Too much big data, not enough heart?

by Caitlin Nobes12 Aug 2014
Human resources leaders are now consistently challenged to prove the value and ROI of specific programs and initiatives, but has that trend gone too far?

Cliff Stevenson, senior research analyst at the Institute for Corporate Productivity, said he believed the data focus could see HR lose its connection to psychology behind what actually motivates employees to perform better.

“It’s still good to have a really good grounding into how people think because it is one of the only departments that is completely focused on people,” Stevenson said. “As we’re pulling more and more often in the HR field from finance, accounting and operations, some of that expertise may be lost.”

He cited a recent study from Lockheed Martin that looked at the link between annual bonuses and employee engagement. Researchers expected to see engagement increase directly with the size of the monetary reward, however the study’s key finding was that employees who opted out of the bonus programme and instead worked toward an award were more engaged and performed better overall.

“What they really wanted was recognition, whether they knew it or not,” Stevenson said.

HR needed to stay in touch with front line managers and employees and recognise that different people and communities will be motivated by different things, rather than assuming the statistical one-size-fits-all approach will garner results. When choosing what perks or benefits to offer, it was vital to assess the workforce’s needs first.  

“Determine the usefulness of those perks,” he said. “With the Internet, everyone knows what everybody’s offering. Find how useful the [perk] is in your arena first. What employees and people in general say they want is not necessarily what they want.”


  • by Catherine Cahill 12/08/2014 11:34:10 AM

    Agree 100%. HR professionals are constantly being bombarded by number crunchers who insist we behave the same way they do. Time which should be spent engaging with the workforce is spent producing reports. I know of a number of organisations who have now prohibited their HR staff from even engaging with a staff member unless that staff member "logs" their "issue" on line first - and the time it takes to "resolve is "tracked". And guess what? The staff stop asking for help. Then they leave. Or they disengage. We must put the People back into Human Resources. There is a good reason why Accountants work with numbers. There is an equally good reason why great HR leaders work with real people.

  • by Louise Cotterill 12/08/2014 3:58:35 PM

    Could not agree more with the above article & comment. It seems more & more finance people are seeing HR as an easy ticket to earning higher dollars yet are woefully underskilled to lead HR functions. This leads to client groups seeing HR as irrelevant in assisting to resolve issues. I know one organisation celebrating the removal of employee inductions because this saves on HR resources and because the HR staff with finance backgrounds are uncomfortable with direct people contact.

  • by David D'Souza 14/08/2014 4:49:40 PM

    We are struggling with an identity crisis centred around whether we are supposed to be modern day number crunchers using a combination of predictive analytics and nudges to control an environment - or whether we are the guardians of autonomy in the workplace. I struggle to see how we can be both.

Most Read