Updated on June 19, 2020
Last week we introduced 3 questions that should be asked of any reporting that is done with a regular cadence - monthly, quarterly, annually - where you can get into the habit of "same old, same old". The questions we posed were designed to get you thinking about your reporting and whether it could be more effective.
This week we offer our top tips - 4 Do’s and 1 Don’t to help you flesh out your next report in a way that is sure to resonate with your audience.
1. Start Early and Keep the End in Mind
Your HR reporting isn’t something that should be first thought of a couple of days before it’s due. In fact, the time to start thinking about your next report is immediately after you deliver your last one.
By starting early you can take time to think about the story you want to tell. You don’t need to have everything built or figured out right away but it’s a best practice to develop an outline of what you want to say. One way to do this is to brainstorm a table of contents.
Be sure to keep the end in mind as you’re building this out. What are the business priorities, investments, and table-stakes metrics you need to present? What new priorities have emerged? What questions were raised at the last presentation?
When you know the story you want to tell (keeping the end in sight), you can assess whether you have the data and analytics to support this. If you don’t, you’ll be glad you started early so you can start to gather the data you need.
At this point it’s not about having all the answers, it’s about starting with a structure to understand what you need to do to build your report.
2. Consider the Context for your Report
Once you have a firm idea of the story you want to tell, it’s time to consider how to tell the story given the context - of the business context, the meeting structure, and the audience.
You need to make sure you understand fully the business context. If you’re not in the conversations yourself but are responsible for reporting, it’s important you take some time and go get the context from those that are directly involved in those conversations. This is key and will deliver huge value to your message.
Consider the meeting itself. Is this a monthly, quarterly or annual report? Each of these will drive different ways of telling the story, from priorities to focus on, and level of detail.
Consider closely your audience. Think of the reception you received at your last presentation and learn from this. Make sure you tailor your story and your analytics to the audience. We know for CEO’s it’s best practice to start with the end, and keep it high level (being prepared to dig into details if asked). If you’re talking to Finance, it’s a whole different level of detail and you’ll want to build the story with fact and evidence.
You may find that a lot of your data is irrelevant for the particular audience you are facing. That’s okay - your meeting is more about quality and relevance than quantity. Trust us, your audience will thank you if you cut out the unnecessary and irrelevant.
Remember too that the data isn’t the story. The data is evidence of what’s working/not working, it’s there to support the story you are telling. Don’t rely on the numbers to speak for themselves. This can lead to misinterpretation and is a missed opportunity for you to showcase your activities in the context of business success.
3. Keep Focused
This is a big one. You’ve put thought and effort into the story you want to tell and you’ve thought about the context. You have a clear end in sight. That’s terrific. Now’s the time to focus on the conversation you want to have with precision.
Why is this so important? Well, we know how easy it is to get overwhelmed when you have so many data sources. It’s easy to get lost in the details and start going down ratholes.
Keep the focus on the story you want to tell, not the data you have. The truth is you probably don’t need all the data and that’s okay. Not everything is important all the time, so don’t be afraid to park some of the data for a while and focus on the most relevant areas.
4. Keep it Clean
This is a big one as well, and it goes along with remaining focused. We see it a lot - the inclination when you have lots of data, to share lots of data and pack it all in one dashboard. Resist the temptation to put everything in. Our advice is to ‘watch the number of numbers’ you are showing. Ask yourself (and others) if you can reduce what you’re showing and not lose impact. Go for impact not volume.
This isn’t always easy and it’s an area we specialize in. At PeopleInsight our Client Success Team spends a lot of time helping customers by putting together dashboards and views that have just the right level of detail for the context. They are experts at prioritizing the business context and working to group analytics together that tell the story. And they happily reassemble content, even if it’s just for one month to give our customers what they need to tell the story for a particular audience at a given moment in time. Some customers have to switch focus every month or every few months, and our Customer Success Team is here to help with that.
5. Don’t be afraid of change
This is the final tip and it’s our Don’t - Don’t be afraid of change.
We believe it’s important to strike a balance in your reporting. There’s value in having a core set of metrics that you include in each report, but it’s important not to get stuck and lose flexibility to tell more that is relevant at the time. You need to be open to changing things up and avoid getting stuck in a reporting rut.
It’s important to evolve your data and your analytics - adding new analytics that align with changing priorities and new investment areas (see #1 to make sure you have planned ahead on this).
When the business strategy changes so too does your HR/Talent strategy, and you need metrics to show whether you’ve progressed with these changes. For example, a company may be focused for 6 months or a year on growing the business in certain geographies. This means the HR/Talent strategy shifts to focus on attracting and hiring talent and there is quick growth. A year later, the focus shifts again - it’s no longer about how many people you are hiring, it’s about retaining top talent in those markets.
If you’re thinking about your report well in advance you’ll have the capability to pivot and adjust your content so you’re always presenting what’s most relevant to the business and your success.
In our next post, we’ll get to the meat of it all and present an example of a Quarterly Report that puts these best practices into practice!
In the meantime, check out our Guide to People Analytics.