The Data Made Me Do It!

August 27, 2015
Written by Chris Moore

Data science is all about the numbers, but those numbers always have a story to tell. For example, they can identify human capital risks, such as attrition and turnover, as well as future human capital demands like training and benefits.

In this blog post, we have a story to share with you, too. It is also based on data, or rather a lack thereof.

Once there was a manager – we’ll call him “Dan” – who worked at a medium-sized company in a large city. Dan had quite a few years in management under his belt, and he had developed a sharp sense for understanding people.

So Dan often made gut decisions of when to hire, fire, promote, demote, and other major HR decisions. People in the office often questioned Dan’s reasons for making these seemingly incidental moves. They wondered if Dan really understood the consequences of his lackadaisical approach or if Dan believed he was doing the right thing.

Dan usually brushed off their concerns by saying that it seemed like the right thing to do at the time and that he trusted his gut.

But eventually Dan grew tired of making important business decisions on a whim. He worried he might lose credibility with his team and dreaded making all HR-related decisions. In fact, sometimes it bothered Dan so much that it kept him up at night.

Dan was explaining all of this to Laura, a friend and colleague, at a local networking event. Laura told Dan that he didn’t have to make critical human capital decisions alone. Laura’s company had been using their own HR data to make decisions for years, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dan was intrigued and wanted to know more, so Laura explained that the HR data her company collects helps to reinforce their decisions by looking at trends, patterns and models. And best of all, no one on her team ever questioned decisions because the data would speak for itself.

Dan mulled this over a bit and decided to get to work on his own data solution, but he had to act quickly – he had a pending decision looming, and this time, Dan wanted to get it right.

Based on Laura’s insight and additional research, Dan cobbled together a dashboard containing metrics such as quality of hire; return on investment; and up, down, and lateral mobility – information that could be used to make his upcoming decision.

The numbers were revealing. Based upon the data, Dan knew exactly what decision to make. So he made his move with confidence and decided then and there that he would never make another important HR decision without consulting his dashboard first.

At this point in the story, we’d like to tell you that everyone lived happily ever after, but we all know the real world doesn’t always work out that way. Still, Dan’s decisions always had credibility, and his team didn’t need to ask why he made them anymore – and that was enough for Dan.

Using his newly found confidence, Dan decided to take things a step further. He cobbled together a dashboard to determine the top and bottom managers of the company. He was shocked to discover that one of the managers was sucking the life out of the company.

And he was even more surprised to find that this life-sucking manager was the CEO’s grandson, Lewis!

The data doesn’t lie, so Dan knew he needed to fire the grandson and replace him with a competent manager – and that’s exactly what he did.

Before Dan could even enjoy his decision-making success, something alarming happened. He was called into the CEO’s office – the CEO, Mr. Windsor, who happened to be the grandfather of Dan’s recent firing victim. Dan was petrified. Fearing he would be fired, Dan brought his laptop and iPad with him to Mr. Windsor’s office – assuming he would be escorted out after the meeting.

Mr. Windsor asked Dan why he would fire his own grandson, who he thought would someday take over the company. Dan stammered for a moment, and then simply said, “The data made me do it.”

“Excuse me?” Mr. Windsor asked.

Dan flipped up his laptop to show Mr. Windsor his dashboard and the background data he had assembled. He explained his reasoning for firing Lewis. And then he waited for Mr. Windsor’s response.

A huge smile came across Mr. Windsor’s face as he said he was truly amazed at what he was seeing. Then, he asked Dan if he would continually look at the data and use it to make all HR decisions going forward.

Dan breathed a sigh of relief, and then it got even better – Mr. Windsor rewarded his keen decision-making and leadership skills with a promotion.

After thanking Mr. Windsor repeatedly, Dan gathered his company-issued laptop and iPad and walked back to his office. Then, he made an HR metrics “wish list” and got to work immediately on an improved version of his dashboard.

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