So far in this series we’ve written about what should go into an HR strategy and why, what HR levels of experience and expertise can help put together and implement the strategy, and the subject of implementation itself.  The final subject is:  How can you tell that the strategy is working?

The answer is in measurement. But what to measure? To answer this question, we have to go back to the original objectives for the project.  How was successful implementation supposed to look?  Were benchmarks set? Was this even considered when the strategy was written?

Hopefully, the answer is ‘yes’.  But the nuisance of a strategy is that it generally does not have an ‘end’ date.  You can’t expect to see a finished product neatly wrapped up and delivered on the expected day if it’s about a new way of working. And if it does arrive nicely packaged on the expected day, as any parent will tell you, that’s the beginning, not the end.  Things change.

In measuring “financial” and “technical,” it will soon become clear if either of these are not matching the objectives.  If the IT or the machinery doesn’t work, then the right people can get to work to get it up and running or fixed.  And if the finances are over-spent, this will rapidly prompt a review and a re-set. 

But if the plan is not achieving its objectives for staffing reasons, then there is a deeper and wider-ranging problem. If unhappiness reaches a critical point, then the plan can be driven so far off track. Getting it back would be a major undertaking and this might mean that the cost involved in retrieving it may outweigh the expected financial gains from the original objectives.

Measurements for people come in many shapes and sizes. People vote with their hands, their feet and their voices and are generally led by their emotions.  Not forgetting that people are individual so what may be a relatively relaxed response for one person might leave another anxious and frightened of what is coming. There is no one-size-fits-all.

Where to start? Back with the objectives. What were the indicators of success when the objectives for the project are on track, in terms of the people?

There are two ways of looking at such measures: ‘leading’ and ‘lagging’.  The leading measures are mainly predictive, and we will come back to those.  The lagging measures are what has happened and what is happening in real time.  Some people-related questions that can be measured statistically are:

  • What is our turnover rate?
  • What is our sickness rate?
  • What is the impact of our training?

Common metrics for assessing outcomes include:

  • Sickness rate
  • Productivity rate
  • Average length of service
  • Attrition

A good HR system will be able to churn out these numbers and percentages daily, weekly and monthly, as required.

HR objectives being set with papers and notes spread across a table

Any spike in these factors can be measured easily if a baseline has been set at the beginning of the project. Not only that but it can be investigated, and corrective action taken to ensure that the numbers return to the baseline expectation. 

Taking sickness levels as an example, if new work is introduced without enough explanation and opportunity to learn and get up to speed, the amount of stress-related absence may go up.  This is as much the fault of the organisation as it is the individual who feels unable to contribute positively.  Quickly getting to the core of this type of issue will prevent a project being derailed, but it’s much better to try to stop it happening in the first place. 

To try to get ahead of any stress related issues, what about asking these questions:

  • How happy and satisfied are our staff?
  • How engaged are staff with their work and the organisation?

Leaving aside HR and business jargon, the organisation will do well and be successful if its staff come to work enthused, engaged and committed. If they’re ready to give their best effort and are prepared to go the extra mile to achieve success, that will also positively contribute to the business.

There are many ways to make this happen, but in terms of a one-off project, it’s important to know simply and quickly if you’ve got it right, by getting a measure of how the staff feel.

Surveys are a good way and like your employees, they too come in many shapes and sizes. To get a real-time reaction they survey needs to be quick and easy.

For example, in some shops in the UK (including one well-known fast food outlet) there is a box near the exit with three traffic light buttons: red for dissatisfied customer, amber for OK, and green for happy customer.

There is an HR equivalent of this, and it’s called a Pulse Survey.  It usually consists of just a few questions with yes/no responses that can be answered by hitting a button as you pass by.  Of course, it can’t go into any degree of depth, but it can give an instant ‘feeling’ of how staff are reacting to a situation.  The questions can be changed on a regular basis to reflect the progress of the project

Staff can be updated on the outcomes by email, briefing session or by posting the daily/weekly results. This gives them an opportunity to get in touch privately if they have concerns.

Employee satisfaction smiley faces with man ticking happy face

If a more in-depth reaction is called for, then Survey Monkey can come into play. This type of survey can be individually delivered, can give the opportunity for comments and can be anonymous or open.

But it’s worth remembering that surveys are only as useful as the questions they ask.  It’s like successful juggling:  anyone and everyone can catch, but for sustainable outcomes the throw has to be well aimed.

If your strategy is likely to have a long-term effect on the business, then you need to find a way to measure how people are reacting. This applies not only to now, but how these feelings are likely to be converted into future thoughts and actions.  These are the ‘leading’ measures. This is a time when longer term planning and succession planning comes to the fore.

You can begin succession planning to ensure your strategy is going to remain embedded in the business, supported by the right people. You can do this with a good talent management strategy and by reviewing your staff and ensuring that your managers all understand the importance of recognising talent that the organisation should retain.

And finally, at the other end of the scale, is risk factoring or assessing ‘flight risk’.  This can be carried out as often as you feel is appropriate, but it’s best done quarterly when you need to be abreast of the feelings of the workforce.

It does require that your managers know their people well. It’s a very good indicator of what your turnover could be in the coming 12 to 18 months and will allow you to plan and factor in turnover into your strategy.

HR management meeting at a table to review employees

It works by bringing managers together and asking them to review their staff to work out how likely it is that they will stay with the business for 3-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12 months+.  These numbers can then be converted into percentages and will give you an indicator of not only how many staff may be looking to vote with their feet, but when and where you may need to start looking to employ new staff.

That brings us to the completion of our articles on HR Strategy, Implementation and Measuring Success.  We hope that it has given you some food for thought.  If you want to hear more, please get in touch.

red paper aeroplane