There is no shortage of data in organizations these days. In fact, less than five percent of the mass of objective and subjective data generated will ever need to be used. The issue is now to optimize that five percent to transform it from raw data into business intelligence. Some of the common mistakes made concerning applied data or metrics, if you will, include the following.


  1. Confusing Data with Information. If we bury ourselves in data collection without being selective all we will experience is worthless, make-work, dust-gathering expense. The question is: What will you do with the data once you have it?
  2. Valuing Inside Over Outside Data. What is happening within the human resources function, or for that matter any other function, is of limited value. The key is to report on what is happening in the human capital marketplace.
  3. Generating Irrelevant Data. Reporting on topics of little interest to management is a costly waste of resources. It convinces them that HR is not connected to the business. Metrics must answer relevant business questions otherwise it is useless.
  4. Measuring Activity Versus Impact. Any metric that is reported must carry with it the answer to the question: What difference does it make? Management doesn’t want data. It wants answers to human capital management problems and opportunities.
  5. Relying on Gross Numbers. Averages mask effects. What are the mean, the median, the mode and the percentiles? Are all data points (human capital activities and results) bunched around the middle or are they spread across a wide range?
  6. Not Telling the Story. Is your data simply a mass of colorful charts, graphs and tables? Does it tell the story of what happened, why, when, where, how and to whom? Data are not intelligence. Data are expense. Don’t report something that doesn’t tell a story.
  7. Analysis Stagnation. What are you going to do with the data now that you have it? How can you apply it to spur action on the part of management? Is the story compelling to someone in a line position? Does it guide them in solving problems or exploiting opportunities?