HR leaders getting a proverbial seat at the executive table must be able to harness powerful data storytelling to get leadership buy-in to drive meaningful actions on people strategy and initiatives.
“If you’re not good at this yet, you’re going to need to be,” he said. “When HR gets more resources, HR spends it well and it makes a difference in the employee experience and the (bottom line) results of the organization.”
However, Brooks said, in most organizations there’s a gap between employee experience data collection, critical analysis of that data and then actually applying it to the business. A staggering 85% of companies say a top challenge is measuring the business and financial impact of employee experience data, according to a study by employee experience consultants TI People.
There’s “a lot of spitballing and a lot of B.S.-ing done in conference rooms and on Teams and on Zoom calls. (If) you bring in some data, you start to deal in reality,” he said.
Keys to leveraging data storytelling
To maximize your influence by presenting concrete data compellingly, Brooks suggests:
- Using graphs that establish a pattern
- Setting clear targets
- Leveraging benchmarks by using external data for comparison, and
- Employing conditional formatting to make data interactive, such as bold face type and colors like red to indicate something negative and green to mean something positive.
“Make sure that executives know where the variances are. If something is off, don’t bury it or hide it and have them spot it. … Up front, be like, ‘Wow, we really missed this target,'” he said.
HR’s “secret superpower,” Brooks said, is leveraging your desire to make a difference to create a persuasive accompanying narrative that gives the C-suite an emotional connection to the data.
He gave this example: “Maybe we have a turnover problem. And the ‘so what?’ is every time we lose someone, it costs 50% of their annual compensation to replace them. So when we lose 100 people a month and our average salary is $100,000, we can say, ‘Here’s what that actually costs … our business.’ The ‘now what?’ is we’re going to do proactive retention strategies and we’re going to try to cut that turnover in half, which would save us X dollars.”
He encouraged HR pros to incorporate testimonials, photos and video clips to make a strong impact. And don’t hesitate to enlist your internal marketing team to help make your data storytelling presentation sexier.