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HR needs to master organizational planning and analysis to be credible

Published by orgvue

OrgVue - Annapurna and OrgVueParticipants at Annapurna HR’s 10th December Christmas event at the impressive Haymarket Hotel (“a whole new definition of glamour” – Vanity Fair) carefully circumnavigated the swimming pool and discussed the topic of HR having impact in the boardroom.

James Ballard hosted it kindly with ample mulled wine and mince pies and mercifully few references to Harrogate Town, who that very evening ran out 3-1 winners in the big game against Hednesford Town…

Rupert Morrison, Managing Director of OrgVue, presented 5 HR challenges and led a discussion on how to resolve them.

The ‘Five Challenges for Organisation Design and HR Analytics’ slides are available here, and the discussion on the evening is described below.

Opening discussion: what are the top issues that HRDs are expected to address?

The first issues raised were:

Then participants zoomed in a little on analytics as a potential hot topic, from three angles.

Getting the numbers right: It was critical to get the numbers right in order to have credibility. Finance can say ‘the numbers are the numbers’, why can’t HR?

Getting the numbers dynamic: How can the discussion get away from powerpoint to have a dynamic view of the numbers? It would, for example, be attractive to be able to respond quickly  when people asked (as a delaying / defensive tactic?) ‘can we see this from another angle?’

Getting the right numbers: But others emphasised collecting the data you need, not the data that’s easy to collect – e.g. effectiveness of hire, not time to hire or cost to hire. Although there’s a long lead time to prove quality of hire, it’s key to end up with hire quality. (Forgive the pun).

Rupert offered 5 topics of discussion: baseline data, process mapping, organisation-as-a-system, rightsizing, impact analysis

The participants chose to focus on three, and the discussion on each is summarised below:

Baseline issues:

Some example challenges:

  1. Data not directly under HR control.
    • When IT is a key gatekeeper to obtain the data, it is vital to get HR people and IT people to understand and respect each other’s priorities, capabilities and challenges.
  2. The flexible boundaries of the organisation
    • Does Apple employ 70,000 people or 400,000 (in its supply chain). Does it matter? Do mining companies have responsibility for contract staff? What happens when health & safety, compliance or bribery issues affect a company with a long supply chain? HR Directors need to know how to draw the boundaries of the organisation when they are reporting, analysing or intervening to encourage improvement.
  3. The flexible history of the organisation
    • Many organisations struggle with history more than 1-3 years, because of personnel moves, changes in reporting lines and wholesale divestments and re-structures.
  4. The lack of standard data
    • Despite efforts by the ISO, (and initiatives in areas like mining H&S stats) there are no universally accepted metrics for key HR variables such as absence. The meta-data is not consistent!
  5. Death by a thousand analytical cuts
    • Everyone in the boardroom thinks it would be useful to see the data in a slightly different way. The HR team often feels slightly ill when it hears a request to ‘just re-cut that data by age / department / region…’
  6. Sheer defensiveness – HR is nervous about the data. It should be more ballsy!

Rupert presented a useful 5-step approach to mapping, loading, cleansing, verifying and maintaining the data.


First, people discussed what ‘right-sizing’ is – not just reduction, but actually calculating how many people you’ll need, where, for which roles

Then some example challenges for right-sizing surfaced:

  1. Doesn’t actually happen / is a function of politics / results from the magic number
  2. Right-sizing gets overtaken by or absorbed in the budgeting process
  3. It needs to start from the processes and workload – but rarely does
  4. In primary industries, may not happen because of follow-my-leader behaviour where organisations show tight correlation in growing at times of high commodity prices and shrinking suddenly when prices drop.
    ‘This misses an opportunity to recruit at the best time to recruit…’

Rupert presented 4 options for right-sizing methods, each of which sought to be reason-based, rather than magic!

Impact analysis:

Everyone agreed on the importance of helping managers understand and communicate the impact of change on their team members. Some suggested, however, that impact analysis was not a boardroom issue. Just one that HR had to get right. Others put the case that unless HR masters delivery of organisational change it will continually lack credibility in the boardroom.

Rupert showed the categories of impact: line manager change, role title change, responsibilities change, location change, job at risk – and methods for visualising them quickly for an organisation during transformation.

What wasn’t covered:

Despite Giles Slinger’s best efforts, the OrgVue Process Cards never made it to the table – though many participants took home a free pack of these cards for re-designing the HR function. The ‘Organisation as a System’ would also have to be discussed another day.

Drinks continued afterwards, thanks to Annapurna’s continued hospitality and the event adjourned at 9pm