of them in what any other department there would consider a timely manner. And Information Technology and Finance both need to get critical-needs job descriptions finished and signed off on by HR so they can be posted on the appropriate jobs sites as being open for hiring. Now consider this same outcome bottleneck, but where HR has plenty of people working, but where their paperwork and its processes slow everything down to a crawl.
• With these example scenarios I cite problem situations that impact on both the HR department and also on every other department and service that they should be working in support of, and the business as a whole.
• A problem at one of these levels (e.g. at the business level as HR practices impact on all other services) can highlight and help to quantify a problem at the other of these two levels (here, in HR itself where absent business-wide feedback, their directing manager might not understand the scope of their own problems.)

It is just as important to identify particular sources of success and efficiency here too, so that the decisions and processes that led to them can be developed into more widely applicable best practices too.

I am going to proceed in my next series installment to consider the third question from Part 1 of this series:

• How should operational exceptions and problems be identified, measured, tracked and resolved, and how should that be included in an HR audit?

I began that discussion here, of necessity, by acknowledging that operational exceptions and problems can and do arise and that they have to be identified and dealt with. My goal for the next installment will be to at least start to flesh out some of the details to that, and note some of the key issues that come into place there. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel.

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