Monday, November 3, 2014

If You Have to Use Metrics…

Earlier this year I wrote an article “Are Metrics Killing Morale?” in which I challenged the benefits of (often blind) information gathering and took to task the greater importance of communicating openly and having reciprocal trust with employees.  While I remain firm in that opinion, I also recognize that there are reasons to collect data.  When that is the case, the human element must still be considered.  So the focus needs to turn toward strategies which produce the most value, with the fewest drawbacks.

Metrics are utilized for the purpose of improving business operations or output.  They may be intended to enhance customer service, manage productivity, or boost profitability.  While the purpose is clear, the challenge remains:  The act of collecting metrics can affect morale, and undermine an otherwise functional work environment.

Following are suggestions for engaging in the collection of metrics in a thoughtful and collaborative manner – one in which employee input and buy-in occur at the onset. 

1.    State your core goal – Do you want to improve profitability?  Increase customer satisfaction?  Reduce theft?  Make your purpose clear to all those who will be affected by any changes.  Telling them your purpose allows you to begin building buy-in before you begin implementing ideas.

2.    Share ideas - Most likely your Executive team has already considered several ideas for progressing toward the core goal.   Before making/or furthering an investment in technology or software, share these ideas with the employees who will be affected.  Their intimate knowledge of the company, clients, and processes may yield invaluable information or ideas.  

3.    Involve staff - Ask the employees who will be utilizing or implementing tracking activities to critique the ideas brought forth.  Will the goal be attained?  What won’t work?  What problems have been missed?  Is there anything inherently wrong with the methodology?  Have staff suggest alternate solutions.  Encourage them to brainstorm ideas or propose changes that will attain the desired goal.

4.    Build consensus – Once ideas have been heard, and a plan is in place, it’s time to sell the idea to your staff.  This is an internal marketing moment, because change is hard and you need commitment and buy-in from a majority of your staff if you want the project to be successful.   Be sure to openly communicate details including: Who will be involved?  What will be required? Where will the information go?  How will it be used?  How long will the metrics/tracking last? And be ready to defend the “Why?” for all of those questions.  Be prepared to answer their questions and to “sell” the projected plan.

5.    Begin slowly – Executing a project that transforms your business in terms of large goals like customer satisfaction or productivity takes time to succeed.  Rather than moving at full force from day 1, consider having a pilot group that begins the process.  Depending on your circumstances, you may want this group to be from one department, or you may prefer a diverse group test it out.  

6.    Be Nimble - As you begin to undertake a plan for change, problems are likely to surface or unforeseen issues arise.  Be ready to make changes to the plan as needs suggest, and communicate any change, and the reasons behind them, to your staff.  

7.    Share results – At pre-determined intervals, (ie. 90 days, 6 mos., 1 year) let staff know how the project is going.  Has the data collected been valuable for illuminating the needs/problems?  Is it assisting us in reaching our goal?  What changes will be made as a result of the information we have acquired?

By engaging with staff before, during, and after the process has begun, you establish both a collaborative partnership built on trust and communication, as well as a shared commitment to the success of the organization.