HR Metrics that Matter: Learn to Drive Sustainable Business Processes

We tend to overcomplicate with scorecards and dashboards, says Shane Yount. If metrics don’t answer the question, “Are you winning or losing?” they don’t matter. You’re wasting your time, he says. Yount’s remarks came at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference and Exposition, held recently in New Orleans. Yount is chief operating officer and principal at the international consulting firm, Competitive Solutions, Inc.

How to Use Scorecards

Yount suggests that each week, take your objectives or processes and rate them either green (meaning on schedule, no problems) or red (meaning off schedule or problems of some sort). Say you have 3 reds and 15 greens, Yount says. The 3 reds become the agenda for the weekly meeting.

Doing that focuses the meeting on things that move the business forward. At the end of the meeting, be sure each red has a corrective action associated with it.

Then, recalibrate every 90 days, says Yount. When items on the list are green for 90 days, celebrate, but for day 91, set new targets. Otherwise, you get sandbagging, he says.

Use this system:

  • Metrics are visible.
  • Metrics set the tone.
  • Metric performance sets the agenda and also the duration of meeting.

Important point with this system: Stop owning red if it’s not yours, Yount says.

Pillars of Productivity

For determining what’s important, Yount sets forth the following “pillars of productivity” to use in evaluating:

  1. Compliance
  2. Continuous supply (volume, output, productivity)
  3. Colleague engagement, safety, training
  4. Cost

Here are some of the metrics Yount recommends for Academic Human Resources (AHR):


Time to fill jobs How long it takes to fill a position once it is approved; indicator of hiring efficiency; can provide feedback to determine best sourcing methods Total number of days of open jobs/total number of jobs
Number of overall days key positions are vacant (due to recruiting) How long it takes to fill key positions Total number of days of open jobs
Response time to complete task (in our control) Track and improve efficiency of defined tasks, e.g., response time pertaining to benefits transactions. Percent of tasks completed on time
Voluntary turnover rate Movement out of an organization, with focus on “who” leaves and to whom they report Number of employees who left/total number of active employees
Training and development hours (or cost) per employee How much company is investing in people through training and development program Number of training hours (or cost) per employee for a specific period


The Thermometer and the Thermostat

Yount uses a thermometer and a thermostat to illustrate an important concept about metrics. The thermometer is like most metrics—a passive report. The thermostat is an active positioning device.

Are You a Player?

Players know the score, Yount says. If you don’t know the score, you are not a player.

Business Acumen Today

Virtually every engagement survey reveals a desire for greater clarity, connectivity, and consistency, Yount says. Unfortunately, those are difficult to deliver because performance is often driven by leadership proximity, persuasion, and positional authority. Some challenges:

  • Continuous improvement tools feel abstract and disconnected to the business. You get the impression that someone said, “Here are some great tools; now go and find a problem.”
  • A “hidden factory” exists to generate metrics and data that few folks understand or use.
  • Meetings feel like an addition to work instead of an enabler of work.
  • Teams often feel like a failed social experiment.
  • A default response of leaders is, “It is just easier if I do it myself.”
  • Changing culture is viewed as both the problem and the fix, so let’s launch some more training!

Bottom line, until HR leaders create the necessary acumen and execution systems required to run the business, we will never be able to spend the time required to transform the business.