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5/6/2004

Expert: HR needs to quantify

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Carpenters, tailors and human resources professionals share no skill overlap — except in taking accurate measurements.

But according to Jean E. Imbler, owner of Strategic HR Solutions in Boulder, too many HR professionals measure too little.

At a mid-April HR roundtable hosted by the Longmont Area Economic Council, Imbler presented on how implementing metrics — quantitative data compiled by measuring everything from grievances to hiring costs to safety — can build a better company.

“Don’t just measure for the sake of measuring,” she said. “Measure to help your company better understand the bottom line.”

Doing the math in these situations seems a given.

But according to Imbler, fewer than 5 percent of HR groups she addresses use metrics beyond basics such as turnover.

“Many times HR folks are just not very financially oriented,” she said. “But to be a true business partner, to be taken seriously and earn their place at the executive table, HR must know how to measure.”

Imbler’s focus on understanding a company’s profit-and-loss statement and how various aspects of HR management affect those numbers impressed Joseph Clay, a Seagate HR business partner and LAEC HR roundtable attendee.

“In our world, what we try to quantify are the things that are really hard to get your arms around,” he said. “But when you take it back to financial results, you gain a broader audience.”

That is especially true when HR presents an idea to company executives, he said.

“(Showing numbers) is better than saying, ‘I really think it’s a good idea,’” he explained.

Becoming fluent on the company’s financial picture has caused Seagate HR staff to expand skills beyond those of a traditional personnel officer, Clay continued.

“Traditional personnel officers were responsible to hire people, fire people and keep everyone happy,” he said.

To go beyond that, Seagate two years ago created Maximizing Alignment for Performance, a computer program to help employees clarify goals.

Better metrics, he explained, now help Seagate measure how effectively employees move toward those goals.

“It doesn’t mean you have to go and work out the numbers like the best people in finance department,” he said. “It just means knowing the numbers and having some idea of what they mean.”

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.