Do We Have to Measure Everything?

Eric Frankel

In our technology-driven world, we thirst for numerical data to evaluate every aspect of organizational performance. We use these statistics to monitor our recruiting, retention, learning and development tactics and strategies.

Just because we have the desire and arguably the means and methodology to measure everything, is this incessant focus on detail and analysis dragging us down? Causing us to lose focus on the key intangible factors which allow us to optimize our collaborative Company goals and cohesion?

I like numbers. I’m a CPA and spent my formative career stages in Financial Leadership positions with EY among others before "Branding Off" to Management and Human Resource Consulting in 1995. My mind works in a highly analytical manner; but I’m growing increasingly wary of compartmentalization and measurement of every aspect of human behavior.

The difference between a good and great employee is a complex array of experience, personality, intelligence, instinct, accountability, responsiveness, innate leadership and managerial skills and the desire for "Never Enough," most of which can’t be taught, but can certainly be harnessed in the right business environment and with the right tutelage.

We as humans are incredibly complex, fascinating in our uniqueness both in appearance and psychology; a complex mix of DNA, life triggers and experiences. Metrics to evaluate employee "fit," potential, teamwork and salesmanship just don’t measure up to the benefits of assessing talent through hands-on, team-oriented work endeavors.

Numbers vs. Intangibles

As a child, I was enamored with baseball and spent hours on end researching player statistics from the rich history of our national pastime. Today, measuring baseball player performance has become increasingly complex, coined "sabermetrics," encompassing a vast array of advanced calculations. That's great fodder for the computer geek, but impractical for the professional scouts who recognize true worth is steeped in the intangibles garnered by close observation: team orientation, makeup, work habits, leadership skills and professional presence.

Answers to business performance questions are best garnered by improving the quality of interpersonal relationships. Human potential and actions are dictated by results, not predictors. The psychologist, Robert Sternberg defined Practical Intelligence as the ability to analyze and evaluate ideas and solve problems and make decisions

In mainstream business terminology, these professionals simply, "Get It." Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his brilliant book Outliers that focus, diligence and Practical Intelligence in addition to right time, right place are key differentiators for those who rise to the top, not data. Human Resources must drive business performance through assessment and development, not guesswork.

Twenty five years ago, the Accounting and Finance profession struggled for respect in Corporate America and plunged their way into the boardroom by changing our perspectives regarding the importance of financial analysis and corporate earnings. Human Resources and more specifically, Talent Management is on the path today of similar escalations in business respect and will be for the long term.

But let’s not forget, people are still frustrating, adaptable, strange, resistant and different. Instead of applying statistical measures to every aspect of our development and learning strategies, let’s use our people skills and understanding of human behavior to enhance business savvy, managerial oversight and our internal corporate personality.

That is where we’ll earn our keep, in intangible ways that optimize organizational dynamics, profits, market share and over the long run, in winning business and Human Capital strategies. And these numbers won’t lie.