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The Timer’s Going Off

On December 3, 2018, in Editorial Advisory Board, Erin Spencer, HRExaminer, by Erin Spencer

 

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“Does your company have benchmarks (or alarms) that are agreed on by leadership and prompt specific action? For example, if sales dip to a certain percentage, or your cost of goods or labor increases, at what point do those changes prompt action for those making decisions?” – Erin Spencer


My elementary-aged children didn’t have school on Election Day. As a working parent, random school holidays require me to figure out alternative childcare or use a vacation day. Fortunately, I currently work from home so my son, daughter, and nephew can pile up the blankets and pillows, build a fort, and play video games. I’m able to work on work projects while caring for (and yet ignoring) the kids.

However, this isn’t about the care gap, school scheduling as a nightmare, or any other work-life balance issue, it’s about lunch. More specifically, it’s about what happened at lunchtime.

Children want to be fed at regular intervals (shocking, I know) so I put a pizza in the oven and headed upstairs to get ready to go vote. 15 minutes later I head downstairs and am greeted by a timer going off.

I ask my son how long it’s been beeping and a few minutes was his reply. After I rescue lunch, I think about how leadership responds to alarms within an organization.

Does your company have benchmarks (or alarms) that are agreed on by leadership and prompt specific action? For example, if sales dip to a certain percentage, or your cost of goods or labor increases, at what point do those changes prompt action for those making decisions?

photo of Erin Spencer Sierra-Cedar and HRExaminer

Erin Spencer, Senior Research Analyst at Sierra-Cedar and HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.


My son was waiting while the timer went off for someone else to solve the problem while lunch needed attention. He had the right information but didn’t know what to do with it.

The business consequences of ignoring small warning signs can be far more significant than an overdone pizza. They include missed opportunities, declining revenue, or even liquidation.

Do you give people the information they need to make good decisions? Do they have a path to share concerns at the early stages of change? Are they allowed or encouraged to notice when things are wrong?

Do they know how to use the information that they have? Can they recognize the fact that the ‘timer is going off’? Do they know what to do when that happens?

I study HR software and strategy and one of the types of organizations we look at in our analysis of the Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey Data is the Data Driven Organization. These organization’s employees and managers have more access to business data. They use more sources of data when making business decisions. They achieve better financial, Business, HR, and Talent Outcomes than organizations that aren’t data driven.

I’m not suggesting that every organization be Data Driven. There are benefits if you are. But, transparency is a critical organizational choice. Our data driven companies also practice deep transparency. They teach their employees what to do with information. It’s not for everyone.

However, all organizations are faced with expanding volumes of data. They need a clear process to determine what is and isn’t important and why. Broadly sharing information across the workforce is a separate topic from managing your data. The worst possible case is when a company doesn’t know what data it has and doesn’t share it with employees.

On Election Day in United States of America, voters have the ability to look at external data and situations. They use some, all, or none of it to make decisions about leadership and the direction of the country. In corporate America not every employee sets strategies. But mechanisms should be in place to identify possible problems and create solutions.

Building a proactive culture is better than waiting for someone else to identify the warning signs. Then you might get a course correction before the timer goes off and everyone’s lunch burns. But the effectiveness of proactive organizations is precisely limited by data availability and the insights data provides.
 

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