good data vs. bad data: the impact on human uniqueness

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Every job performed at excellence requires natural talent. To this end, Marcus Buckingham, today’s 2015 HR Tech Conference keynote speaker, emphasized that the most important decision an organization makes is not marketing or strategy–it’s what tools we’ll provide our team leaders, and how those tools will work for each of their unique competencies.

As this truth becomes reality for more and more organizations, there are three drastic shifts we need to implement for company-wide success, no matter the company size.

1. The focus shift from the organization to the team leader

In the world of business success and best practices, it’s often thought that the most successful organizations have a singular method of doing things. That they share a singular culture of success and engagement. In reality, one organization can contain several cultures, varying from team to team. And in that organization, despite using the same standard HR practices, there will be those teams that succeed and those that fall short. This isn’t a reflection of the organization as a whole, but rather on the individual team leaders.

So if the quality of the team leaders directly equates to success, why do we continue to build tools that serve the organization, not the individuals?

Give leaders the tools they would naturally want to use anyway and they become more useful. More insightful. Think, Xbox–how easy would it be if employee profiles were laid out similar to the player cards in a FIFA soccer game? Their strengths, compatibilities, etc. Tools such as this would allow team leaders to have the information they need, in a way they can use it. An integrated suite that answers the same questions that all leaders have, but allowing them to build their ideal teams in the ways they need. Questions like: What are the strengths of my people? What can they do? What are their capabilities?

2. The shift from big data to real-time, reliable data

There is a common idea that we can train one human to be a reliable rater of another human–but in truth, we can’t. When the majority of ratings of another person are based on an idiosyncratic pattern of rating different people the same way, 61% of a performance rating is typically a reflection of the rater, not the ratee. And a mere 21% is actually based on a ratee’s performance. The more complicated the you make the scales and the model, the more inaccurate the rating gets.

See the problem?

We need to move away from rigidity of big data, and learn to be data-fluent. Our reputation demands it.

But, we can’t get rid of performance reviews, despite many large companies doing away with the practice. We need performance reviews, and their range of data, to allow us to act differently for different employees. To speak to and about them as unique human beings.

So the question isn’t ratings vs. no ratings–it’s good data vs. bad data. And right now we have bad data. Let’s move from the data to the conversation, instead of from the conversation to the data.

3. The focus shift from the idea of leadership to what the best leaders actually do

There is no perfect profile–only perfect practices that fit the profile. The point being, what one leader practices shouldn’t be considered a best practice for all.

You can measure skills through testing, but competencies are a mixture of skills (which you can train) and natural talent (which you can’t)–which makes it unmeasurable. But we try, and most of the time we get it wrong. So to apply test results to an entire group of leaders, each with their own mix of skill and natural talent, is counterintuitive.

Learn what your team leaders actually do, and how they succeed. A weekly team lunch may motivate Team A, while Team B responds best to internal competition. Learn what is universal to the organization, but unique to the individuals.

As a business of human nature, HR professionals are challenged with the task of taking what is unique about people and helping to turn it into something useful. Embracing these three fundamental shifts, and leveraging the data and results that come with them, will ensure we rise to that challenge.

By ashleigh may
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