Q&A: Tell me a story

by HRD03 Nov 2016
Does storytelling really have a place in data analytics? Mike Erlin, Cornerstone OnDemand's managing director, Australia & New Zealand, outlines why it's critical to tell a story while working the numbers

How does the art of ‘storytelling’ apply to data analytics in HR?
HR data analytics is not yet a common language across most businesses. Mastering what data analytics can bring to the business is a journey that requires a set of capabilities to uncover the drivers that lead to new opportunities and decisions that can affect change in a business.

Stories help HR deliver more strategic value to the business by taking the audience (eg executives) on a journey. Through stories, the storyteller provides direction and points of relevance to focus the audience on the items that drive action and positive change for the business.

Good stories bring people of different backgrounds and mindsets to a common point of reflection. From this point, they can each consider the impact, positive or negative, that the story’s message will have on them and, if done well, it will compel them to be a part of the required action and change.

What crucial aspects are needed to craft a data ‘story’?
The beginning, middle and end are pretty crucial. Start at the end with what success looks like: What is the end point of the journey? A change. 

Next, work backwards: What do you want to compel your audience to do to drive the change you seek? An action.

With that clearly understood, work backwards still: How do they need to feel in order to be compelled to take the required action to drive the change? An experience.

Finally, the start: What does your audience need to know? The scene.

Adopting a policy to recruit an age-diverse workforce (an action) will drive a two-point increase in customer satisfaction and a $7m improvement in operating margin across the business (a change).

How can HR best communicate this story to the C-suite or workforce?
Be ready and competent to deliver the story. Ready might mean you get to leverage your online learning to freshen up your presentation and/or sales skills. With that complete, consider graphics, video in support of the ‘experience’, and be prepared to take your executives on a journey to realise that change.

Competent might mean you understand the tools and skills within your department, you’ve analysed the available data, gained the appropriate insights, have modelled different scenarios that will drive the change needed in the business, and have a story that will cover the journey.

You will move mountains! Good luck.

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