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Aligning With the Business

Leadership Practices:
What’s Proven. What’s “Worth Less.”

Title: Aligning With the Business

A 2015 issue of TD Magazine included an intriguing, albeit far-fetched, short article titled “Testing for a Leadership Gene.” In the article, the author revealed some early research that certain DNA structures found in children might predict certain types of later-in-life leadership ability. If a single drop of blood can tell us dozens of things about a person’s future, why can’t it also tell us about the ability to lead?

We are, of course, a long way from a blood test replacing other ways to predict leadership success, but it is one small indication of the single biggest trend transforming our profession: The infusion of talent analytics into everything we do, including strengthening the connection between HR practices and the needs of the business.

Best Practice UpProven Practice: Pushing Past “Partner” to Become an “Anticipator”

For at least the past two decades, HR has been criticized for playing an administrative role instead of a strategic one. To see if and how this has changed, we asked HR professionals to categorize themselves into one of three roles: Reactor, Partner, or Anticipator (see graphic below). We also asked line managers to categorize the role they believe their HR team members play.

How Do HR Professionals Contribute to Business?

Pushing Past “Partner” to Become an “Anticipator

Anticipators employ talent analytics to do their jobs and help the organization plan for the future, providing the most value to their organization.

Unfortunately, the percentage of Anticipators (either self-designated by HR, or categorized by line managers) is disappointingly low. But if HR can move from Reactor to Anticipator, considerable rewards can be gained: Anticipators are over 60 percent more likely to be strongly connected to their company’s strategic planning process early on. This connection pays off big time for these companies, as they are three times more likely to have stronger leadership bench strength and six times more likely to have exhibited stronger financial outcomes compared to organizations in which HR involvement in strategic planning is late or nonexistent.

Worth Less Practice DownWorth Less Practice: Using HR-Centric, Rear-View Mirror Analytics

Not all analytics are created equal. For example, our research shows that two types of analytics were weakly linked to financial performance: gathering participant reactions to leadership training programs and internal benchmarking. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use these analytics. You just shouldn’t expect to see a high payoff when you do.

On the other hand, three practices had a much stronger connection to financial performance: gathering metrics on improved leadership performance as a result of development programs, using data to forecast future leadership talent needs, and demonstrating the impact leadership development efforts have on actual business performance.

The opportunity here? The analytics that have the highest impact are those that are used less frequently, while the ones with weaker impact are used more frequently. Indeed, to make the most of analytics, remember that it’s the analytics that predict business performance—and that address clear and present business questions—which will have the most power.

Worth Less PracticeWorth Less Practice: Selling Short the Value of Analytics Skills

HR professionals often choose their profession because they are “people people.” But as their career evolves, it’s what they often aren’t that matters just as much, especially if they lack keen analytical skills, knowledge of complex statistics, and the ability to manipulate data and draw insights.

The figure below illustrates where HR executives’ strengths and weaknesses lie. The findings aren’t self-reported, but are based on the actual performance of HR professionals in DDI’s assessment centers.

HR Skills and Personality Profile Compared to Functional Peers

HR Skills and Personality Profile Compared to Functional Peers

The choices HR leaders face are tough ones. It’s not just a matter of learning a whole new skill set. It's also having the motivation to do so. That’s why many HR leaders are supplementing their strengths by collaborating more with their CFOs and IT leaders. It’s also why, in many organizations, traditional HR roles are being replaced with data scientists, database managers, and experts in quantitative analyses and data visualization.

Learn how DDI can help you with leadership analytics that provide actionable insight that drives your business.

DDI’s Leadership Databank shows which practices are really the best—and which ones to revise or abandon.

Talk to an Expert: Aligning With the Business
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