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The great KPI debate

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Look into the stands of any sporting event and you will find various individuals huddled behind their iPads. Some, are selfie taking fans but many are Sports Analysts, deciphering and interpreting real time data from the game below them.

F1 is now largely a technology led sport, in fact most teams have data centres track side processing millions of bites every moment. Looking for those tiny improvements that can be made to create a winning outcome.

In football and rugby, it’s now common for players to wear GPS trackers in training to monitor positioning, heart rate monitors are worn to ensure optimum fitness, every aspect of an elite sports person’s game is now constantly measured and training is developed to create incremental gains.

Now imagine if that world did not exist. Imagine if Usain Bolt never measured his PBs, that Bradley Wiggins never monitored his stage times during the Tour, where Sir Clive Woodward never had any data in which to base his 1% theory upon.

Let’s look away from sport. Consider being a patient in a hospital where the nurse never monitored if your condition was improving. Or putting your children in a school where the teachers approach to GCSE results was to ‘have a go’.

Even worse, you’re boarding a flight and on the tarmac you hear the ground team discussing the fuel required to reach your destination. It’s evident they’re just making a guess based on their own perception of the distance and equation. That’s the aviation equivalent of a recruitment sales meeting when someone asks for a sales forecast in 90% of data free recruitment companies.

Now I’m labouring a point but it’s one I feel we must in recruitment. Countless times people talk about the dreaded term – KPI’s…the industry has become obsessed with some frivolous world of little performance monitoring. Where consultants now feel that being asked about metrics, ratios of activity is all a bit too big brother. Where the skill of projections is less science and more amateur dramatics.

The amount of people I interview who say things such as “I don’t need to be managed by numbers” then can’t tell me a single stat, metric or ratio they work to amazes me. “I don’t need to work to KPIs” – but then can’t explain how they can improve their performance is staggering.

The reality is, there is not an industry in the world that does not measure it’s productivity. Does not use data to its benefit and it’s time we stopped kidding ourselves that we’re somehow superior or different.

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.” – Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of HP

It is fair to say that aviation has the highest performance levels of any industry in the world. The reason is largely due to the success of blackbox thinking, analysing performance and looking to improve every tiny detail. In the recruitment industry, it is not about creating a literal black box; rather, it is about the willingness and tenacity to investigate the lessons that often exist when we fail, but which we rarely exploit. It is about creating systems and cultures that enable people to learn from success but also from errors, that to analyse the facts and look for areas to improve is a positive and not a negative.

Culturally, this means not berating people with numbers for numbers sake. Instead creating environments that exploit the opportunity to improve elements of their service offering. To measure key activities and embrace a growth mindset that pushes these forward. By contrary, those companies that are operating in a world where you don’t offer their employees guidance on expectations or how to improve via analysis and insight are giving their people a disservice.

My personal belief is that recruitment is not an art, it is a science. The more you can measure and analyse, the more you can improve. Understanding the small factors that create larger results is imperative. Whether it’s optimising conversion rates, increasing output or tracking service levels. KPIs are healthy, they work, they create success.

Now I’ve opened that can of worms. What do you think?

If you’re interested in finding out more, feel free to contact the Manchester team here.