Reporting For Change to C-Suite: A Guide for HR

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Founder of Pink Jelly People Consultancy, Lara Holding-Jones has close to a decade of experience in the HR industry and has built a platform of two and a half thousand followers on LinkedIn, where she shares her extensive knowledge on HR data and how HR teams can become more data-led. We were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work in collaboration with Lara on the following article.

Leadership has always been a key concern for HR, but with the unprecedented shifts we’ve witnessed in the workplace over the last three years the gap between what people expect from the workplace does not always align with the mindsets of leadership. Many are claiming there is an empathy gap – and there are certainly stats to back this up. For example, 90% of employees surveyed listed perks such as flexible work and childcare as their most-wanted benefits, but less than half of their employers offered these benefits.

To close this gap between leadership and their people, HR often operate as the bridge. However, to effectively advocate for the changes which are necessary to boost wellbeing, productivity and engagement, HR need to be able to offer the right data and analytics, in the right form, with the right methods. As HR are frequently overstretched dealing with day-to-day operations it can be challenging to find the time and resource to analyse the data and make a business case for change.

However, when HR teams do seize the opportunity to inform their decision making with data, senior leadership teams are often more invested in decisions they make and support. We explore practical ways your team can achieve this below, with plenty of expert insight from Lara Holding-Jones:

Make a plan

Look at the data and reporting capabilities of your current HR system, as well as the analytics and insights it can offer, and how you can best utilise these to back up whatever proposal you’re making to leadership. One important thing to consider is how easy it is to retrieve the data you need for your report. Sometimes drilling for specific data and displaying it in a form that is easily digestible for your leadership team can be a time-consuming process depending on your system.

Lara Holding-Jones confirms her experience with this, stating that “This is one of the biggest things I see HR teams doing wrong. They get really ambitious and want to report some metrics that are really hard for them to collate quickly. Imagine spending two weeks pulling together an end of month dashboard. It just doesn’t work. There has to be a balance between using the right metrics and accessing the data quickly. Start with something manageable and build from there.”

Build a high-quality data foundation your leadership can depend on

Historically, there has been scepticism surrounding HR data, and due to factors such as human error, lacking single source of truth, less experience working with data, or out of date processes.

HR should also work with other departments such as finance, legal, and IT to reconcile data and ensure everything aligns. This will significantly improve HR’s credibility with other departments, something which will eventually ripple out to the rest of your organisation, including your C-Suite. You may also decide to adopt a single cloud-based HR system, which resolves these issues at the root.

Building these high-quality data foundations is a necessary first-step of your team’s plan. Lara elaborates on this, stating; “Slow and steady wins the race every time with data. You need to build your credibility with the senior leadership team. Whilst most people can forgive a few small mistakes, there isn’t much room for error, and therefore, I always recommend playing it safe. Don’t overstretch yourself or your data capabilities. Focus on the basics, report on that, then slowly extend what you do with data.”

Be thoughtful about what analytics you include and how you display them

It’s important to make sure you’re being as efficient as possible with your report. Insights should have an impact – don’t just display your data, but also discuss and map out the actionable opportunities or concerns they point to. HR teams may want to focus on data which is ‘forward-looking’, and therefore more strategic – for example, predictive analytics. Speak with C-Suite about what data they want to see and consider what data they’ve asked for in the past. Lara comments on the importance of this – “That’s feedback for you – questions they’ve asked, data they’ve requested. That’s all questions that were unanswered for them, and you might consider including in future.”

Consider how to visualise data in a way that key takeaways are easy to absorb, that is engaging, and emphasises the point your team is trying to make. HR don’t want to waste valuable time compiling unnecessary data into their reporting, and leadership will only have so long to listen to the argument(s) being put forward.

Lara speaks to the importance of HR putting themselves in leadership’s shoes: “Think about the data the senior leadership team will need to make a decision. If you’re asking them to invest in a new development programme, what will they want to know? Possibly cost per person, certainly historic development spend, target audience, when this audience last received training, possibly performance review data. They will also want to know the potential ROI so speak to the training provider and see what results other companies have had – how has turnover rate/retention been impacted, how has readiness for promotion changed, how have employee satisfaction rates changed?

Think about the bottom line

In most organisations, C-suite leaders are focussed on the bottom line, either single or triple, especially in today’s economic circumstances. Therefore, the recommendations, requests, and ways of working in your HR team must all ultimately circle back to how it will influence the bottom line. HR has been one of the departments to bear the brunt of recent budget cuts, so if the change you are requesting from C-Suite is going to require resource or investment, you’ll need to include reporting on its relevance to the bottom line.

“If you want to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in a new HR software for example, you need to show how it will impact the bottom line. Is it going to speed up the return of data which will drive efficiencies in other areas? Will it make the data more accurate, meaning less losses in other areas? Can you reduce the headcount in your department or redeploy them elsewhere for greater benefit?“

Close the loop

“You’ll have probably heard about closed loop feedback before but perhaps not considered it in the context of data and reporting. Essentially, we want to tie up all the loose ends whenever you begin a process like a change project, training development programme or change in recruitment strategy. Typically, you’ll ask for permission for the project, including some assumptions about the results or ROI, then naturally you go off and complete it. Often, we forget to monitor and report back on the results, especially longer term.

When we close the loop, we report back on the results of the project. We essentially do a postmortem, but on the data. When you go through that wrap up process, ideally, you’re going to use as much concrete data as possible, including advanced correlation and causation analysis to review the project’s success if you can. So go back to your original expectations and intended results. Did you meet those aims? What were the outcomes of the project? What mistakes were made? What would you do differently next time? Record your findings and save them somewhere so that when you need to reference the impact of the project in the future, you have everything you need.”

As the working landscape continues to shift, it’s up to HR and People professionals to stay tuned in through their data and be able to report constructively to leadership when change is necessary. Getting to this stage is not an overnight process, but if executed correctly it will deliver positive results long term for organisational culture, connection, and overall success.